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!

Connecting Legacy Machines to IIoT

Implementing IoT technology may seem like a challenge to manufacturers: do they purchase new, digitally compatible equipment— or maintain the status quo with older, still reliable machines? Fortunately, the alternatives don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Older legacy machines can still be integrated into an IIoT compatible, smart factory environment. In fact, the oldest machine we have connected to was built in 1914!

Limitations of Legacy Equipment

According to a 2015 independent study commissioned by Cisco, 90% of the more than 60+ million advanced manufacturing machines remain disconnected from one another, further, 75% of them are more than 20 years old. However, these older machines can still be retrofitted to function within a digital ecosystem!

FreePoint Hardware Installs Non-Invasively to Legacy Equipment

Even today, many manufacturers still record machine usage on paper forms. At the end of a shift, they document the number of hours the machine ran and how long set up took. This helps managers correctly bill the number of hours for a specific job. Paper-based processes help create invoices, but the discrepancy between actual and documented data can often be quite large, primarily because the documentation is occurring after the work has been completed.

When machines generate real-time data, you eliminate the discrepancy between actual and documented data, because they become one and the same. This begs the question, how can you make older, non-digital equipment generate live data?

How We Connect Legacy Machines

ShitfWorx black box

FreePoint’s Black Box Sensor is a Bolt-on Solution

There a few ways you can connect your legacy equipment. FreePoint uses a single piece of hardware to connect almost all machines found on the shop floor. Stamping machines, CNC machines, lathes, injection molders, presses, mills, and assembly stations can all be made to produce real-time data – and it doesn’t have to break the bank! You just have to know where to start. For the many manufacturers with a mix of legacy and new equipment, it’s better to start off by building a simple foundation to collect and leverage machine data, rather than implementing a mass overhaul of their equipment.

Combining software with hardware, we add an adapter to your legacy machines that allows you to detect and collect Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), providing better insight into your operations. Bolted on without disrupting production, these adapters turn legacy machine signals into a software protocol our system can then interpret. This not only provides greater visibility into shop floor performance, but contextualizes data in a way that helps identify and improve performance issues while engaging operators and management. So whether your machines are 20 years old, or purchased this year, you can maintain the same level of insight and transparency across your entire shop floor.

ShiftWorx Dashboard

ShiftWorx Machine Monitoring Interface Allows for at-a-Glance Insights

Final Thoughts

FreePoint is helping manufacturing organizations discover and achieve their true operational potential through IoT. We strongly believe in universal integration, which is why we made it a priority for our technology to link brand-new and legacy equipment, making it easier than ever to transition your plant into industry 4.0.

Reach out to us today if you are interested in easily and non-invasively connecting all your industrial machines regardless of age, complexity or type.

Blueberries, Blockchains & Manufacturing Blockchain Made Simple: Part 2

In our last blog in this 2-part series on blockchains, we defined and illustrated blockchain in manufacturing and its rising notoriety. In this final segment, we dive deeper into its benefits and ROI.

Oversight and Accountability

Gary Brooks, Chief Marketing Officer of global manufacturing and supply chain technology company Syncron, in an interview with ZDNet said blockchain is of particular interest to the manufacturing industry due to its benefits regarding verification and transparency.

manufacturing supply chains and logistics

Supply chains in manufacturing are both critical and complex.

“Manufacturers’ supply chains are sophisticated, complex organizations with a number of nuances that can make transparency and accountability challenging — especially when it comes to the logistics of building and shipping new equipment and service parts,” Brooks said. “This is particularly true as manufacturers shift from a transactional, break-fix model of after-sale service — where a service part is replaced after it has already failed — to a subscription-based model that focuses on maximizing product uptime.”

“In this case, manufacturers leverage IoT and predictive analytics in their service parts supply chain to proactively repair equipment before it ever breaks down,” the executive added. “Blockchain can provide an increased level of visibility into this process, as it would allow an entire global service supply chain to see when and where parts are moving to ensure the repair is made just in time.”

As data held within a blockchain is decentralized and shared across nodes, the technology can be used to create and maintain a shared and continually reconciled database.

“With a blockchain solution, manufacturers now have a living dossier of activity logs and more”

For example, a hospital that implants an artificial cardiac pacemaker into a patient which happens to contain faulty parts resulting in injury to a patient can use the blockchain to trace the manufacturer of the faulty parts more efficiently, confining and correcting the issue.

“With a blockchain solution, manufacturers now have a living dossier of activity logs and more so they can keep tabs on the flow of goods between companies,” Brooks said. “This provides an extra level of transparency and control — and will enable large manufacturers to compete and win against the competition.”

When Chipotle had an E. coli outbreak in 2015, the food chain had serious trouble tracing the source of the bacteria through suppliers. As finding the source was incredibly difficult, Chipotle was unable to immediately stop the spread of contamination. Blockchain could have more rapidly contained and alleviated the trouble.

According to Brooks, blockchain could hold the key for similar issues to be resolved and eradicated quickly.

“For manufacturers specifically, blockchain could help mitigate similar risks,” the executive noted. “Multiple parts and pieces comprise large pieces of equipment, and with networks and suppliers around the world, blockchain provides a way to see every part in the supply chain in real-time — and identify problems before they become widespread.”

Blockchain ROI

Blockchain, just as in any new and developing technology endeavor, comes with a cost. Manufacturers will need to have their IT teams research the technology to both determine if the investment provides an adequate return and to gain the knowledge to deploy it successfully.

man in factory lathe chuck coolant nozzles safety glasses freepoint technologies

Manufacturing has always been at the forefront of technological adoption.

Under consideration will be whether to overhaul existing infrastructure and legacy systems. Manufacturers will have to consider modernizing existing IT process and the long related upgrade cycles that accompany new technology.

Then there is the nescience factor that accompanies any new technology. According to a Price Waterhouse survey, 45% of respondents cited lack of trust as a hurdle to blockchain adoption.

Many traditionalistic manufacturing CEOs, many of whom are set in their ways, are wary of new technology like blockchain and what the innovation can bring to the table that legacy systems cannot.

All things being equal, blockchain is an emerging and very important idea that CEOs or their predecessors will likely embrace, and is redefining the way companies do business. Manufacturers that adopt developing technology and business practices will tend to move beyond their competitors and will be the winners.

FreePoint Technologies has been helping manufacturers optimize machine performance, gain greater visibility of production, increase capacity and streamline operations with unprecedented precision. See how we can impact your industrial manufacturing.

How FreePoint Ensures IIoT Data Security

According to Million Insights, by 2025 the Industrial Internet of Things market will be valued at $933.62 billion. As we continue to unify our cyber and physical systems, vulnerabilities emerge that didn’t exist before the Industry 4.0 revolution.

The Importance of IIoT Security

Security blue finger print scan FreePoint TechnologiesIIoT, or, the Industrial Internet of Things creates networks of connected industrial devices that collect, record and assess data to provide manufacturers with better insight into their production processes. As these devices interface with your machinery, IIoT security ensures that your hardware and software remain secure and protected from malicious intent.

According to IndustryWeek.com:

“if the devices that are connected become compromised and the threat has access to that communication link, a hacker can then push malicious data, cause denial of service (DoS), or introduce viruses to the entire network.”

Before industry 4.0, machinery operated separately and isolated from one another. Taking preventative measures will ensure external entities can’t access your data or impact your machine’s functionality.

How FreePoint Enforces Machine & Data Security

As with any IoT network, sensors and applications must remain protected from operational technology (OT). Without protection, compromised devices can serve as doorways to siphon data, insert foreign code and even halt production.

At FreePoint, we have developed an approach to ensure that the security and integrity of our client’s machines and data is protected. Primarily, we accomplish this by maintaining an “air-gap”. An “air-gap” can be defined as “a security measure that ensures total isolation of a given system from other networks, especially those that aren’t secure”.

As stated by our Vice President during a recent interview with CIO Applications: “FreePoint’s non- invasive solution involves using sensors instead of attaching hardware to a programmable logic controller (PLC). The solution does not interfere with machine operations nor is it a route for cyber-attacks on the machinery”. Because there is no physical connection between our solutions and the manufacturer’s machines, we can improve security while significantly reducing the possibility of cyber-attacks.

Contact us today if you are interested in learning more about how you can maintain a secure IIoT network. One of our reps would be happy to speak with you!

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Manufacturing Machine Maintenance the Smart Way

Question: What is “the world’s most common and safest mode of transportation?”

Wait for it…

elevator maintenance freepoint technologies

Elevators have long been the most common and safest form of transportation.

Answer: Elevators. Those ubiquitous mobile cubicles found in office buildings all over the planet. Elevators are big business, and the manufacturing and servicing these machines is no easy venture. German-based Thyssen Krupp, one of the world’s leading elevator companies, has turned to a disruptive approach to machine maintenance to keep the trains—i.e. elevators–running on time.

As Thyssen Krupp tells it, “Worldwide, more than 12 million elevators make seven billion trips and move over one billion people every day. Yet every year, maintenance needs render elevators unavailable for a total of 190 million hours.”

The deck is stacked against efficiently maintaining that kind of fleet; or at least it used to be.

With the advent of IoT (Internet of Things) machine sensor technology, machine learning, and cloud-based asset maintenance software, digital prescriptive maintenance can be conducted as easily as the touch of a button.

Thyssen Krupp employs predictive machine maintenance to dramatically increase elevator availability by reducing out-of-service situations through real-time diagnostics. They are able to predict maintenance issues before they occur, and alert elevator engineers by flagging the need to replace components and systems before the end of their lifecycle.

Thyssen Krupp believes that the growing requirement of high-speed and energy-efficient elevators in hotels, hospitals, parking buildings, commercial, residential, and industrial sector will be boosting demand for IoT in elevators market.

Other manufacturers are taking to predictive maintenance to manage the machines running their factory floors and the machines their customers rely on. Sensing end-user demand, manufacturers are focusing on the development of smart products with interactive touch screen panels, intuitive technology, and cloud-predictive maintenance. Customers are looking for manufactured products that are highly efficient, effective, and engaging. The demand is going up for smart products.

machine maintenance freepoint technologies

Historically, manufacturers have practiced preventative maintenance.

First, it’s important to distinguish between predictive and preventative maintenance. Preventative maintenance, a.k.a reactive maintenance, breakdown maintenance or run-to-failure, is a maintenance practice that seeks to decrease the likelihood of a machine’s failure through the performance of regular maintenance. However, predictive maintenance relies on data to determine a machine’s likelihood of failure before that failure occurs. This allows manufacturers to move from a repair and replace model to a predict and fix maintenance model using predictive analysis.

The good news is, machine monitoring costs less than you think (see our June blog). Rather than having to alter or rebuild existing infrastructures, bolt-on monitoring solutions like our ShiftWorx Platform are bolt-on, making them extremely simple to incorporate on the shop-floor. Machine monitoring solutions can help manufacturers save on production costs, helping pay off the system in days rather than months and years. Once switched on, machine monitoring solutions instantly start paying themselves off. Learn more.

The Rewards

The main objectives or rewards for manufacturers to move to a predictive maintenance model are about improving production efficiency and improving maintenance efficiency. The cost savings can be enormous.

A recent McKinsey Global Institute report as one of the most valuable applications of the Internet of Things (IoT) on the factory floor. The report, The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype, calculated that predictive maintenance manufacturers’ savings would total $240 to $630 billion in 2025.

Predictive maintenance in factories could reduce maintenance cost by 10 to 40 percent by fostering better maintenance, according to McKinsey. It also reduces downtime by 50 percent and lowers equipment and capital investment by 3 to 5 percent by extending machine life.

A report by Deloitte University Press, Industry 4.0 and manufacturing ecosystems provides examples in which, for companies like Schneider Electric and Caterpillar, predictive maintenance and understanding root cause of failures can offer millions of dollars in potential savings along with far fewer days of equipment downtime.

The McKinsey study calculated that predictive maintenance manufacturers’ savings would total $240 to $630 billion in 2025. Predictive maintenance in factories could reduce maintenance cost by 10 to 40 percent by fostering better maintenance, according to McKinsey.

GE Transportation is moving toward self-aware locomotives and digitalization of the entire rail operation system. Sensors mounted on railcars enable operators to receive real-time notifications about the condition of key railcar components, as well as broader risk events related to broken wheels, hot bearings, and handbrake application. Using predictive maintenance, GE Transportation is applying the technology to help extend the life of locomotives, reduce fuel consumption, decrease emissions, boost velocity and improve operations.

locomotive freepoint technologies

Locomotive technology has come a long way since the invention of the steam engine.

And we come full circle…

Thyssen Krupp competitor, Otis Elevators, “the world’s largest manufacturer and maintainer of people-moving products”–elevators, escalators and moving walkways—is using smart sensor technology in its “Otis ONE” digital platform that monitors and gathers data from more than 300,000 connected units to create predictive insights and a more proactive service solution for their customers. This allows Otis teams to stay ahead of potential issues – keeping equipment running and passengers moving safely and reliably. In the event when service is required, OTISLINE customer care can proactively contact the customer and service professionals to arrive on site with the information and parts needed to enable a faster return to service.

Predictive maintenance in manufacturing is becoming the norm, not the exception

Autonomous operations in manufacturing may be futuristic in the eyes of some but your business can start moving towards operational intelligence. For example, ask yourself, how do factory analytics impact your business and what software will work with your current manufacturing execution system (MES) to give you the data that is critical to your business. Do you have intelligent software solutions in place to help manage your maintenance and service operations to make them more efficient?

For more on how technology can help you improve your own maintenance needs and open services-based offerings for your customers while enabling cost savings and productivity gains throughout your organization, get in touch with us.

Ontario’s Automotive Modernization Program: Why You Should Care

Ontario’s automotive sector has always played a crucial role in the Canadian economy. With over 100,000 auto-related jobs across the province, investing in the sustainability and advancement of the auto industry is vitally important – which is why we are excited to hear about Ontario’s new Automotive Modernization Program.

Aimed at helping Manufacturers adopt new technologies quickly, the new program provides eligible manufacturers with a grant up to $100,000 to support purchases and projects that fall under one or both of these two categories:

  • Technology Adoption
  • Lean Manufacturing

This program has made emerging technologies significantly more attainable for manufacturers considering a digital transformation. You can now reap the benefits of Industry 4.0 for a fraction of the cost by implementing any of our advanced manufacturing solutions. Whether you are looking to use machine monitoring, downtime tracking, or a customizable API – you could be eligible for a grant up to $100,000 . With our state-of-the-art data visualization software and extensive suite of machine monitoring solutions, you can begin your digital transformation while maintaining eligibility for government funding.

What gets measured gets improved”. Our IIoT solutions help you measure everything you need to measure to improve, including establishing an empirical baseline for where you are today. Our visualization tools will drive productivity improvements right away, and our reporting tools will help you identify the things that need to be done to get even better. If you have been considering a FreePoint system in your plant, there has never been a better time, so reach out to us today!

 

Check out the following links for additional information:

www.ontario.ca/page/ontario-automotive-modernization-program#section-2

www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/vic-fedeli-announces-10-million-automotive-sector-modernization-program-1.5277165

www.ontario.ca/page/driving-prosperity-future-ontarios-automotive-sector

The Manufacturing Trifecta

Just in case you don’t know the term, “hitting the Trifecta” is an expression used to describe the ultimate winning bet on a horse race. It refers to picking the top 3 finishers of the race, in the correct order. Since the odds against doing so are extremely low, the winning payouts are often extremely high. If you picked the right horses in the right order, a two-dollar bet could return a 4-digit payout.

Wouldn’t it be great to know which 3 horses to bet on, and in which order?

In many manufacturing companies in North America today, there are many competing ideas and priorities being considered by companies:

  • What is the most important improvement to make first?
  • What investment will yield the biggest return?
  • Which improvements will prove critical, and which ones will result in minimal, if any, gain?

There is an approach that your manufacturing company can follow to “hit the trifecta”. It’s a simple 3 step process. The first step is easy, and relatively low cost. The second step requires a bit more effort but is risk mitigated because it is based on the results delivered in step 1. The third step requires the most investment, but since it is based on the results delivered in the first 2 steps, it is not only risk mitigated, but the cost of the investment may have already been paid for by the results of the first 2 steps. Picking the order is just as important as picking the horses.

I want to show you how you can hit the trifecta in your plant.

Pulling off the Manufacturing Trifecta

Step 1 Icon that is a circleStep 1: Establish an empirical baseline to truly understand the critical “value-adding” activities on your plant floor. This is done simply by connecting your machines to FreePoint’s ShiftWorx system. It is remarkably inexpensive and can be typically be done in less than an hour without modifying the machine or your current infrastructure. Within 30 days of placing this small bet, you will not only have established an empirical baseline of your plant, but you will also have given real-time visibility to the plant that puts everyone on the same page, aiming for the same thing you are: productivity and profit improvement.

Step 2 Icon that is a circleStep 2: Engage your people in the process of improvement by using FreePoint’s Narrative software. You will now be collecting all the information you need to determine all the reasons your equipment and processes aren’t running as effectively as they should be. And more importantly than that, you will have made your people a part of the solution and improvement process, every hour of every day. They will be engaged. FreePoint’s Narrative software is embraced by workers when they conclude that management is not monitoring them, but rather listening to them. This is a powerful game-changer for many companies, especially those companies where people are their biggest input cost. Those same people can also be their biggest asset.

Step 3 Icon that is a circleStep 3: Connect your live, empirical machine data, and your fully engaged people, to your schedule and workflow plan dynamically – in real-time. Most plants use a combination of accounting systems, whiteboards, even excel spreadsheets, to plan and then report on the performance of their productivity. Some may have an ERP system deployed and some may even be considering an MES system. The problem with most ERP and MES system deployments is that it represents a single, very large bet, that will take a very long time to pay out if it pays out at all. FreePoint’s approach is to use what was gained (knowledge, insight, plus early financial payback) from the first 2 stages, tying them together in a process using visualization tools that line up with your plant’s current effective processes. Placing a bet on a system that takes years to fully implement and requires your manufacturing processes to be modified for the system to work is not just a bad bet, it’s often a losing bet.

The Outcome

factory clip art freepoint technologiesIf you are still reading, you are probably wondering how long it should take to hit this trifecta. The first step should take 30 days and should result in a payback 30 days later. The second step should take 30 days, and it too should result in a payback in 30 days. The third step should take about 120 days, but it can take as long as you like, because at that point, you will already have great empirical data, engaged and motivated people, and your system can be built to match your improved, and continually improving, manufacturing processes.

What is the expected payback on hitting this trifecta? From our experience, our customers typically see a 10% to 15% improvement at step 1, a further 10% to 15% improvement after step 2, and a 20% to 30% improvement after step 3. Doing the math, that would work out to productivity improvement, or capacity increase, of between 45% and 79%.

There it is, now you have the knowledge on which horses to bet on! Our suggestion: bet on achieving empirical data first, engaging your people second, and digitizing your plan third.

Call FreePoint to get started today.

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

Machine Monitoring Costs Less Than You Think

For any business, the process of implementing any new technology can often seem like a costly and time-consuming task. Industry 4.0 and machine monitoring is no exception.

Emerging technologies and existing technological advancements are paving the way for a revolution in the manufacturing industry; but how much does being a part of this revolution cost? Well, that depends on the technology.

Why Bolt-on Solutions Are Less Expensive

Unlike robotics, AI and fully automated factories, machine monitoring is relatively inexpensive. Instead of the intensive and often costly installation of AI and robotics, machine monitoring can be installed with minimal cost and disruption to machine operations. Rather than having to alter or rebuild existing infrastructures, bolt-on monitoring solutions like our ShiftWorx Platform are bolt-on, making them extremely simple to incorporate on the shop-floor.

By installing our hardware without disrupting machine production, we can provide a cost-efficient solution that saves you money and never contributes to machine downtime. By maintaining a low overhead cost, our solutions also experience impressively quick ROI. In fact, one of our clients managed to achieve an additional +160 hours of machine output per month—both saving and making them a lot more money in the process.

Employee Looking at a ScreenWhen manufacturers are asked what their plant utilization rate is, most plant managers give an answer anywhere between 65-75%. In most cases after machine monitoring is implemented, the actual percentage is revealed to be closer to 25-32%. That massive variance illustrates how quickly machine monitoring solutions can help manufacturers save on production costs, helping payoff the system in days rather than months and years. Once switched on, machine monitoring solutions instantly start paying themselves off.

Overall, transitioning to IIoT doesn’t have to break the bank. By piggy-backing off existing infrastructures as opposed to rebuilding them, machine monitoring can be an attainable and inexpensive means of innovating your production process and enhancing your plant’s productivity.

Get a free quote today and find out for yourself how attainable IIoT can be for your organization.

FreePoint is Attending Microsoft’s Vox ISM Event

FreePoint is excited to be taking part in this year’s Best Manufacturing Apps Conference (BMAC). Hosted by Microsoft Canada partner, VOX ISM, BMAC unites Canadian manufacturers and industry experts, educating them on the latest in digital transformation technologies.

In addition, our President, Paul Hogendoorn is taking part in a panel of technology suppliers addressing industry leaders and manufacturing professionals. As always, FreePoint is excited to be displaying our non-invasive machine monitoring software and hardware solutions.

According to Vox ISM, there are 3 main reasons you should be attending the 2019 BMAC conference:

  1. Interact with BMAC exhibitors showcasing their latest technologies.
  2. The BMAC is recognized as the best platform for Canadian Manufacturers to interactions with the latest trends in the manufacturing industry.
  3. Experience and envision the business relationships being made and developed with prospective exhibitors of your interest.

If you would like to attend this years conference, you can register here.

BMAC VOX ISM Conference