Smart manufacturing

Smart control technology from EKB enhances circular production process of Granuband

Black today, green tomorrow. Granuband gives tires that are at the end of their service life a second and even a third lease of life. The control system for the existing processing and production installation has recently been overhauled and digitised, with a view to improving sustainability and increasing production capacity. This has also laid the foundations for a long-term partnership with EKB Industriële Automatisering and its partner, Siemens Solutions.

Granuband, from Amsterdam, collects around 35,000 tonnes of used car, lorry and aircraft tires per year. After sorting through the collected tires, ‘good’ tires get a second lease of life world wide. All other tires are shredded and segregated into three mono-streams: steel, textile and rubber. These raw materials are sold, but around 24% of the rubber granules is used by Granuband itself to make new finished products, such as playground tiles and rubber decking tiles. In 2020, this figure is set to rise to 80%. “So in the next few years, we will be investing significantly in new manufacturing systems”, explains managing director Maarten van Randeraat. “And new finished products are being added to the range all the time.”

Focus on sustainability

“The circular economy is in our blood”, continues Van Randeraat. “Customers of rubber granulate products can give them back to us at the end of the products’ service life free of charge, so we can then turn the products into something else. The only waste products we have are stones and contaminants from the tires. Everything else is re-used. Being a company involved in industry, we take responsibility for the climate in a variety of ways. All our machines are fitted with a frequency converter or soft starter. We collect rainwater to use as water in our processes.”

Manufacturing continuity

At the start of this year, the existing tire-shredder and mono-stream segregation installation was fitted with a new control unit. The old one had outlasted its service life, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to find replacement parts. At Granuband, manufacturing is a round-the-clock process. Manufacturing continuity needs to be guaranteed, because each hour the production line stands idle costs money. Which was why it was necessary to look for a partner for the modernisation of the control unit. The decision was made to go with EKB Industriële Automatisering. This company gave Granuband sufficient confidence to replace the old control unit with the control technology used by EKB itself. Pepijn Hofman of EKB: “We know for sure that this control solution can guarantee manufacturing continuity for at least the next 20 years. The components are of high quality and will still be available for years to come. They are intelligent, so Granuband can also make an important step towards a digital drive over the next few years.”


Long-term partnership

Granuband also wanted an IT company with which it could build up a long-term partnership. A partner that would thoroughly review the manufacturing process. And one that could guarantee 24/7 availability from more than one site. That was another reason for the company to choose EKB. Van Randeraat: “We know our processes and customer base through and through, but if we want to remain innovative and serve our customers cost-effectively, quickly and sustainably, both now and in the future, we need an IT partner that keeps pace with our thinking. One that ‘speaks our language’, but also has knowledge of cutting-edge technology. Our systems, including control software, are custom made. EKB has mapped out the installed base, with tens of thousands of circuits, using reverse engineering. The process of drafting the functional description took about six months. Our operational factory had to be completed so that it still worked in the same way, but with the potential to operate without problems for 20 years, and improve the manufacturing process. Our compliments to EKB for how they went about it. Everything was mapped out, down to the smallest detail. In the meantime, we had regular meetings to assess the state of affairs and fine-tune the plans. During this project, EKB continually showed us how skilled their people were, and what high-quality technology they used.”


In January 2019, manufacturing was halted for two weeks so that the conversion could be completed. The work couldn’t overrun, as Granuband had orders to fulfil. The installation was not only operational once more, on time; EKB also made it more intelligent by implementing its self-developed web-based MES system EMI (EKB Manufacturing Intelligence). In future, Granuband can log and analyse its entire manufacturing process. Van Randeraat: “With this digital solution, we can use trending and look back at where there were any glitches and, in that way, improve our process. We are a continuous-manufacturing company, so each hour that we can produce more represents pure profit. We are involved in digitisation nearly every day. It gives us an understanding, and helps us to establish facts better and make processes smarter. In my experience, there is always room for improvement.”

One platform

As far as Granuband is concerned, EKB has proved itself a reliable IT partner. The new systems that Granuband is installing, too, will be equipped with the same control technology. Granuband is even considering having the installations and systems monitored via EMI. Van Randeraat: “Both for us and for EKB, it is useful to opt for a single control and monitoring system.” Pepijn Hofman: “Eventually we will be able to integrate all the installations and systems in one overarching control unit, and expand the functionality of EMI further. EMI was developed as a modular system. In addition to the OEE analyses (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) energy monitoring, batch control, tool management and a planning module are viable possibilities that could enable Granuband to control manufacturing even more accurately. As EMI is in continuous development, it is not inconceivable that we will develop even more modules in addition to the existing facilities. We are keeping an eye on the flawless operation of the technology implemented by us using a Service Level Agreement, and ensuring that replacement parts are ordered in good time.”