For more than 70 years and three generations of family ownership, product quality has been a driving value at Beckett Corporation, an Ohio manufacturer of residential and commercial oil and gas burners and controls. This is why, as part of a Six Sigma Black Belt project in 2005, the company moved to automated burner and burner control testing stations
Benefits of automated testing of burnerss and controls for Beckett include:
- The old testers could only verify 100-psig output, standard for practically all burners until the mid 1990's. Now, pressure anywhere between 90 and 200 psig can be accurately verified without operator influence.
- An external failsafe feature was designed into the burner control system by one customer. The functionality of the pressure switch device was incorporated into the test cycle to verify correct operation with some minor reprogramming. With the old electro-mechanical testers, this would have been next to impossible.
- With the old testers, it was impossible to verify a correct and complete sequence for the burner control. Without correct sequencing, not all control features would be fully functional without manually resetting them. With the new testers, hardware improvements and minor reprogramming, each control is now sequenced to leave it in its ready-to-use and fully featured state.
“Using the data set of thousands of burners’ worth of data,” Turk said, “we can continue to improve test parameters to avoid missed operations, incorrect settings and other factors. We have several such projects in process.”
Traczek added that with automated testers, “the operator no longer has to pay constant attention to numbers on the screen. Instead, he connects the unit, starts the test and follows the prompts. The unit passes or it doesn’t. There are no judgment calls.”
Standalone and integrated automated test stations
Beckett runs some test stations standalone and others tied into the plant network. “Work orders are dumped to the end-of-line stations. The system gets the test criteria for that model number. When a unit passes final testing, the teststand generates a serial number and automatically reports back to the plant system.”
The test system can only print the label if a unit passes the test. “There are certain tests that must be performed for UL, like HI-pot. Our test stations ensure these tests are being done.”
Traczek said the automated test and measurement systems have made it possible to test more factors and eliminate failing good units. Beckett’s quality engineers also view reports from the database, which is invaluable when investigating possible warranty issues.
Another benefit for Beckett: The company’s testing expertise is now captured in the teststands’ configuration and databases. “Our operators were good at manual testing,” Traczek said. “But they could still have an off day, change jobs, go on vacation or miss work for illness. Automated systems take these variances out of the equation.”
Consistency reduces training and maintenance
All of Beckett’s testing stations use National Instruments LabVIEW™. The systems were developed by The RoviSys Company, an independent automation system integrator with full-service facilities in Ohio, North Carolina and Singapore.
“I wasn’t here when RoviSys was chosen as Beckett’s teststand developer,” Traczek said, “but I can testify to the ongoing success of the program and of the relationship. More than one provider came in and was investigated. The decision came down to who had the system best for us.”
He said the RoviSys test engineering team has proven to be a good partner. “Systems arrive fully configured and ready to run. They need very little tweaking. And their support is very good and very easy to work with. They are right there with me.”
An approach to quality in line with reputation
“Another thing important for us is not only partnership but consistency. We don’t want five different test systems.”
“If you are involved in this industry in anyway, you know Beckett has always been highly motivated by quality and reputation,” Traczek says. That reputation is an important reason I came here three years ago.”
“We take quality very seriously.”