United Solar Ovonic standardizes on Proficy software to strengthen PV module manufacturing capabilities
GE Intelligent Platforms, a unit of GE Enterprise Solutions, announcedthat United Solar Ovonic, a leader in the manufacturing of flexiblesolar modules located in Rochester Hills, Michigan, has standardized onGE’s Proficy software platform to reduce scrap, increase throughput andlower the cost of manufacturing thin-film photovoltaic laminates.
TheProficy software, which includes Operations Management, HMI/SCADA andReporting modules, will allow the company to improve the quality of itsproduct while taking cost out of its operations.
The project isexpected to cover operational manufacturing sites in Michigan, and thecompany’s Mexico assembly plant. United Solar expects the project toproduce significant benefits over three years time with more than 80%of the benefit associated with quality improvements and scrap and wastereduction.
“The constraints posed by the worldwide dependence onoil has led the charge toward more renewable energy solutions andthin-film photovoltaic solar modules are state-of-the art in thisindustry,” said Erik Udstuen, Vice President of Software and Servicesfor GE Intelligent Platforms.
“Investing in manufacturingprocesses to increase their ability to meet those needs and takingcosts out of operations, will propel United Solar in renewable energy,and help them to produce more sustainable products for the globalmarketplace. ”
United Solar, a wholly-owned subsidiary of EnergyConversion Devices Inc. (ECD), builds integrated rooftop photovoltaicsthat are flexible, light weight, easy to install, durable, and provideexcellent real-world energy production.
Keeping up with one ofthe fastest growing segments of the solar power industry led thecompany to realize the need to implement a system that could addressquality, throughput and sustainability issues in their manufacturingprocess.
United Solar began a very competitive evaluationprocess including multiple vendors, more than a year ago. Important tothe company’s decision-making process was GE Intelligent Platforms’expertise in solar photovoltaic manufacturing and the company’sadherence to the Microsoft technology stack of which United Solar is abig supporter, as well as GE Intelligent Platforms’ proven track recordin both the Continuous and Discrete industries.
“Companies thatparticipate in this fast growing solar industry, will differentiatethemselves with high quality products at competitive pricing levels,”said Joe Conroy, Senior Vice President of Operations at United Solar.“Our goal in implementing this solution is to reduce scrap, increasethroughput, gain greater visibility into material consumptions, reducework-in-process and, ultimately, lower costs.“
“By bettermonitoring and controlling the production process,” Conroy continued,“we are improving quality and yield and therefore reducing the cost ofmodules produced.”
United Solar uses Proficy iFIX and ProficyHistorian in all of the five current manufacturing sites today, andwill be implementing the Proficy Operations Management suite includingProficy Plant Applications, Proficy DataMart, Proficy Workflow, andProficy Scheduler.
Proficy iFIX is used for processvisualization and process alarm management providing the company awindow into their process by displaying key process indicators alongside animated process graphics. Proficy Historian records key processindicators for process optimization activities today.
With theexpansion of their use of additional software, Historian will be usedto correlate relationships between KPIs and downtime events, OEEperformance across manufacturing assets, waste /scrap and other processvariables.
The Proficy Quality module will be also used toinsure all quality characteristics are checked during manufacturing asdefined by product specifications, monitor how the plant floorprocesses are performing from a quality perspective and manage allquality data in a centralized manner.
The Proficy Efficiencymodule will be used to monitor asset performance in relationship toavailability, rate, alarms and waste. Accurate real-time and historicalinformation will allow United Solar personnel to quickly pinpointproblem areas, report asset efficiencies, and automate analysis of rootcauses for production problems.
The Proficy Production modulewill be used to automatically dispatch Production Orders to the plantfloor providing real-time visibility of schedule attainment while alsotracking the complete genealogy of each solar panel.
GEIntelligent Platforms’ new Proficy Scheduler will be used to optimizeproduction schedules based on real-time feedback from the plant floorregarding asset and material availability and other key performanceindicators. Business rules can be used to model the effect of plantperformance on schedule attainment and forecast production and materialusage. The entire system will be tightly integrated with United Solar’sERP system to truly close the loop between plant performance and thedemands of the business.
“Reduction on manufacturing costs leadsto profitability of the company overall,” said Udstuen. “With theProficy software platform – work process management, MES, SCADA –United Solar has chosen an operational excellence platform that drivessuccess now and into the future.”
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