Technological upgrading: What it is and when it is worth it
Revamping, retrofitting, technological upgrading. Various processes can improve the efficiency of an "outdated" warehouse or recondition a storage system that has not been used for a while.

All the above are upgrades concerning multiple aspects - from automation to sensors, from software to maintenance of moving parts - which translate into concrete benefits for companies. Besides improved efficiency resulting from the "rejuvenation" of the warehouse, other factors are quite relevant, for example the availability of components, compatibility with new technologies, integration with new systems, improved diagnostics, increased safety and significant energy savings.
After a brief introduction on what revamping, retrofitting and technological upgrading can offer, we will focus on the latter. In particular, we will address the benefits that it can bring to a company and the conditions that need to be met to take advantage of the incentives provided by the Italian Industry 4.0 plan.

Revamping, retrofitting, and technological upgrading
Technological upgrading refers to the overhauling and adaptation of current equipment to the latest technologies. We are mainly talking about obsolete and discontinued equipment that is installed on systems and is now difficult to maintain. Often, in these cases, the terms "retrofitting" or "revamping" are also used, although in reality there are differences. Here is what sets them apart:
Revamping: indicates a "restructuring" of the system, even mechanical.
Technological upgrading (Retrofitting): refers to a more comprehensive operation, which also involves the automation or safety systems in order to achieve overall improvement in the efficiency and use of the machine itself.

When is technological upgrading appropriate?

Given its more than 65 years of experience, the Wipro Ferretto faces this issue daily, dealing with clients who at times have obsolete storage systems, sometimes even built and installed between the 1980s and 1990s. The question that arises in these cases is: should it be modernized or replaced with a new model? Experience shows that there are no right or wrong answers a priori; first of all, it is always necessary to assess the client's needs. Among the variables, we must consider, for example:

  • type of product to be stored
  • speed needed for picking and placing operations
  • system reliability over the years
  • structural characteristics of new systems compared to the old system
  • ability to reproduce critical custom features of the old system.

A complex and delicate operation
In any case, technological upgrading is a complex and delicate operation, because it is carried out on a functioning system. To reduce system downtime and ensure a successful result, improvisation must be avoided. On the contrary, it is necessary to establish a detailed plan and a schedule able to guarantee precise execution times. For this reason, thanks to the expertise in the field and specialization of its technicians, the Wipro Ferretto operates with specific schedules, including night or double shifts, in order to optimize the execution of the project according to the contingent needs of the customer.

When is technological upgrading appropriate?
The benefits of technological upgrading

The benefits of technological upgrading

The assessments to be carried out before proceeding with technological upgrading involve different aspects. One of the main drivers for a company to pursue change is the lack of components related to automation: it is quite possible, in fact, that some components may have been discontinued or have become difficult to find.
In all these cases, the first objective is to bring storage and automated systems up to par with current machines, eliminating obsolete parts and choosing solutions that translate into tangible benefits for companies.
The main advantages include:

  • More reliable and easily available components
    The replacement of automated systems translates into increased reliability thanks to the use of new, high quality components: their availability on the market also guarantees faster replacement in case of problems.
  • A significant leap in efficiency
    In case of technological upgrading, the performance of the system, including speed and acceleration, remains what it was before. However, the overall efficiency of the machine is increased. The introduction of more modern communication networks (field bus) and more advanced automation systems leads to shorter response times: in fact, pallet positioning takes less time and therefore more cycles are carried out. On the software side, new applications collect and analyze a greater amount of data on the operation of the system: in this way, guided by the data, the company can optimize operations and flows.
  • New opportunities thanks to more advanced software applications
    Many systems work with outdated management software with limited ability to integrate and interconnect with the new systems adopted by companies over time, starting with ERPs. Through technological upgrading, it is possible to manage more complex network infrastructures and more advanced databases, featuring a greater degree of compatibility with later technological upgrades, extensions or future integrations with additional systems.
    More up to date software also guarantees greater reliability, protection against possible external attacks, and quicker restarts in case of issues.
  • More accurate, faster and more economical diagnostics
    The introduction of new generation components makes it possible to manage machine diagnostics more effectively. The logging of events and the incorporation of advanced tools, such as cameras and push-button panels, guarantee detailed analysis of faults and efficient management of anomalies during regular operation. In this way, both on-site operators and those working via remote assistance can operate and intervene faster and more accurately. Thus, these activities become more effective, faster and more economical, as most of them can be managed remotely, without requiring the presence of a technician onsite.
  • Significant energy savings
    Sustainability and cost reduction go hand in hand. Modernization guarantees significant energy savings in two ways: on the one hand, less energy is necessary for the axial movements of the stacker crane, thanks to the presence of more efficient inverter motors; on the other hand, the new systems recover energy directly from the machine and use it to operate the machine itself or make it available to the plant electric system.
  • More safety for goods and operators
    The machine is thus brought to the level of automation safety required by current standards thanks to the adoption of systems (push buttons, PLC, etc.) which are compliant with product directives. Technological upgrading also represents a great opportunity to train operators and maintenance personnel. This makes it possible to safely take advantage of the system's potential, including the new remote control system installed on the machine.


Technological upgrading and Industry 4.0

Finally, here are some conditions that a technological upgrading project must meet in order to be eligible for the incentives provided by the Italian Industry 4.0 plan:

  • upgrading of control systems with PLCs
  •  interconnection to other corporate computer systems
  • interfacing with the ERP for integration with the corporate logistics system
  • simple and intuitive human-machine interface
  • adaptation of the safety systems to current standards provided by law
  • improvement of troubleshooting thanks to remote diagnosis and control systems as well as continuous monitoring of machine parameters.

For further information on technological upgrading, retrofitting and revamping, as well as on how to benefit from the Italian Industry 4.0 plan, please contact us.

Technological upgrading and Industry 4.0

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