News Blog Orbis Utilizes M-Powered IIoT Solutions to Mitigate Break-Fix Maintenance & Discovers Significant Energy Savings

Published on April 27, 2021

Orbis Utilizes M-Powered IIoT Solutions to Mitigate Break-Fix Maintenance & Discovers Significant Energy Savings


With more than 170 years of material handling expertise and 65 years of plastics innovations, ORBIS helps world-class customers move their product faster, safer and more cost-effectively with reusable totes, pallets, containers, dunnage and racks. Using a proven approach, ORBIS experts analyze customers’ systems, design a solution and execute a reusable packaging program for longer-term cost savings and sustainability.

Using life-cycle assessments to compare reusable and single-use packaging, ORBIS also helps customers reduce their overall environmental impact. ORBIS Corporation is a part of Menasha Corporation, one of the oldest family-owned manufacturers in the United States. As a steward of sustainability, ORBIS is committed to a better world for future generations. Headquartered in Oconomowoc, WI, ORBIS has more than 2,600 employees and 55 locations throughout North America and Europe.

The Challenge

Downtime is often a costly combination of people, parts, maintenance operations and unmade product. The only alternative for decades was performing scheduled maintenance to improve machine and tool longevity to avoid some downtime events and avert to performance loss or quality escapes before they happen. Milacron’s M-Powered Solutions work to monitor and maintain production by measuring the condition and efficiency of critical machinery components.

Senior Manufacturing Engineer for ORBIS Corporation (ORBIS), Hank Fuller, wanted M-Powered as a solution to end this cycle. This led the ORBIS team to partner with Milacron’s IIoT solution near the end of 2017 with a goal of ending unplanned downtime completely.

“Everyone in the industry is striving for zero unplanned downtime and improving their machine. I’ve been in the plastics industry for 33 years, and this has always been a goal no matter who I’ve worked for or with… increase uptime and improve machinery reliability” 

-Hank Fuller – Sr. Manufacturing Engineer, ORBIS

Machine data reveals a story of a drifting component and sequences that can identify unique signatures. A team of Milacron and ORBIS individuals began connecting individual machines and performing a basic downtime audit using the data collected. As the original audit was established, ORBIS shared their observations from inside their facilities on the key issues causing setbacks, outages, and downtime.

From this audit, the Milacron and ORBIS team began crafting hypotheses around maintenance issues, while Milacron worked to advance predictive algorithms to determine a health score on a variety of machine components.

For each hypothesis, Milacron worked with the ORBIS team to authenticate the health score data, while connecting different devices capable of measuring other components across ORBIS machines. The first of the many studied components was heater bands.

There’s no clear-cut indicator of a pending heater band failure on the machine. Heater bands are regularly overlooked, as degradation can be masked by other processing issues. Instead, manufacturers often replace bands once uptime or processing consistency is impacted. ORBIS, like many other molders, has grown frustrated by this break-fix methodology.

“That’s been the goal from day one. How do we turn the Milacron molding machines into having a check engine light like you have on your car? When a heater band is bad or when a pump is failing – I want the machine to tell me prior to that failure, so we can react in a planned manner.”

-Hank Fuller – Sr. Manufacturing Engineer, ORBIS

The Solution

Now, M-Powered Predictive Maintenance includes the capability to digitally track and record the health of an expanding number of machine components and signal any traces of degradation among mechanical, electric, and hydraulic assemblies of the machine.

Following the data collection advances, Milacron designed more meaningful and digestible displays to share the abundance of insights with ORBIS regarding the health of their fleet. Remote service technicians and ORBIS have a secure entry to the performance metrics of each work cell, all while receiving a “check engine light” to replace parts well in advance of potential failures.

These predictive analytics have been adopted to alert ORBIS’s maintenance team through their existing work order system using M-Powered’s suite of  Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). ORBIS receives automatic alerts when a health score of any connected component deviates from custom parameters. Either the component is replaced, or Milacron remote technical service is contacted to help troubleshoot remotely.

“We have Milacron service technicians [who] can access our machines and look at faults in machine conditions. One of our maintenance people standing at the machine can be looking at the same inputs/outputs, machine status… We don’t have to wait for a technician to come in or physically get on the shop floor to help us troubleshoot an issue with the machine”

– Hank Fuller – Sr. Manufacturing Engineer, ORBIS

For heater bands, ORBIS handles their own replacements across their fleet as the bands impacted production. To end the break-fix methodology, Milacron and ORBIS discovered that decreased efficiency of barrel zones directly correlated to increased energy consumption and wear across other costly machine components, such as the heater bands in other barrel zones, screws or the injection barrel. This process assisted ORBIS in advocating their environmental commitment through actively measuring energy usage in relation to their heater band condition. This revelation has produced energy monitoring opportunities across multiple machinery components to advance energy and cost savings.

The Result

ORBIS is continuing their work with Milacron to develop predictive alerts for pending pump failures and oil monitoring with plans to roll out the alerts among their entire fleet. A combination of monitoring and proactively replacing machine components before they fail is driving ORBIS closer to their goal of eliminating downtime.

Example 2.1 shows the result of all ORBIS analytics and maintenance efforts to decrease downtime.

Not only has ORBIS experienced more uptime, they have maintained a tighter cycle time than prior to using M-Powered predictive analytics. (Example 2.2)

The measure of total production energy across all components has likewise decreased and become more uniform after M-Powered predictive maintenance was implemented. (Example 2.3)

“ORBIS was the first partner that had the same vision for IIoT as Milacron… Creating an asset management program that instructs maintenance teams on what components to look at on the machine the next time it is planned to be down. Machine data provides a detailed list of tasks that need to be done and why. Not only are you preventing unplanned stops, but you are more effectively utilizing your labor and workforce. We’ve made a lot of progress and we’re still not done yet.”

– Edward Jump – M-Powered IIoT Digital Analytics Leader, Milacron

The Outlook

To drive added value for Milacron’s IIoT solutions, separately from enhanced production output, energy savings, and cost reductions, M-Powered developers are working to establish a predictive part stocking program for M-Powered users. Milacron Aftermarket parts previously incorporated strategic part-stocking based on customer experiences and the duration of time between purchasing commonly failed parts.

Our next industry-leading solution on the horizon is allowing ORBIS and other M-Powered users to set their own thresholds for health degradation among connected components. When that threshold is met, parts be ordered and shipped automatically based on delivery lead times and planned maintenance demands to alleviate downtime and the break-fix methodology.

“We have hundreds of thousands of dollars of inventory on our shelves for spare parts. If I don’t have to hold any spare parts in my inventory for our fleet of machines, I can transfer that to Milacron’s spare parts knowing that machine is going to tell me before it fails, that’s a huge win for my employer.”

-Hank Fuller – Sr. Manufacturing Engineer, ORBIS

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