by Guido Veit, Zeppelin Systems, Business Unit Manager for Rubber and Plastic Plants The time frame for expanding or rebuilding an existing plant, or building a completely new one, is getting shorter. Nowadays, billion-euro investment decisions in the tire industry are taken in a very short time. These challenges can only be met with better and faster planning. By using tools such as 3D planning, it is possible to design the planning process in a way that not only saves time but also reduces costs while increasing planning security. Zeppelin Systems is a plant architect with extensive knowledge of all processes and acts as systems integrator. This allows a significant reduction in the time to market. Zeppelin specialists are now thinking like architects in order to implement their customers’ ideas into a working concept. “We impartially advise our customer on the best possible solution. The customer then decides what he wants and we make sure all elements fit together perfectly,” says Guido Veit, Business Unit Manager for plastics and rubber plants at plant specialist Zeppelin Systems. For the customer this is a double win: he can select from a larger variety of products and the overall process will be optimised. Producers need highly flexible and fully automatic rubber mixing plants to meet requirements for the production of a modern tire and for future tire concepts. The mixing room is at the very start of a long process chain. To manufacture high-quality tires, good rubber must be produced at the beginning. Recipe accuracy, prevention of material loss and cross- contamination, process efficiency, availability, batch tracking, material tracing, flexibility, short setup times, space optimisation, cleanliness, expandability – the list of requirements can be very long. Only an efficient planning process can set the foundation for meeting these requirements and keeping a tight schedule for the realisation of projects. “The time between the decision to invest in a new plant or to modernise an existing one and the start of production should be as short as possible,” says Veit. In an investment, the time between budget release and construction approval, or between the final decision and the start of production – the moment from which money is earned and the investment begins to pay off – is crucial. This time to market can be reduced with the help of intelligent planning management. The more detailed the preliminary planning prior to construction approval, the more time can be saved. Detailed preliminary planning While a traditional machine construction company focuses on the machine, a plant engineering company’s planning will keep the total plant in mind. To do so, Zeppelin Systems makes use of various modern planning tools. One of them is the Zeppelin Value Engineering concept which enables extensive discussions and the optimisation of the plant concept in digital form at a very early stage. This leads to better concept solutions such as optimised piping, improved room layout or perfect positioning of all components, and shorter distances. As it starts at the development phase, all relevant data that sets the basis for decision making is available at a very early stage. “This data includes process flow diagrams of the complete plant, the installation planning and the energy requirements, but also costs, volumes and deadlines,” Veit explains. Preliminary planning without time constraints enables concepts to be refined and establishes the solid basis for extensive discussions and the optimisation of the plant concept during the model review. In Zeppelin’s experience, this often leads to better concept solutions that are more efficient in operation and less expensive to realise. The model review usually takes place during contract processing and not before – when only little space for concept optimisation remains. The better and more thorough the planning at the beginning of the project, the greater the chances of shortening the execution phase. At least as important is that costs for possible modifications later on will also be reduced. That is why Zeppelin Systems no longer uses the sequential planning process. Instead, many planning steps are now performed in parallel, leading to considerable time savings. Finally, clear planning enables the clarification of interfaces with suppliers and prevents coordination problems on the construction site. Many users also make use of Zeppelin standard planning for many other purposes such as audits, fire prevention planning, route calculation, ventilation and climate control planning, and service work.