Online – more than just an alternative

The global coronavirus pandemic has completely changed our lives.  Nothing is the same as it used to be. For example, travel restrictions prevented the factory acceptance test of machines to be carried out with the customer being physically present at the moment of the test. But what can a manufacturer do when the new machine is needed urgently and postponing the test is unrealistic due to the insecure situation? “Online Factory Acceptance Test” is the answer of the IMA Schelling Group.

A Canadian customer had placed an order with IMA Schelling for a gantry machining centre of the BIMA Px80 E/L type, including contour edge banding, 5-axis machining and automatic setup tables, intended for use in office furniture production. The customer will utilize the equipment to process desktops of multiple designs. To do so the machine is equipped with two separate edge banding units for laser and PUR glue, two router spindles for 4-axis and 5-axis machining as well as two travelling tool changer magazines each with 18 stock positions. Applications range from simple rectangular panels through round panels, to individualized free-form parts.

Before new machines and workcells are delivered to the customer, they are typically subject to in-person factory acceptance testing (FAT) at the premises of the IMA Schelling Group. However, the Corona pandemic made it impossible for the customer's team to travel to Germany, putting at risk the entire schedule. Now the question of how to ensure a proper Factory Acceptance Test procedure and hence on-time delivery of the gantry machine needed to be answered. “The factory acceptance test of equipment is a precondition for any dispatch and installation preparations before shipment to the customer. And we need the floor space in our production halls for subsequent orders”, Jörg Rosemeier, North, Central and South America Sales Manager at the IMA Schelling Group, explains. It was Rosemeier who had the idea for the online factory acceptance test of the gantry machine in a virtual meeting and for demonstrating the machine applications live via video conference. 

IIoT and service platform

The key to it all lies

“Our ZIMBA Assistance application including video package is installed on the machine, together with four stationary cameras,” Rosemeier says. Normally, the IIoT and service platform ZIMBA helps users optimize production processes and improve plant efficiency. This means that ZIMBA not only collects machine-related data but also uses this data to deduce target-oriented recommendations – from operations management to supply chain management. The platform also allows service technicians to carry out maintenance work more efficiently.

In particular during commissioning and fault diagnostics, the platform assists technicians in supporting the customer and the fitters on site by enabling the technicians to connect online and view live images of the machine. Remote access is established using a PC or mobile device such as tablets and mobile phones. This system allows the user to select which area of the machine he or she wants to view: the front or rear area, either on the left side or the right side.

More about ZIMBA

Call up additional

details via iPad

This feature gave Rosemeier the idea for the online factory acceptance test. In addition to the video package of the IIoT and service platform, he and the IMA Schelling FAT team used the WebEx software for video conferencing and online meetings. Three persons from the customer's company took part in the meeting. The IMA Schelling FAT team consisted of three technicians and one machine operator. Jörg Rosemeier took the role of a moderator in the meeting. “My primary task as the moderator was to transfer technical drawings, data sheets or other required documents to the displays of all meeting participants or to go with my iPad directly to the relevant point on the machine and zoom into the desired area”, he describes his role. “It was of primordial importance for us to show all sequences and functions so that the customer was able to follow every single step.”

Successful factory acceptance test in only 90 minutes

During the online factory acceptance test, the IMA Schelling team – in cooperation with the customer – used the gantry machining centre to process several desktops of multiple designs each designed with very specific requirements. Panel thickness ranged from 25 to 40 mm, and the edging tapes used were between 2 and 3 mm thick. After the factory acceptance test, the processed panels - which can be employed as reference samples – were sent to the customer.

Following the successful completion of the online factory acceptance test, IMA Schelling prepared the machine for dispatch, creating more space for new orders. The gantry machine is currently on its way to the customer who will commission it at the end of July. This may again require online support from Lübbecke when travel restrictions still apply.

The complete factory acceptance test took 90 minutes. Both the customer and IMA Schelling were impressed with the overall procedure and result and consider this type of cooperation as an efficient and helpful alternative to in-person acceptance testing. And everyone agreed that if these virtual meetings continued to be a part of our business lives they would save a huge amount of time and money. “it was the first time for us to have this kind of factory acceptance test  – a truly positive experience. Hence we could imagine offering our customers online factory acceptance tests as an alternative to in-person meetings in the future”, Jörg Rosemeier explains. 



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