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Nick D’Orazio11 Jun, 2021

Weber Metals crushes data siloes

Radio PI Episode 17
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Co-hosts: Nick D’Orazio and Sean Upson, systems engineer at AVEVA

Guest: David Mitchell, automation engineer at Weber Metals

Weber Metals is no stranger to precision. When the company makes titanium engine parts for the aerospace industry it must meet incredibly precise specifications in the span of a minute or the parts are unusable. A major supplier of aluminum and titanium forgings to the aerospace industry, Weber Metals embarked on digitalization journey with the PI System which allowed it to perfect its forging press process. In this episode of Radio PI, David Mitchell, automation engineer at Weber Metals, talks about the use of sensor-based data in discrete manufacturing with co-hosts Nick D’Orazio and Sean Upson.

Improving operational visibility with the PI System

At the beginning of David Mitchell’s tenure at Weber Metals, Mitchell noticed eight data siloes (and counting) that stood between the company and situational awareness. Mitchell sees himself as the bridge between the data on the shop floor and the company’s centralized databases—"bringing the data on the shop floor up to the people ‘running the show.’” After the company overcame the misconception that the PI System was merely a data historian, Weber Metals put the system to work. Installing the PI System to consolidate various siloes of sensor-based data into a single infrastructure, the firm would have improved visibility into operations. With the PI System, Mitchell said, “I can’t think of a [data format] that we need that we can’t get it in.”

Over time, Weber Metals found even more valuable uses for the data. Weber now takes a page from batch manufacturing operations by dividing its discrete operations into events and then comparing them. Weber uses Event Frames, for example, to know when the forging press has gone into auto-mode. By comparing each forging to other forgings in a production campaign, operators now have a "golden batch" profile that helps them improve the quality of each forging.

A common data infrastructure improves productivity

Weber also integrated its manufacturing execution system (MES), and as a result, Weber not only gained crucial process data, it also has data about its process data—distinctions like shop order, part number, and alloy. With all pertinent information in a common data infrastructure, the company is better able to meet production targets. Improved visualization tools allow Weber to identify anomalies and troubleshoot more effectively.

Now, Weber Metals is now turning toward its sustainability goals. The company is in the midst of a new project using algorithms to reduce the power consumption of its power-hungry presses. The company’s path to a greener future is an effort made possible with the operational visibility the PI System provides.

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts.

Nick D’OrazioSenior Media Producer Nick D’Orazio is a senior media producer who loves to tell the story of how people in industrial operations can improve their process efficiency with sensor-based data. He produces the podcast Radio PI from his home office in Phoenix, Arizona. Before moving from his native Delaware to join OSIsoft in 1992 he was a software instructor for a large chemical manufacturer where he trained process operators and plant managers around the world how to collect and analyze their production data.
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