Morikawa digitises whole casting process with Monitizer | DISCOVER to become a data-driven foundry

After successfully implementing the Monitizer® | DISCOVER IIoT platform, Morikawa can now access, report on and visualise real-time data from its entire process.

Leading Japanese foundry Morikawa has completed the first stage of its Monitizer® deployment, supplied and supported by DISA and Norican Digital Labs. Using Monitizer® | DISCOVER, Morikawa can now combine and visualise real-time data from across its entire casting process and make it accessible for users in any location and on any device.

In the next stage of the deployment, DISA will work with the foundry to add Artificial Intelligence (AI) on top of the data to optimise casting quality using Monitizer | PRESCRIBE, powered by Norican’s award-winning AI partner DataProphet. A DISA customer since 1979, Morikawa expects Norican’s state-of-the-art Industry 4.0 tools to provide significant competitive advantage.

Digital tools are useful for collecting and analysing manufacturing parameters and process data to improve production efficiency and produce high quality castings, explains President & CEO Junichi Morikawa. “AI will help us find the optimal manufacturing conditions for each individual casting and we will use it as a quality improvement tool to reduce defective casting costs.

Building a holistic digital view of Morikawa’s process

Since the project started in 2021, Morikawa has been working with DISA in Japan and Norican Digital to build out its digital infrastructure. All work had to be managed remotely due to Covid but there were close, frequent discussions between all implementation partners which worked very well.

Work started by adding a new Internet connection for fast data upload while DISA installed the latest Monitizer | CIM modules to digitally-enable Morikawa’s DISAMATIC® 231-X moulding line. Data can now be collected from all parts of the moulding line.

Norican’s NoriGate edge gateways are a vital link in the data collection chain. They collect, timestamp, encrypt and securely forward data to Monitizer | DISCOVER’s cloud database and support a wide range of different data sources, including non-Norican equipment such as the Mitsubishi PLCs used by Morikawa.

Data now flows from all parts of the process, which includes the many PLCs controlling machines like sand mixers and sand testers, inoculant weighing, the pouring unit and other data sources. There’s a feed from the PC-based system that controls the four induction melting furnaces’ PLCs, melt temperature measurement and the multiple electricity supplies for the furnaces.

Morikawa also built a new local quality database to store information on casting defects. Staff input data on wireless tablets which flows to this local database and, via a NoriGate, onwards to Monitizer | DISCOVER.

DISA combines green sand experience with digital expertise

Norican Digital decided to connect extra data sources in order to supply the broadest range of process-related data, giving Morikawa a detailed holistic view of its entire process and helping it trace the source of any quality issues. It also ensures that the AI-driven optimisation will be able to consider every possible influence on final casting quality.

“Norican Digital helped us by connecting extra devices such as the material weighing PLC, spectroscopic analysis PC and mould hardness analysis PLC,” says Mr Morikawa. “They also prepared user-friendly forms that allowed us to directly input sand inspection results coming from the manual process.”

“With their deep knowledge of green-sand foundry data, DISA spent a considerable amount of time and effort organising our raw data into a format that could be analysed,” continues Mr Morikawa. “Their work in creating a wide range of complex parameters, interpreting the results of analysis and in overcoming other data-related challenges was vital in helping us complete the visualisation stage in cooperation with Norican Digital.”

With the hardware in place and the data flowing into the cloud database, Norican Digital began to create the most important widgets and dashboards. It was at this point in late 2021 that Monitizer | DISCOVER became available, replacing the previous Monitizer | GLOBAL product.

The new platform offers many advantages, in particular the ease with which non-technical users can adapt, configure and master the solution. No specialist IT skills like SQL querying are needed to set up dashboards, widgets (the components that make up a dashboard) or visualisation tools like graphing and charting.

The switch to DISCOVER was a flexible and wise decision made by Norican Digital to meet the demands of end users including us, says Mr Morikawa. We would also like to thank Norican Digital for having provided us with several separate training sessions for DISCOVER.

Morikawa monitors its operations in real time

Norican Digital transferred all the existing widgets and dashboards it had already built to the new platform. Following comprehensive training, Morikawa is now building its own dashboard reports within Monitizer | DISCOVER using their own machine and sensor names.

“DISCOVER is more flexible and can be used to create a wide variety of complex widgets, although we have not yet used it to its fullest extent,” says Mr Morikawa. “We like its ability to select a sensor from a pull-down list and create a widget without using a query. For example, we have created a widget that lets us see the operating status of the moulding machine in real time. However, if we are to create complex a widget, we still need to use a special query and in order to master using it, we should have expertise. So, we are hoping that Norican Digital will further improve the system, so that we can create any kinds of widget without using it.”

Monitizer | DISCOVER’s enhanced language support and simple-to-understand interface have also made it easier for new users to adopt. “When creating a widget with a pull-down selection, the name of the sensor in Japanese appears, making it easier to understand,” says Mr Morikawa. “Icons like the gear symbol for settings make the meaning of the image easier for new users to grasp.”

The foundry has yet to experiment with DISCOVER’s responsive design feature which allows access via smartphones and tablets, but is already starting to set up alarms that take advantage of its sophisticated alerting capabilities.

Currently, Morikawa is using DISCOVER to monitor its process in real time. Access to information now extends right across the company, far beyond PCs on the factory floor. The foundry plans to place large monitors at the plant entrance and on the casting line to give workers a view of current operations and to motivate them to improve performance.

“We have installed screens in the president's office and the engineering office, so that they can monitor production status without having to go to the foundry site,” says Mr Morikawa. “We can now see data on the processes before and after the moulding machine, like the temperature at the outlet of the DISACOOL and the sand temperature in the water-added mixer. This gives us a better understanding of the front-end process and will make post-process treatment, such as water addition, more effective.”

Bottlenecks in the process are now visible, for example, when the moulding machine has to wait for a pattern change, fresh sand to be mixed or metal to be melted. Monitizer | DISCOVER’s data also makes it easier to understand precisely why these delays occur and to find the best ways to avoid them. Morikawa is started more advanced analysis to look for ways to improve the moulding line’s overall performance and is already finding other applications for its new source of detailed, reliable process data.

“We would like to utilise DISCOVER for production management purposes by linking the current operation status data to our ERP system,” explains Mr Morikawa. “DISCOVER has an interface for this purpose and this should enable the ERP system to automatically retrieve and link CSV files without human intervention.”

Japan’s government has announced ambitious targets for carbon neutrality which means that the automobile industry and its suppliers are trying hard to reduce their carbon emissions. DISCOVER is already collecting data on electricity consumption and Morikawa will be able to use its visualisation tools to monitor real-time metrics such as its CO2-equivalent emissions.

Morikawa now monitors its operations in real time

DataProphet is already working on the next stage of the project: Monitizer | PRESCRIBE deployment. PRESCRIBE calculates how all the process parameters from the entire production line influence one output – casting quality – and provides real-time advice on which parameters to change to deliver stable, high quality output.

The DataProphet team have prepared Morikawa’s production data for the Monitizer | PRESCRIBE AI system, and are now training the AI on this historical data set to build the initial machine learning models. The common platform shared by DISCOVER, PRESCRIBE and other Monitizer products greatly assists this data preparation and AI training work. The volume of data held in Monitizer | DISCOVER is now growing rapidly and the AI will use it to gradually move Morikawa’s process to stable, high quality production.

“The prescriptions will be available for a limited number of patterns to start with, but the system will expand this to a wider range of patterns as more data becomes available,” says Mr Morikawa. “AI modelling will be conducted several times a year, so sensors not included in AI models this time round due to a lack of historical data will be added in the future. So we expect the effectiveness of the prescriptions will also improve over time.”

“We’re delighted to see that Morikawa is now a digital leader in the Japanese foundry industry,” says Ulla Tønnesen, President at DISA. “All partners – Morikawa, DISA, Norican Digital Labs and DataProphet – worked extremely hard to make this first project phase a success despite the restrictions of Covid. We’re looking forward to seeing even better results as Monitizer | PRESCRIBE starts to enhance Morikawa’s process.”