Web Based Roll Shop Management System – RMSTrax Web

After spending decades working extensively within the steel industry, Automation Software & Engineering (AS&E) saw an opportunity to develop a web based Roll Shop Management System. This system enables Roll Shops to optimize operational efficiency by acquiring, analyzing, managing and displaying production data in an easily accessible manner. This system is RMSTrax Web.

RMSTrax Web is a full-featured web based management system that helps Roll Shops increase productivity and profitability. RMSTrax Web is designed to work within the Roll Shop’s existing operational processes and terminology, thereby minimizing the learning curve and accelerating the acceptance period. RMSTrax Web provides the tools and integration capabilities with grinders, process control computers, business and OSP systems to boost productivity and effectively manage and control costs within a modern Roll Shop.

RMSTrax Web is configurable to capture reconditioning, maintenance and usage records for all types of rolls, chocks, bearings and other components. Complete integration with existing process automation systems is an important step toward productivity optimization by eliminating manual data entries. Data captured from external interfaces (grinders, Level 2 communications, etc.) can be monitored and, if necessary, edited through RMSTrax Web interface logs.

Configurable operational screens from the main menu allow the user to obtain real time and historical information and take action regarding:

  • Roll and Chock Inventory Tracking
  • Roll and Chock Build Up
  • Roll and Chock Campaign History
  • Roll Grind Tracking and History
  • Recipe Management

RMSTrax Web provides “On Screen Notifications” whenever an action is taken within the system. A pop up notification message will appear on the screen of all users for a few seconds allowing them to click on the message to immediately receive updated information. Similar to social media, the notification icon will remain highlighted on the toolbar at the top of the page until the user clicks on it.

RMSTrax Web is fully RFID capable. Mounting RFID tags on rolls and chocks improves identification accuracy as inventory moves through the roll shop and into the mill. Handheld devices provide instant access to roll and chock inventory details by scanning a RFID tag.

RMSTrax Web incorporates customizable security features. These features  permit administrators to control data access and system functionality for each user by hiding or disabling specific screens or buttons.

RMSTrax Web custom reporting features provide historical and current views of the total Roll Shop operation. Report data are exportable to many formats (Excel, PDF, XML, CSV, etc.).  Standard reports include:

  • Financial analysis:
    • Cost of roll usage per ton rolled
    • Total reduction
    • Cost per millimeter of reduction
    • Scrapped roll report
  • Roll and chock campaign details:
    • Start and end date and time of campaign
    • Total tonnage
    • Kilometers rolled
  • Grind analysis reports:
    • Productivity per shift
    • Grinds by grinder and operator
    • OSP performance
    • Reduction analysis by grinder, operator, roll vendor, OSP
  • Inventory analysis:
    • Current status of all rolls and chocks
    • Desired minimum quantities by status, stand, roll type
    • Available inventory by diameter range groups for each stand
  • Supplier performance:
    • Compare performance by
      • Roll type
      • Total stock removed
      • Average reduction
      • Cost per grind
      • Tons rolled
      • Defects
      • Grinding wheels

Contact us now to learn what we can do for you.


Roll Management System designed for Outside Service Processors

As a spin-off of the RMStrax system, AS&E has developed a Roll Management System for Outside Service Processing roll shops. These shops receive dirty rolls from multiple customers, repair/grind/texture them, and then ship them back to their customers.

This version of the RMSTrax system traces rolls from multiple customers throughout the entire service process (receive/process/return). Processing speed is increased by using configurable recipes (sets of processing steps) that are applied to each of the customers’ roll types.

The system includes the following features:

  • Ability to trace rolls received from multiple customers
  • Manage recipes for each of the customers’ roll types
  • Track rolls through configurable processing steps (Lathe, Grind, EDT, Chrome, custom steps)
  • Configure validation requirements for a given processing step for specific roll types (minimum roughness, minimum plate thickness, etc.)
  • Generate shipping forms and labels for rolls being sent back to customers

Contact AS&E today to learn how we can make a difference in your operation.

Machine Vision Systems- The Importance of Lighting

Machine vision systems are critical components of quality control processes throughout manufacturing. They provide crucial inspections and measurements that must be both accurate and repeatable. Environmental variables will affect the performance of the imaging system. Frequently overlooked is the importance of having consistent lighting within the system.

Machine vision systems do not assess the object itself but rather the image of the object. Therefore it is imperative to get the correct lighting arrangement for the application. This will allow the camera to capture all image details necessary to make accurate measurements. Information that is completely missing from the image can never be recovered by analysis algorithms. The image is influenced surface characteristics, the wavelength of the light and the direction of the light. A number of lighting configurations including back lighting, bright field or dark field illumination and the use of diffuse and dome illumination have been developed to solve these challenges. However, getting the correct illumination configuration is only the initial part of the solution. Ensuring that the lighting remains consistent over time is essential to making repeatable measurements.

Lighting can gradually be impacted by a number of factors such as:

  • The age of the light
  • The temperature of the light
  • The stability of the power supply
  • Changes in ambient light
  • Synchronization of pulsed lighting and camera exposure
  • Physical position of the light

A properly functioning vision system depends on cameras, lights and analysis algorithms all working at peak efficiency. Machine Vision Systems must be maintained and should be “tuned up” on a regular basis. If your system is not performing as it used to or as you require, protect your investment and improve quality control by contacting AS&E to schedule a service call.


Machine Vision Solutions- High Speed, High Diversity Automotive Part Inspections

When one of the largest global suppliers and manufacturers of critical threaded and non-threaded fasteners for the automotive industry identified problems with their machine vision inspection systems, they asked Automation Software & Engineering (AS&E) to assess their situation and develop a better system. Ultimately the solution needed to reduce inspection error and maximize production uptime, efficiency and profitability.

The challenge was to inspect dozens of unique parts on each production line moving at a very rapid pace (up to 450 parts per minute). There were numerous problems with the current inspection systems that revolved around utilizing hardware that was limited in its functionality and incorporating a generic software program that was not written to perform inspections specifically needed for the parts. AS&E selected independent hardware that perfectly matched the inspection requirements and developed customized inspection algorithms and a reporting software package that can be utilized throughout the customer facility.







In order to minimize cost, AS&E recycled as much existing vision system hardware as possible. We did change the cameras and incorporated different lenses for each camera. Each system utilized two (2) monochrome high speed Gig-E cameras and a laser. Defects identified in the solution included:

– Thread presence
– Thread debris
– Part height
– No or bad plating
– Upside down washer assembly
– Over or bad squeeze
– Nylon insert presence

System improvements specifically targeted the following mandates:

• Reduce false rejects (originally as much as 7% -AS&E reduced this number to less than 1%).
• Reduce change-over time. Cameras are fixed and inspections are pre-defined with possible parameter adjustments. This eliminated virtually all variance between operators as they do not need to rebuild the inspection.
• Identify the reason for a reject. Software splits out the actual bad parts from parts which are presented to the vision system poorly (for example, upside down or too close to the previous part).
• Show and check for specific rejects on the boundary checks.
• Show shift summary of rejects.
• Close the loop on a reject with sensor on reject chute

AS&E has developed similar customized inspection and quality control systems for the metals, lighting, food processing, medical, roofing, industrial coatings, and alternative energy industries.

Access Control Management Case Study

When a corporation wanted to improve the efficiency of their security operations, they asked Automation Software & Engineering (AS&E) to develop a unique, mobile software solution for better access control management throughout their facility.

We designed this distributed application for the security department of a large industrial manufacturer with multiple pedestrian and vehicle access points across their facility. The application permits real time tracking of the number of people and vehicles on site, including employees, contractors and visitors, giving the security department the ability at any time to determine who is at the plant in case of an emergency or if someone needs to be notified.

This access control management application replaced paper logs that previously had to be stored and manually searched for any pertinent information. Each access control point utilized several paper logs every shift. Most security guards, many with poor handwriting, felt the paper logs slowed them down resulting in missed vehicles and incomplete records.

Before implementing this system, the security department did not have a good way to track lost or stolen passes. Managers resorted to publishing lists of revoked, lost, and stolen passes to each access control point, but many guards failed to check the lists on a regular basis.

Used primarily by gate guards, the AS&E developed tablet application allows rapid entry of vehicle information, vehicle passes, and visitor information. The tablets communicate with a central server that controls authorization, tracks people and vehicles, and provides reporting services. Tablet users can also record inspections and vehicle searches associated with entries and exits.

If a revoked, lost, or stolen pass is entered on the tablet, the guard is notified of the problem, and can receive special instructions on how to handle that particular case. For instance, if it is a revoked pass assigned to a terminated employee, they may contact HR. If it were a stolen pass, or someone who might be a threat to personnel or property, they may be directed to call the head security office or local police.

As a result of the improved communication between different shift personnel, the security department makes far fewer errors now, benefiting the safety of everyone on the property.

The system permits tracking of:

Employees / Contractors With Passes
Employees / Contractors With Passes
  • The people results grid lists last name, first name, company and employee type.
  • The system stores first name, last name, employee type, company, office phone, cell phone, employee number, and active flag.
  • Employee Type indicates if the employee is full time, salaried, west side operations, or contractor.
  • The active flag lets a gate guard disable a user by unchecking the checkbox. Disabled users cannot be checked into the facility through the tablet application.
  • The pass results grid displays the pass number, type, who it is issued to, company, date issued, date revoked, and status.
  • The system tracks pass number, pass type, who the pass is issued to, company, date issued, revocation date, and status.
  • Passes with statuses of revoked, blocked, and stolen cannot be used to enter the facility.
  • The vehicles results grid shows state, plate number, make, model, color, primary driver, company and pass number.
  • The system tracks State, plate number, make, model, color, style, year, company, vehicle number, driver, status and pass number.
  • Passes entered must be existing passes.
  • Status indicates if a vehicle is active, sold, junked, or disabled.

The system also permits tracking and record keeping of:

  • Visitors
  • Pickups / Deliveries
  • Rental Equipment

System reporting features include:

  • All Traffic Report
  • Daily Entry / Exit Report (matching entries and exits to calculate time on site)
  • Company Vehicle Tracking
  • Scheduled report delivery available in PDF and Excel formats

An Intranet site facilitates management of all passes, employees, contractors, and vehicles within the system, including issuing and revoking passes. Planned enhancements include material pass tracking, incident report tracking, citation tracking, and document workflow enhancements.

AS&E has helped numerous companies across all industries incorporate information technology into their daily operations to improve quality, efficiency and productivity. Contact us now to put our expertise to work for your company.

Process Control and Instrumentation | Caster Level 2 Supervisory Control System

After working extensively with the largest steel producing organization in the world, Automation Software & Engineering (AS&E) developed a Level 2 Control System that provides supervisory control for a Continuous Caster.

Continuous Casting is the process by which molten steel is solidified into a semi-finished billet, bloom, or slab that will later be rolled in the finishing mills. The Caster Level 2 system, which incorporates a whole range of process control and instrumentation components, includes communication modules for data exchange with a wide variety of other systems, including:

  • Business/ERP/Level 3/MES Systems — Business system integration is configured to use internally supported data interchange methods. These include but are not limited to TCP/IP sockets, file transfer, MSMQ, Database staging tables, etc.
  • External Supervisory Control Systems that provide supervisory control for all units involved in the steel making process such as the:
    • Blast Furnace which produces molten iron
    • Basic Oxygen Furnaces that convert iron into steel
    • Ladle Management Facility which allows fine control of steel properties such as alloy chemistry, vacuum processing and temperature
    • Message exchange with External Level 2 Supervisory Control Systems is done using customer developed TCP/IP Sockets and UDP. Incoming information includes heat and unit status information, while outgoing messages contain heat pacing information and production reporting
  • Caster Level 1 Control System that provides detailed mechanical and electrical control of the caster machinery such as strand speed, tundish level, spray cooling, mold level, torch cut and run out stations. Level 1 communications use an I/O point based service that modularly provides support for the multiple PLC protocols used in the facility. All of the Level 2 logic is then written using logical I/O points that are PLC and protocol independent.
  • Process and Business Data warehouses – This information is generally exchanged directly at the database or PI system interface level. Incoming information includes production standards and practices as well as sales, product and customer information from the Business Data Warehouse database. Outgoing information includes production and process information from cooperating L1 systems, as well as internal tracking and quality information.
  • Grade and Practice System containing definitions of operational standard The Caster Level 2 System is designed using modern, reliable technologies such as Microsoft .NET, MSMQ, SQL Server, and WCF. Source code for the entire system is provided and exists in a single .NET solution in order to facilitate building and debugging. The HMI is built using the Windows .NET platform with Visual Studio. Active Directory permissions are based on AD groups and/or users. Permissions are managed in SQL Server which permits dynamic modifications. No re-compiling or system restarts are required. The system features a distributed design for a very scalable solution. For example, an existing implementation supports over 60 instances of the HMI running simultaneously, allowing a large number of authorized users to access and utilize the system at the same time.

The Caster Level 2 System is designed using modern, reliable technologies such as Microsoft .NET, MSMQ, SQL Server, and WCF. Source code for the entire system is provided and exists in a single .NET solution in order to facilitate building and debugging. The HMI is built using the Windows .NET platform with Visual Studio. Active Directory permissions are based on AD groups and/or users. Permissions are managed in SQL Server which permits dynamic modifications. No re-compiling or system restarts are required. The system features a distributed design for a very scalable solution. For example, an existing implementation supports over 60 instances of the HMI running simultaneously, allowing a large number of authorized users to access and utilize the system at the same time.

The System Tracking feature monitors the state of the caster and matches production orders to actual steel production. The responsibility of the tracking process is to follow the steel as it progresses through the casting machine while performing the following major functions:

  • Receive information about each heat that is produced by the BOF including location, temperature and status
  • Match each heat of steel to a heat that was ordered. These details are obtained from the schedule received from the business/ERP/MES system.
  • Continuously:
    • Calculate current heat on load arm, cast arm, tundish and mold
    • Associate each inch of strand production to its source heat
    • Model and track the cuts required to produce the slabs that were ordered and scheduled for production
    • Send messages to cooperating subsystems informing them of significant events such as new heat casting, slab cuts and schedule changes
    • Detect conditions that must be reported or corrected

These processes allow the system to:

  • Track every inch of steel that is cast
  • Accurately track and score under degraded conditions. Stock objects such as heats, slabs and schedules can be created to continue production, allowing the caster to create sellable product, even when data are not available from the Level-3 business system or other steel/iron producing units. Production data are queued during periods of lost connectivity and then sent once the communications link is restored
  • Handle Aborted ladles that are re-processed at the LMF, then returned to the Caster
  • Handle interrupted schedules — where a schedule is started on one cast sequence and finished on another
  • Load schedules so that slabs are cast in reverse order and/or on swapped strands or a single strand. This flexibility provides the opportunity to continue casting when there is equipment failure and the operating conditions are less than optimal

The Quality Service is responsible for monitoring the process from the standpoint of detecting flaws in the product, or in the process that created the product. Quality scoring is driven by hierarchal tables enabling qualified personnel to change the behavior of scoring without having to restart the system or recompile any software. Quality scoring parameters are set for all grades, grade groupings, or for specific grades. If desired, qualified personnel can create quality rules “on the fly” (for example “If Customer = “X” and Grade=“Y” and defect “Z” exists, then apply hold code “A”).

This service consists of threads that monitor three views of the final product:

  • Inch Scoring — Every inch of every slab is evaluated for possible defects. As each new inch of steel is cast, the quality process collects over 200 different measurements and caster status points. This information is then used to detect approximately fifty different defects.
  • Heat Scoring — Heat scoring involves scoring related to the metallurgical properties of each heat of steel. Measurements of the chemical makeup of each heat are calculated at various points in the process and are received and processed by this service. The heat’s chemistry is compared to the standard for the grade of steel that was ordered and defects related to this mismatch are calculated and saved. The chemistry defect code of each slab depends on this scoring.
  • Slab Scoring — The slab scoring service aggregates the inch defects and chemistry scoring information for each slab and calculates the final quality codes that are used in determining the slab’s suitability for its order purpose. It also calculates a conditioning code that shows how a slab’s quality can be restored by applying a conditioning “fix up” operation.

Additional features of the Caster Level 2 System include:

  • Playback:
    • The entire Caster Level 2 system can be run in a playback mode on an offline computer using historical data recorded by the online system during normal production. With the exception of outputs being sent to the Level 1 controllers the system is fully functional, including all HMI functionality. The playback mode is an extremely efficient debugging and analysis tool.
  • Real-Time Shadow System:
    • The Shadow System provides all functions of the production system in real-time except Level 1 control outputs which are isolated from the plant systems. The shadow system simultaneously tracks the caster along with the production system, including responses to operator interventions made on the production system. Typically, software changes are tested on the shadow system and validated for expected results before being deployed to production.
  • Configuration:
    • System is designed to be extremely flexible. Constants and mill parameters are stored in a master configuration file or in SQL tables.
  • Common Logging:
    • All processes use the same mechanism to log events, warnings, errors, and exceptions. Data can be sent to a flat file, SQL, or emailed. SQL event logging is queued to avoid process blocking
  • Voice Alarm System:
    • System can be fully integrated with the mill radio system
    • System is configurable via the Caster HMI. For example, qualified personnel can silence specific voice alarms via the HMI
    • Voice alarms utilize Microsoft Text to Speech technology

See how AS&E’s expertise in process control and instrumentation can make a difference in your operation —  contact us now.

Machine Vision Solutions | Surface and Web Inspections

When one of the world’s leading manufacturers of technology metals and advanced ceramics needed an automated inspection system to detect surface defects such as cracks and scratches on molybdenum slabs, they asked Automation Software & Engineering (AS&E) to develop a solution that would both improve the inspection process and improve their quality control processes. Since each molybdenum slab costs tens of thousands of dollars, it is extremely expensive to ship defective product.

AS&E designed a machine vision solution to incorporate state-of-the-art equipment with customized inspection algorithms. Our ability to provide concise, immediate feedback would result in maximizing production uptime, efficiency and profitability.

State-of-the art high resolution line scan cameras were utilized with specialized light lines. Getting the proper amount and angle of light is critical to be able to detect all defects. Customized mechanical structures, necessary to mount the cameras and lights, were manufactured to create the inspection environment as required by the vision system.

When a defect is detected, a digital output signal is sent to the base station computer and identified on the GUI for the operator to take appropriate action.

Utilizing line-scan cameras with appropriate operational characteristics allowed AS&E to continually acquire pictures and “stitch” them together so that the entire web could be visually depicted and stored.

An alarm is triggered when a bad area is found. A map depicting “problems vs. position” is created and stored to enable rapid access and comparisons to later product positional results. The images of every part are transferred and stored on the manufacturer’s server for historical purposes.

The system was designed to enable multiple, variable sized slabs and sticks to be simultaneously analyzed and to inspect both the top and bottom sides of every slab.

The machine vision system was designed to accommodate the following production line/washing station characteristics:

  • The station runs different size parts and up to 4 parts simultaneously
  • The station is 84 in. wide with a maximum FOV being approximately 55 in.
  • Defects as small as 0.1mm are identified

Side View
Top View

The AS&E system design is focused not only on performing consistently accurate inspections but also on the ease of use for customer personnel. It is extremely easy for customer personnel to retrieve information from a customized user interface and to input data either manually or on an automated basis.

AS&E historically develops extremely detailed, very informative reporting features for our customers. These items allow integral members of the production and management teams to review the efficiency of the operation on a near real-time basis.

Production statistics are captured and are available for analysis to provide continuous process improvements. For example, if the statistical average of “good” parts shifts from the “normal / desired results” or approaches the edge of the tolerance limits, a warning can be displayed on the User Interface indicating a potential pending error condition.

If deemed beneficial, an email or text message can be sent to an appropriate list of recipients if the “normal” production performance shifts by a predefined limit.

AS&E has developed similar customized web inspection systems utilizing line scan cameras for the solar energy, steel, food processing and industrial coatings industries.

Contact us now to learn how an AS&E-designed automated inspection system can benefit your operation.

Quality Improvement Case Study | Fluorescent Tube Defect Detection

Machine vision applications typically enhance existing quality improvement techniques by making inspections that fall within three categories:

  • Defect Detection
  • Tolerance Monitoring
  • Component Measurement

When a large manufacturer of fluorescent lighting products needed a new automated inspection system for identifying defective glass tubes, they called upon Automation Software & Engineering (AS&E) to develop a solution that would both improve the inspection process, and be easier to maintain than the 15-year-old technology in their current system.

Drawing upon our extensive experience in implementing process monitoring, control, and machine vision systems, AS&E responded with a new, cutting-edge quality improvement process that leveraged advanced Gigabit Ethernet camera technology to deliver high-speed, high resolution images and ensure that the highest standards of quality are met.

The manufacture of fluorescent lighting is a multi-step process that starts with the creation of a precisely-formed glass tube. When caught early, a less-than-perfect tube can simply be melted down and re-used in the manufacturing process. But if a defective tube progresses too far in the process, it becomes extremely expensive to salvage and handle the electrodes, phosphorus, mercury, and other hazardous substances.

This AS&E quality improvement solution uses six networked area scan cameras working with AS&E’s VisTrax™ visual recognition system to detect tube defects early in the process, while keeping the production line moving at the rate of 70 tubes per minute. The glass tubes, which have been cut to length, heated, and squeezed at each end to form a slightly smaller concentric opening, are sent past the inspection system where a walking beam positions each backlit tube under the six-camera apparatus.

Two cameras, placed perpendicular to one another over the middle of the tube, send images to the host PC to detect any bowing. The remaining four cameras – two at each end – provide images of the formed openings, which are analyzed for size, shape and concentricity. All six cameras are networked to an Ethernet hub which is connected via an Intel NIC to a PC running the VisTrax system. The entire inspection process, including capturing images from all six cameras and analyzing the images with VisTrax, takes place in 820 milliseconds.

Meanwhile, the custom-designed quality improvement plan had other benefits, as well. The ability to use affordable Cat5E cabling instead of 6-pair, twisted-shielded cables, reduced cabling costs by nearly 75 percent for the 50-foot cabling run between the cameras and the PC. Further cost reductions resulted from the use of the hub/NIC combination, which has eliminated the need for more expensive frame grabber technology.

The result was a powerful, yet cost-effective quality improvement solution with numerous reusable components capable of being adapted to other factory inspection applications. AS&E has developed similar customized part inspection systems for the steel mill, high performance metals, quartz tubing, medical, food processing, power generation, solar energy, electronics and industrial coatings industries.

Contact us now to learn how a custom AS&E-designed quality improvement process can benefit your operation.

What is IT/OT Integration?

Also known as IT/OT convergence, IT/OT integration can be something of a buzzword, providing a veneer of technological gleam to otherwise straightforward manufacturing improvement projects.

But, when implemented properly, IT/OT convergence is transformative, joining two traditionally separate practices to create true operational efficiencies and cost savings.

Identified in the mid-2000s by Gartner Inc., IT/OT integration melds the software, monitoring abilities and communication capabilities of information technology with the equipment and manufacturing demands of operational technology.

Because information technology and operational technology historically have been developed, maintained and utilized by two nearly opposite branches of a company, IT/OT integration requires top-to-bottom buy-in, consistent communication and clearly defined requirements, goals and benefits to succeed.

When well planned and implemented, IT/OT convergence offers a wide range of benefits, including improvements in:

  • Performance and production
  • Cross-organization decision making
  • Alignment of operational areas with overall business goals
  • Environmental and regulatory reporting and compliance

Cost reductions are another benefit of IT/OT integration, thanks to efficiency gains and optimization in:

  • Operational processes
  • Asset maintenance
  • Workforce management

Because integration projects can require sweeping changes, many organizations will identify an initial operation that would benefit the most from IT/OT convergence and begin there will full implementation.

Examples of effective, operation-specific IT/OT integration include:

    • Machine Visions Solution for Surface and Web Inspections
    • Continuous Casting Process Control and Instrumentation
    • Slag Pot Management Productivity Optimization

Because of the technical, operational and organizational challenges inherent in IT/OT integration, companies often call upon a specialist firm, like AS&E, to develop and implement their projects.

AS&E has the experience, expertise and insight to create the right solution to meet your operation’s needs. Contact us now to learn how.