Image Processing Now Available

We are excited to announce the completion of our image processing system project!

We can now incorporate “image capture” and “image analysis” in our ShiftWorx platform. The first system we installed has successfully processed over 1 million images in the first 3 days and continues to process around 300,000 images per 12 hour period.

With this new module, we can offer image data to help our customers determine quality, productivity and in some applications, empirically quantify “value adding” actions in ways they have never been able to before.

The next phase we have planned for this project is to include a locally-hosted web interface (hosted from the Xi) for custom data entry to be included with the daily log files.

Product Specifications

Computer vision (CV) system consists of up to 4 industrial USB cameras with moisture‐resistant lenses interfaced with a single FreePoint Xi Image Processing System. Cameras support compressed and RAW pixel formats with hardware triggering for instant image acquisition and download. The system is offered as a “bolt‐on” product that runs independently and in parallel with the customer’s existing industrial process. The FreePoint system supports colour and greyscale cameras with global shutter (no electronic/rolling shutter image distortion) at resolutions from 64×64 up to 1280×960 pixels. This CV system implementation operates continuously at 9 frames/second with real‐time image processing and data logging and was tested at up to 20 frames / second (hardware trigger mode).

FreePoint Xi Image Processing Module

FreePoint image processing module supports custom image analysis including (but not limited to) image segmentation, feature and shape detection / recognition, optical measurement (dimensions, surface area, etc.), colour and feature binning, noise rejection, format conversion, image and data logging and local/cloud‐based file hosting and data analytics.

Camera installation is as simple as a 1⁄4”‐20 bolt with appropriate straight or right‐angle mounting bracket. All systems come with trigger and data cables with support for 24VDC and 120/220VAC 60/50Hz power. Image processing system configuration and setup to be performed by a FreePoint technician same‐day.

For more information on our image processing capability or to request a demonstration, email info@getfreepoint.com

Hacker Studios Presentation

Machine Monitoring & Employee Engagement: How We Connect The Two

There is little doubt that machine monitoring software appeals to forward-thinking plant managers, shop supervisors and CEO’s for its ability to track machine production and increase operator efficiency, saving companies thousands of dollars a month. However, a key benefit (potentially one of the most important features) of machine monitoring that is often overlooked is the impact it has on machine operators and employee engagement.

When machinists are engaged in the task at hand, they are known to work more efficiently and with more focus. Machine monitoring, when set up properly, can provide that type engagement.

Machine monitoring being used to enhance employee engagement

Having a screen at each machine that displays and tracks the employee’s production statistics  empowers the operators in the following ways:

Accountability

When an employee’s production is being tracked and recorded, there is a clear sense of accountability for their work. Creating accountable employees delivers numerous benefits to the company; superior execution, lower employee turnover, and more creativity and innovation.

Gamification

Gamification is the process of applying and integrating elements of game mechanics in order to motivate participation, engagement, and loyalty. Gamification takes the data-driven techniques that game designers use to engage players and applies them to non-game experiences to motivate actions which add value to your business. FreePoint’s software enables that type of engagement with its ability to keep scores, track progress and display user-statistics.

Consistent Measurement Of Performance

Machine Operator Displays his Machine Monitoring Dashboard

In one of our recent blogs, Top 3 Questions We Get Asked (With Answers), we highlight that one of the questions asked most frequently is, “What do operators on the floor think of machine monitoring?” The feedback we received the most is that machinists are in favour of having the monitoring implemented as it gives them a consistent measurement of their performance that they are able to see every day. With a machine monitoring system such as FreePoint, operators are empowered and engaged when they are able to view and understand their performance metrics in a real-time feed.

At FreePoint, we are dedicated to helping manufacturing companies improve their bottom line, improve employee engagement, and bring modern technology to the plant floor. Through the power of the internet and our patent-pending technology, we are able to connect to any machine, giving you the tools you need to keep your manufacturing facility going strong.

looking to engage your employees book a demonstration white text blue background rounded edges freepoint technologies

Top 3 Questions We Get Asked (With Answers)

At FreePoint, we often get asked a variety of questions surrounding our machine monitoring solution. Over time, we’ve noticed the top 3 questions asked most frequently are:

Question #1

Can we connect with ERPs and other data systems?

Absolutely! Our data is stored in common, open and easily accessible data formats, making it easy to connect the FreePoint data to any other systems or to import data from other systems into FreePoint’s ShiftWorx system.

Question #2

What do operators and the people on the floor think of machine monitoring? (Is this more of “big brother” watching?)

Most of the operators and employees on the shop floor know that they are being measured, however, they aren’t aware of their ‘score’ according to their supervisors. From our experience, many of the employees feel that the current metrics by which they are being measured are not the true measurement of their efforts and contribution. With a machine monitoring system such as FreePoint, operators are empowered and engaged when they are able to view their performance metrics in a real-time feed.

Question #3

Should we implement machine monitoring now or wait until after we make other improvement efforts or investments?

Machine monitoring should be implemented BEFORE making any other improvements or investments so that you can properly measure the true beneficial effect of the changes you plan to do. The FreePoint system is an easy to deploy, cost-effective solution allowing you to establish an empirical baseline now, against which the benefit of all future changes and investments can be calculated.

Bonus Question

What machines can your machine monitoring solution connect to?

Our patent-pending technology can connect simply and noninvasively with all machines, regardless of brand, type, complexity or age.

There you have it! Answers to the top 3 questions we are asked here at FreePoint. Still need answers or have questions? Contact us here.

Digital Manufacturing: The Future of the Factory is Now

Over the past few decades, IT has penetrated deep into manufacturing, making it a core component of all industrial systems of today. The need for reduced development time coupled with the demand for customized products has only increased its need. Today, Digital Manufacturing and machine monitoring the most comprehensive answer to challenges that plague the current manufacturing landscape.

Digital Manufacturing makes use of an integrated, computer-based solution that is made up of components such as simulation, 3D visualization, analytics, etc. that enhance collaboration between different manufacturing units and harmonizes various processes. At the turn of the century, technologies such as Computer Aided Design, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, Digital Mockups, etc. reached maturity, forming what is today known as Digital Manufacturing.

Digital Manufacturing solutions have now become a key requirement for reaping the long-term benefits of product lifecycle management (PLM). It allows vital integration between PLM and other industrial assets, enabling design & manufacturing units to exchange valuable information with each other. As an end-result, manufacturers can cut costs and achieve their throughput goals in an efficient and timely manner.

Digital Manufacturing makes use of the vast ocean of data collected from various industrial units, simulating them so that processes can be optimized. Feedback is used iteratively from actual production operations to keep the managers up to data of ongoing tasks. Manufacturing engineers are able to create a completely virtual environment that includes:

  • Tooling
  • Assembly Lines
  • Work Centers
  • Facility Layout
  • Resources

How Will IoT Help?

From 2012 to 2014, the number of sensors has increased more than five times, thanks to the reduced cost of these technologies. As Digital Manufacturing is based on the data provided by sensors distributed across an industrial unit, the use of IoT is necessary for improving the digital model’s accuracy, flexibility and responsiveness. IoT and machine monitoring technology will provide manufacturers with an in-depth view of all that is happening within the production process. The data collected would be reflected upon the digital manufacturing application, and an intelligent analysis would allow manufacturing engineers to control assets’ setpoints for maximum efficiency.  

As a whole, Digital Manufacturing would pack the following benefits:

  • A consistent approach to product design.
  • Optimization of manufacturing processes.
  • Reduction in commissioning costs through robotics & automated programs.
  • Creation of optimal factory models so throughput peaks at maximum efficiency.
  • Facilitation in sharing of quality, real-time information across the organization.

Digital Manufacturing IoT Icons FreePoint Technologies

An automotive original equipment manufacturer or OEM serves as the best example of Digital Manufacturing. Through proper integration of digital services, the entire manufacturing processes can be virtualized, allowing designers to study the effects of new layouts and ideas. This would allow the early detection of any error before the design hits the assembly lines.

Companies such as Intel, Ford, GE, etc. have already implemented solutions based on Predictive Maintenance, allowing them to anticipate prospective zones of failure and eliminate the production of defective items.

While digital manufacturing, may seem like a thing of the future for most companies, manufacturers (big or small) don’t have to wait for the implementation of new equipment to start seeing positive results. At FreePoint Technologies, our simple and noninvasive machine monitoring software connects with each of your current machines; regardless of brand, type, complexity or age. Going beyond the machine, we also focus on engaging and empowering your employees, equipping them with real-time data to see tangible progress, and allowing them to make informed decisions.

Get in touch with us today to learn more.

Case Study: Machine Shop Increases Efficiency By 69% In One Year

The following case study demonstrates how FreePoint Technologies has successfully helped a customer increase efficiency by 69% over a one-year time span and saved them $325/day.

The customer is a modern machine shop located in the border region in Mexico. The shop has 4 Electrical Discharge Machines (EDM) that are critical to the company’s production. The following figures demonstrate the impact of FreePoint Technologies’ system.   

The image below (the before scenario) shows pertinent productivity information from these 4 machines from a typical day in October 2015. The blue bars illustrate the EDM machines’ run times for a 24 hour period and the white gaps indicate the setup time between each run. Both the run (blue bar) & setup times (white bar) vary depending on the job. The shop, in the before scenario, required 24 hours of scheduled production time to produce a total of 43.5 hours of “value adding” activity using the 4 machines on that day.

 

The screenshot below illustrates the exact same 4 EDM machines shown one year later (October 2016). Similar to the previous scenario, the blue bars still vary in accordance with the jobs being run on each machine, however, the setup times (the white gaps between the blue bars) are now consistently smaller than the 2015 snapshot. The result from integrating FreePoint Technologies’ system is that less time is being lost between productive “value adding” periods. For the customer, this means that more value adding activity (specifically 57 hours on this day) occurred in less scheduled production time (two 8.5 hour shifts vs. three 8 hour shifts). All of the recovered lost machine time was then aggregated, and the machines were freed up for an entire shift. Not only does this decrease production cost for parts being produced, but it increases the plant’s capacity and ability to take on more work.

 

The image below compares the month of October 2015 to the same month, one year later in 2016. As illustrated in the graph, every day of the month in October 2015 had machine activity, meaning that employees were in the shop running the machines. In 2016, the machine activity occurred only on weekdays, freeing up most weekend shifts as well. This allowed the customer to increase their capacity and take on more business. The machine’s efficiency went up from 33% on a typical 24 hour day in 2015 to 56% on a typical 17 hour day in 2016 representing an increase of 69%.

At that rate of productivity improvement, the system as implemented paid for itself in 20 days, and the cost of the ShiftWorx subscription is recovered in the first day of every month. It’s hard to beat that kind of ROI!

For more information on how a FreePoint system can benefit your plant, please contact paulh@getfreepoint.com

Smart Manufacturing: What You Need To Know

In the 80s & 90s, “Smart Manufacturing didn’t exist. Industries streamlined their limited automation processes led by PLCs & controllers through practices such as Lean Manufacturing. While these “practices” were termed as game-changers, their value only diminished at the turn of the century, and today account for minor incremental returns. Fast forward to 2017, and these practices are now being replaced by “smart technologies” that promise a more holistic approach towards increasing efficiency and innovation.

Advanced manufacturing technologies spearheaded by concepts such as Smart Manufacturing, IoT and Digital Factory are already making headlines and rapidly transforming the global industrial landscape. The word “smart” is simply an objective that has found profound use in today’s devices, phones, houses, grids and industries alike. Smart Manufacturing is a term reserved for industrial automation and includes the:

  1. Design
  2. Deployment
  3. Management

of the entire manufacturing lifecycle, enabling preemptive management of industrial assets through real-time information & execution.

The road towards Smart Manufacturing started in 2014 when the US Department of Energy released its Notice of Intent for Smart Manufacturing. From thereon, the US Government has promoted this concept through its renewed, cross-sector public-private partnership called Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

smart manufacturing graphic freepoint technologies

Systems based on Smart Manufacturing principles are designed with advanced information processing capabilities, deep-rooted communication and synergistic integration of all available resources. The final goal is to automate the processes of monitoring & control, and in turn, increase productivity and efficiency.
The technology particularly works on some specific areas of interest, which include:

  • Advanced Sensors
  • Control Systems & Data Analytics
  • Predictive modeling
  • Interoperable Communication Platforms
  • Application Toolkits
  • Testbeds

Smart Manufacturing, IoT and Digital Factory are already making headlines and rapidly transforming the global industrial landscape. Smart Manufacturing Technologies plan on driving the industrial revolution through three progressive phases:

Phase 1:

Integration of all assets whether they are located at individual plants or enterprise headquarters to instill immediate improvements in costs through coordination.

Phase 2:

The data collected from these assets will be fed into real-time simulation models to develop manufacturing intelligence to allow decisions to be taken based on facts and not predictions. Furthermore, this will allow industrial assets to respond flexibly to changing market requirements.

Phase 3:

As the manufacturing intelligence grows through the accumulation of Big Data, productivity, efficiency and safety of the entire chain of operations will increase.

How Smart Manufacturing Links to Other Automation Technologies Like IoT

It’s simple, Smart Manufacturing is a comprehensive upgrade to all outdated industrial systems. The Internet of Things (IoT) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are components necessary for the success of Smart Manufacturing, as its very core is dependent upon reliable networking between industrial assets.

Examples of Smart Manufacturing

Smart Manufacturing upgrades existing concepts so that a better response can be issued in the face of any problem. These include:

Machine Monitoring, which gives manufacturers the ability to monitor their machines in real-time, and accumulate data which can then be analyzed.

Advanced Robotics or smart machines operate autonomously and require little human interventions, communicating directly with manufacturing systems.

Integration with Supply-chain, real-time communication between supply-chain assets and manufacturing assets allow not only flexible outputs but provide a competitive edge through the use of Big Data Analysis.

In a nutshell, Smart Manufacturing is an integration of industrial automation technologies and is bigger than any single concept whether its IoT, Smart Machines or Digital Factory. The final goal is a more coordinated approach towards manufacturing during normal operation or crises.

While “Smart Manufacturing”, may seem like a thing of the future for most companies, manufacturers (big or small) don’t have to wait for implementation of new equipment to start seeing positive results. At FreePoint Technologies, our simple and noninvasive machine monitoring software connects with each of your current machines; regardless of brand, type, complexity or age. Going beyond the machine, we also focus on engaging and empowering your employees, equipping them with real-time data to see tangible progress, and allowing them to make informed decisions.

book a demonstration freepoint technologies

References

http://www.mesa.org/en/resources/MESAWhitePaper52-SmartManufacturing-LandscapeExplainedShortVersion.pdf
https://www.rockwellautomation.com/resources/downloads/rockwellautomation/pdf/about-us/company-overview/TIMEMagazineSPMcoverstory.pdf
https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/02/f20/smart_mfg_industry_day_chan.pdf
http://www.us-tech.com/RelId/1707353/ISvars/default/From_Machine_Monitoring_to_Smart_Manufacturing.htm

Fanshawe Industry Day

Featured Article in the London Free Press

We are featured in today’s (March 27, 2017) London Free Press!

The article, titled Closing the knowledge Gap, explains how companies like FreePoint Technologies is growing London’s tech sector and putting the muscle into the region’s all-important manufacturing base.

Read the full article here.

BDC Study: Industry 4.0 – The New Industrial Revolution

Often referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Industry 4.0 will have a profound impact on all manufacturing sectors across the world. But are Canadian entrepreneurs ready? In the first study of its kind, BDC takes an in-depth look at how Canadian small and medium-sized businesses are adapting to this new revolution, offering valuable insights and recommendations to help make your digital transformation a successful one.

The BDC report on Industry 4.0 includes:

  • Why it’s important to start investing in this area right now
  • 3 ways to introduce Industry 4.0 into your manufacturing business
  • How 3 companies are using new digital technology to transform their business
  • 4 tips for getting your business started with digital technologies
  • How digital technology is dramatically improving productivity, growth and product quality for Canadian manufacturers

Click here to view:

Fact Sheet

Complete Study