Brickmaker Ibstock’s Technology Investment

Brickmaker Ibstock’s Technology Investment

With more than 80 per cent of new homes being built with brick, it is the number one cladding material for buildings in the UK.

To satisfy current demand and prepare for future growth, brickmakers have been investing in their manufacturing facilities to boost productivity. Indeed, recent figures from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills show that brick production rose by 16 per cent in 2015.

As the UK’s largest brickmaker, Ibstock is leading the way for construction sector growth and has continued to invest in its production facilities, including £22 million at its Chesterton brickworks and £55 million into a new state-of-the-art factory in Ibstock, Leicestershire.

The new production facility is set to boost manufacturing by an additional 100 million bricks per year – enough to build around 15,000 new houses.

At one of Ibstock’s 21 manufacturing sites in Nostell, West Yorkshire, increased productivity and reduced maintenance downtime were the key drivers in implementing new technology from Siemens UK & Ireland into the plant’s control panel.

Stephen Patrick, Process Improvement Engineer at Ibstock explains:

“We were looking for an effective, reliable control system that could handle the demands of a modern brick factory which manufactures in excess of 40million bricks per year.

“The previous solution was no longer meeting these requirements and we needed to avoid any downtime. Our main goal was to minimise this as much as possible, to ensure our customers continued receiving the materials they needed.

“Another consideration was the significant number of spare parts required to be held on site to support the original system, taking up considerable storage space.

“As the technology was also becoming obsolete, spares were increasingly difficult to obtain which increased the maintenance burden.

“The new, combined Siemens solution has resulted in 50+ per cent of enclosure space savings and we also no longer need to tie up capital in holding a stock of replacement components.”

The new control panel was built by Siemens’ integrator, Control and Safety Eng, and includes some of Siemens’ latest space-saving innovations, such as SIRIUS 3RM1 motor starters and 3RA6 compact starters.

With a width of only 22.5mm, SIRIUS 3RM1 takes up to 75 per cent less space than traditional conventionally-wired motor feeders.

SIRIUS 3RA6 combines the functionality of a circuit breaker, solid-state overload relay and contactor to deliver further space savings.

The solution implemented at Ibstock also includes the latest S7-1500 Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and Siemens’ Totally Integrated Automation (TIA) portal for full control diagnostic information and preventative maintenance across the production line.

This means system faults can now be identified before they cause machine failure – protecting the continued production of bricks.

John Brain, Director at Control and Safety Eng, comments: “We worked closely with Ibstock to create a bespoke solution to meet their requirements, which included reducing the enclosure size of the panel, increasing operational efficiency and preventing downtime.

“We have worked with Siemens on a number of projects, combining expertise and industry-leading technology to create impactful solutions that deliver real returns on site.”

As well as the product benefits, Siemens was chosen to supply the control technology due to the established relationship between the two parties, with the majority of Ibstock’s projects from the last two years incorporating Siemens.

This consistent approach has made training staff and maintaining equipment more straightforward, as Ibstock’s engineers work across a number of its UK-wide sites.

Lee Richardson, Ibstock Account Manager at Siemens UK & Ireland commented: “The new system at Ibstock’s Nostell site incorporates some of our very latest automation and control technology.

“Our SIRIUS range combines several functions into one component delivering higher efficiency, freeing-up more space, and requiring fewer spares.

“This combined with the control, remote diagnostics and preventative maintenance permitted by S7-1500 PLCs and the TIA portal means Ibstock now has a reliable system which is fit for the future, and ready to support any continued production growth or adaptations to the site.”

Stephen Patrick added: “The solution delivered has helped drive operational efficiencies and productivity benefits on site, which is crucial for continued effective operations at the plant.

“Siemens is already our preferred supplier for PLCs and we are pleased we chose to work with the team again on this project. We look forward to continuing this relationship well into the future, as we value the performance of the products and expertise and service provided.”

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