By: Jim Johnson
October 24, 2013
DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY — Have smartphone, or computer, will travel.
Conair Group's dryers, blenders and material-handling systems now can be controlled and monitored via the Internet, allowing plant employees to move about or even leave while still staying connected to important machinery.
The Pennsylvania-based company with a global presence is featuring this new capability during K 2013.
Controls on Conair equipment now have built-in Ethernet communications, allowing for wireless or cable connection to a plant's computer network or elsewhere via the Internet.
That means a computer, tablet or smartphone can be used to access the same control interface that appears on the user control panel, the company said.
And that means any function that can be performed at the control panel, including changing settings, troubleshooting and responding to alarms, now can be done remotely.
Controls that have data-gathering capabilities can generate reports that can be immediately used by software to facilitate process validation, the company said.
As national sales manager for Conair, it's part of Peter Armbruster's job to know all about the new Internet connectivity. And he does, spending part of his day Oct. 16 explaining the technology at the company's booth (Hall 10/J59).
While Conair currently offers Internet connectivity for material handling, drying and blending equipment, the company also sees a future where more and more plastics equipment will become connected to the web.
The increased use of web-based monitoring and interaction dovetails with a growing shortage of skilled personnel for plastic plants, Armbruster said.
Internet-connected equipment, he said, "enables our customers both remote control and monitoring of the process. We also have email and texting alarm capability on those three specific product lines that all gives our customers some ability to monitor without being specifically right next to each piece of equipment."
That means an employee could be in a different part of the plant, or a different part of the city, and still be able to respond to a process problem.
As director of global marketing for Conair, it's not surprising that Dori Raybuck carries around a smartphone to stay connected.
And it's just that kind of device — a white iPhone in Raybuck's case — that can be used to keep a plant running smoothly.
"It's all created by this," Raybuck said, as she pulled out her phone. "Because we're so connected, in touch. Everybody wants that ability, that immediate satisfaction to see, 'Hey what's going on at the plant right now.'
"And you get that. I think we've become addicted to these and that's just another part of it," she said.
"It's a logical evolution," Armbruster added.
Addictions aside, there is another real-world use for the technology that can have some real benefits for the customer.
Conair support staff, thanks to the web, can access specific machinery to offer assistance to get a machine back in operation as needed, the sales manager said. And that can be done without compromising a company's firewall.
"You can see exactly what's going on with that particular piece of equipment. And it really helps us from a trouble-shooting standpoint and pinpointing things," Armbruster said.
Raybuck called the push toward the web a "big game changer" that boosts efficiency.
And this type of technology has come so far in recent years that Conair provides Internet connectivity at "very little or no incremental cost from the capital purchase," Armbruster said.
Conair, admittedly, has been keeping the program under wraps to a certain extent as the company introduced and tested out the offering. But now, the company said, the technology is ready for prime time.
"I definitely feel that this is going to help us advance and help our customers advance looking forward. It's definitely an important capability to have in our control platform. That's why we invested our time and resources in building and growing that platform with that interconnectivity," Armbruster said.
Conair, with more than 450 products, calls itself a global supplier of auxiliary equipment for plastics processors, including resin drying systems, blenders, feeders and material-conveying systems, temperature-control equipment and granulators. The company's extrusion products include line-control systems, film and sheet scrap-reclaim systems and downstream equipment for pipe and profile extrusion.