Discussing Project Launches in Manufacturing Automation Magazine

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

Paul Hogendoorn – FreePoint Founder

Paul’s latest publication featuring in Manufacturing Automation Magazine discusses the challenge of project launches, stating:

“The hardest thing to do is often just to get started. Stepping into the unknown, or perhaps looking forward into a big, indeterminate and not fully defined project, is easy to avoid doing.”

Throughout the article, Paul explains the best approach to tackling a big, new endeavor like IIoT and Industry 4.0 – break it into more manageable chunks:

  • Zero to One
  • One to Ten
  • Ten to One Hundred

Zero to one, also known as project launch, is often the most difficult (and most critical) stage. This is primarily because it requires a significant leap of faith few are willing, or even able to take. As you move past the launch stage, more people begin to get on-board, adding momentum, and mitigating some resistance. Manufacturers will find the same amount of energy they applied in the beginning will get them a lot farther and a lot faster in the final stages of the project.

The mistake some companies make is trying to map out and enact the plan from start to finish in one fell swoop, making project launches more overwhelming than they need to be. Learn how to better tackle your next manufacturing project by reading the full article here.

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

The Secret Behind Monitoring Manual Processes

From a machine monitoring standpoint, the wide range of equipment and tactics used by manufacturers pose a challenge. For instance, Some equipment is newer and digitally compatible, whereas others are older and analog. Also, some processes are done manually by an employee instead of a machine. Manufacturers may find themselves wondering: is it possible to monitor manual processes? Luckily, at FreePoint, the answer is yes.

As the global supply of computing power and storage capacity continues to grow rapidly, the cost to access these resources continues to drop. The same is true for IIoT technologies. Sensory devices and the technology needed to interpret them have become more compact and affordable in recent years. Because of these advancements, we can monitor more than just machines, but the manual processes of factory workers as well.

Cyber physical systems freepoint technologies

By leveraging different sensors, you can create cyber-physical systems to monitor tasks ranging from welding and brazing to painting and sanding. These sensors include:

  1. Electrical Current Sensors
  2. Switch/Button Recognition Sensors
  3. Pressure Plate Sensors

Electrical Current Sensors

FreePoint Technologies Electrical Symbol

One of the easiest manual processes to monitor are those which produce an electrical current. For example, if you are performing a task involving a MIG Welder, an electrical current will pass through the tool whenever it is in use. By installing an electrical current sensor, you can monitor the use of the welder and its efficiency based on the amount of time the tool spent having an electrical current run through it. If there is no current running through the tool, that would be considered downtime. Obviously, the more time the tool spends with current running through it, the more value-added time it contributes.

Switch/Button Recognition Sensors

Another straight-forward means of monitoring a manual process is with switch/button recognition sensors. When using a tool that is button or switch activated, a switch recognition sensor will be able to determine when a switch has been flipped on or off. Like electrical current sensors, by tracking whether the switch/button is on or off – you can identify when a machine is experiencing uptime or downtime. Using downtime narration, you can attribute reasons to justify downtime, some of which may be preventable moving forward.

Pressure Plate SensorsFreePoint Technologies Pressure Plate Sensor

Pressure plates are useful to monitor any piece of equipment that exerts pressure—like a drill press. Using this in tandem with an electrical current sensor will give you valuable insight into the efficiency of certain manual processes. In addition, using a pressure plate sensor alongside an electrical current sensor allows you to tell when a machine is running, as well as performing a value-adding task. In the case of a drill press, the value-adding task would be drilling. Just because electricity is running through the machine does not mean the machine is being productive. With both sensors, you will be able to more accurately assess your processes productivity.

With our IIoT software, FreePoint can connect any machine on your shop floor and start collecting data within 24 hours. You can literally monitor any machine with an electrical current. The oldest machine we are currently monitoring is from 1914! Reach out today and let us walk you through how to monitor your manual processes!

7 Steps to Selecting the Best Software Vendor

As an IT manager, engineering manager, CFO or CEO, you will likely at some time in your career be faced with selecting a software vendor. Get it right and you and your company may enjoy years of improved efficiency and productivity, happier workers, and lower costs. Get it wrong and you could spend years in litigation. So here’ a simple 7-step formula to follow to ensure you get it right.

1: Determine Your Business Requirements

Sit down with the stakeholders—the frontline people who will be using the software every day, and come up with a detailed list of what they need, and what it would be nice to have. The solution should satisfy their demands while aligning with the goals of the business.

2: Investigate and Perform Vendor Due Diligence

Vendor Company Size

What you’re doing here, is conducting as thorough an investigation as possible of potential vendors who meet a predetermined set of requirements. Do you want to work with a small company, a mid-sized company or a large company? Big companies usually have all the expertise and handle big jobs, but their downside is they tend to be inflexible in prices, schedule, and offerings, and they work at their convenience and can move like slow-floating icebergs. The problem with working with a small company is often they don’t have a verifiable track record and you take a huge risk that they can do the job right. So know what you’re getting into with different sized vendors.

Vendor Company Location

Are you working with a local vendor or one from half way around the world? Offshoring may save some money but can create communication challenges and present cultural work differences that may hinder a harmonious relationship. Likewise, be ready to pay more for an on-shore company but communication is usually easier.

Software vendor assessment

It is important to perform the necessary due diligence when assessing different software vendors

Vendor Software Credentials and Certificates

Do they possess authentic documentation that demonstrates they have been educated and trained to perform the job in question?

Testimonials and References

Don’t just read the testimonials on their website. Ask for a list of 10 customers who had the same product/solution installed. Contact those customers with a detailed list of questions like: “Were you satisfied with the job?” “Would you hire them again?” “Did they meet all of the deadlines?” “Did you receive everything you expected?” “Did they support you after the sale?” “Were there any problems?” “Is there any question I should be asking you that I already haven’t?” “If you could change one thing with the vendor regarding their product/service offering, what would that be?”

Investigate the Vendors Background

Prepare a detailed list of questions and investigate to find answers about the software vendor, like:

“How long have they been in business?” “Are they growing or downsizing?” “Do they have significant experience working in your company’s industry?” “Have they ever had a customer sue them?” “Why?” “Do they have negative reports with the Better Business Bureau?” Do they have a high rating on Google Maps and Yelp?” “Why not?” “What do their employees say about them on Glassdoor?” “Do they ask good probing questions when you sit down to talk with them?” “Do they seem to understand your problems and concerns?” “Do they seem to care?” Are there any conflicts of interest associated with the vendor company and decision-makers at your company?” “Do they have partner certifications relevant to the solutions you are looking to implement? Do they have an engineering team to focus on product/solution development?”

Ask your friends/coworkers/LinkedIn network for software vendor recommendations.

3: Interview the Software Vendors

Conducting preliminary interviews will ensure you have the information you need to make the correct decision

Conduct preliminary interviews with a list of three to five strong vendor candidates who will send you their detailed proposals. Prepare a detailed list of specific questions to ask them during a formal interview, like:

“Will the software integrate with your existing system?” “How easy is it to set up and train users?” “Who provides the training?” “Is training included with the cost?” “Will you support us after the sale?” “What kind of guarantees and warranties are there?” “How are upgrades and updates managed?” “Are there a lot of business interruptions and downtimes due to maintenance?” “Why are you better or worse than your competitors?” “Will the software scale in case you experience high growth?” “What level of customizations are available with their product?” “Will you and your direct employees be doing the job or will you be contracting it out?” “Who gets custody of your data in the case your vendor and your company split up?” “Are there any additional fees or provisions that we haven’t discussed?” “Is there anything that you have not disclosed?”

4: Additional Fees

Look for hidden costs in the contract, such as additional fees for in-person training, document management services, setup or annual maintenance fees in addition to the monthly support costs. Also, watch for provisions that allow the vendor to increase fees during the course of the contract — and see if there are provisions that would allow you to get out of a contract after six months or a year if the system is not working for you.

5: Vendor Selection

After getting proposals from your shortlist, you are finally ready to select the vendor to move forward with.

6: Embark on a Free Trial Period

Before committing to a new software solution, be sure to test the software in a non-committal test period. Most SaaS companies offer a free trial to test features, benefits, and usability. Then, during the trial, make sure the software contains the features you need, as well as the functionality.

7: Contract Negotiations

Don’t be afraid to negotiate. It’s not always possible to get a price reduction, but things like training and payments are usually negotiable.

Contract Benchmarks and KPIs

Agree to key performance indicators (KPIs) before signing a contract.

Good luck!

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At FreePoint Technologies, we go beyond just software and machines. We also focus on engaging and empowering your employees, equipping them with real solutions to make them more efficient and often make their jobs easier.

Get in touch with us today to learn more.

FreePoint Founder Hits the Trifecta in Manufacturing Automation Magazine

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

Paul Hogendoorn – FreePoint Founder

FreePoint Founder and Chair, Paul Hogendoorn has featured in Manufacturing Automation Magazine’s October issue with his article titled “Hitting the Trifecta”. In his article, Paul outlines a simple three-step approach that will enable manufacturers to take full advantage of IIoT and industry 4.0 technologies:

  1. Establish Empirical Baseline Metrics
  2. Engage Your People in the Process of Improvement
  3. Connect Your Data to Your People in Real-Time

By properly implementing these steps, manufacturers can typically expect to see anywhere from 45-79% increases in capacity and/or productivity. With such a significant opportunity for ROI, Paul strongly encourages manufacturers to not only leverage new and emerging technologies on the shop floor, but to engage with their operators – making them part of the continuous improvement process.

Throughout his article, Paul stresses the importance of the order in which these steps are performed – likening the approach to horse-racing wagers:

“If you had the knowledge of which horses to bet on and which order to bet on them, would you?”

Manufacturers can do more to ensure their success by taking a systematic approach to industry 4.0 and digitization in their shop. By focusing on just one of the three points Paul discusses in his article, manufacturers may limit the success of their digitization efforts. But by properly combining people and technology, manufacturers will be much better positioned to take full advantage of their industry 4.0 technologies.

Don’t struggle to get the most out of your IIoT solution. Make sure you are leveraging both your people and your technology in order to ensure the highest levels of success in your organization.

Learn more about how you can hit the manufacturing trifecta by reading Paul’s full article here.

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

FreePoint Founder Redefines Success in Manufacturing Automation Magazine

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

Paul Hogendoorn – FreePoint Founder

Earlier last week, FreePoint Founder and Chair, Paul Hogendoorn was featured in Manufacturing Automation Magazine for his article titled “Redefining Success in Manufacturing”. Throughout his article, Paul explains the importance for manufacturers to not only measure their success, but to properly define what it means for them, and what it looks like in their shop.

Depending on who you ask in a manufacturing environment, success could look like a lot of things. Is it profitability and growth, or stability and job security? The challenge with having one catch-all definition is that success looks different depending on your manufacturing environment.

Many manufacturers like to use OEE as their metric for and definition of success, but as Paul outlines in his article, that may not always be the best indicator, as OEE does not easily apply to operations where each job is different. Instead, for some shops, machine utilization and average set up times may be far better metrics to use.

Despite our tendencies to aim for objectives others suggest as valuable, we must first define success in a way that is relevant to everyone on the plant floor. At the end of the day, it all has to do with what factors directly lead to success in your shop, and how those factors can be made quantifiable.

Don’t struggle to get the most out of your IIoT solution. Make sure you are collecting the right metrics to determine your success so that you can focus on the most important factors of your production process.

Get all the expert insights by reading the full article here.

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

USMCA Insights Gained on my Visit to Queretaro

On a recent trip to Mexico, I found myself assessing the new United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USCMA), and how it will affect the manufacturing industry—particularly automotive. I wanted to illustrate what changes USMCA brings to the table by examining the agreement objectively and independent of political notions about the leaders or the parties it belongs to.

Flags

Replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which was established in 1994, USMCA’s two biggest changes are to the country of origin rules and labour provisions. Under USMCA, 75% of automobile parts must be manufactured in Mexico, the U.S., or Canada to qualify for zero tariffs –  a 12.5% increase from NAFTA. Further, 40-45% of the parts must be made by employees earning at least $16/hour by 2023.

Over the past 100 or so years, the auto industry has created and sustained a healthy middle class in many countries. In Canada and the US for example, the average auto factory employee’s annual income is roughly 2x the cost of the product they produce – a 2:1 ratio. To this point, this has not been the case in Mexico, but the new USMCA is a move in the right direction.

As Asian and European automakers are scrambling to open plants in North America, the higher costs of manufacturing in Canada due to the new carbon tax and the already-high cost of energy could pose significant challenges to opening these plants in Canada.

It is apparent that the Queretaro region of Mexico has been rewarded with significant investments from major automobile producers from every part of the world due in part to its attractive economic conditions and consistently responsible government administrations over recent decades. Depending on the region, the impacts of USMCA may differ. For Canada, the best outcome may be just to maintain our current manufacturing industry.

From a global environment perspective however, I believe the USMCA is a net positive. Keeping plants open in the U.S. and Canada is better for the global environment, as environmental regulations are tougher and more enforceable in those countries. Improving wages, worker’s rights and protecting human rights is also net positive globally.

As investments continue to flow into the manufacturing sector because of the USMCA, we can expect a greater push for innovation and technological adoption. With manufacturers witnessing the powerful benefits made possible through IIoT, more and more companies will be looking to make the transition to industry 4.0. Though some will approach the transition with a level of uncertainty, we at FreePoint are optimistic and ready to help organizations navigate the changing industrial landscape.

Reach out to us today if you are interested in learning more about Industry 4.0, or you are ready to make the transition. It can start today, in the plants, with the equipment and the people you already have.

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

Simple Reporting Systems Collect Valuable Data from Your Legacy Machines

Machines built 20-years ago were built to withstand decades of use. They are the core of many factories, but these machines also hinder your ability to compete, increase profitability and scale your operations to new heights. The problem with legacy equipment is that they were engineered in an era where access to real-time reports didn’t exist, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) were impossible to obtain on machines.

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How to Reduce Non-Value Added Time

In every manufacturing process there are two elements; value added, and non-value added. Both cost time and money, but only one will yield returns. Machine monitoring systems connected to IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) technology is the best way to capitalize on value-added innovative production processes.

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4 Myths of IIoT and Industry 4.0

Recently, we had the pleasure of participating in the speaker series with the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium to discuss the 4 Myths of IIoT and how Industry 4.0 is collecting real-time data on older analog machines.

Business owners interested in Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are looking for ways to explore an asset performance management system for engaging employees, connecting machines and increasing productivity.  In today’s world, attracting, retaining and empowering employees through new technology must be a core focus.

Let’s take a few moments and break down the 4 myths of Industry 4.0 and IIOT.

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5 Reasons You Need IIoT Technology In Your Factory Today

The business of manufacturing is rapidly evolving. Being coined the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0, it’s all about retrieving big data that couldn’t be accessed before. By bringing the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) into factories across the globe manufacturers can streamline production and push products to market faster. Are you ready to gain a competitive edge?

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