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Connecting the Battery Plant for Efficiency and Flexibility

Shenzhen Deyu Intelligent Equipment, Rockwell Automation, connected plant, Battery Show
A connected plant can ramp up production volume while ensuring improved quality. As pressure on battery production volume increases, the need for a connected plant also grows.

Connecting battery manufacturing operations can increase production volume while making sure production stays agile. This capability is key, as the ability to scale operations while maintaining quality is becoming more important as demands for battery technology increase.

In scaling-up a manufacturing process, affordability and flexibility may be top of mind. Yet a lack of visibility and real-time insights can hamper overall operations. By connecting disparate systems and assets, a battery plant can transform operations with actionable production insights to improve current or future production.

Shenzhen Deyu Intelligent Equipment, a high-tech manufacturer of lithium battery winding machines, worked with Rockwell Automation to develop an all-in-one winding machine for cylindrical and prismatic batteries. (Image source: Rockwell Automation)

Paul Gumber, OEM account manager at Rockwell Automation, will discuss the connected battery plant at The Battery Show in Novi, Mich. on Thursday, September 13. Gumber will present the session, Achieving A Connected Battery Plant: How Advanced Manufacturing Helps Scale Production, Improve Genealogy Tracking & Create Agility in Your Process.

Everything Gets Connected

In explaining what assets in the plant need to be part of the overall connectivity, Gumber told Design News that everything should be included. “The entire enterprise needs to be connected. All the plant floor assets should be Ethernet/IP enabled to communicate information to the enterprise’s IT infrastructure,” said Gumber. “This typically includes all major process equipment, material handling automation, and assembly machines.”

Beyond connecting the basic plant equipment, battery-specific equipment and processes also need to be connected. “In a connected battery plant, the assets include everything from raw material mixers, coating and laminating machines to cell assembly, filling and formation, as well as battery and EV pack assembly,” said Gumber. “This can also include process clean room and plant facilities, such as waste water treatment, and energy and environmental handling control systems.”

The Benefits of a Connected Battery Plant

Gumber offered a list of the basic benefits of a connected plant:

  • Improved asset utilization
  • Lower total cost of ownership
  • Modular, usable, scalable solution for EV/battery growth
  • Complete traceability through the supply chain
  • Leveraging of analytics and smart machine technology

Gumber noted that automation companies such as Rockwell Automation offer advanced material handling systems that provide additional benefits to the connected enterprise. “These systems process parts and materials through energized coils with closed loop positioning,” said Gumber. “This technology reduces wear and maintenance compared to traditional material handling systems.”

Connectivity Adoption Is Increasing

While not all battery plants are fully connected, most have started the process. “The adoption of connectivity varies by company and the company’s migration to Industry 4.0,” noted Gumber. “All battery companies have started the journey, and they are all working with modern manufacturing technology. But various islands exist, and the connected enterprise may not be seamless or completely enabled at all plants.”

The driving force in this adoption, according to Gumber, goes beyond conventional production benefits and enters the realm of competitiveness. “The reasons to connect a plant include overall productivity increase, reduction in waste, and improved time to market on new chemistries or designs due to machine analytics and better operational performance,” he said. “This all leads to improved cost and competitiveness in the battery market, as well as reduced costs.”

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 17 years, 15 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.

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