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.
Recently, our Senior Vice President, John Traynor was interviewed by Stock News Now at the CSE in Vancouver, British Columbia. In this interview, John is asked about the establishment of FreePoint Technologies and how with real-time data collection software, we are making a positive measurable impact on the manufacturing floor worldwide.
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.
Manufacturing is frequently considered to be at the cutting edge when it comes to the adoption of new technologies. Over the decades, manufacturing has made practical use of innovative technologies that facilitate efficiencies and improvements to working practices that make it safer, faster, and more appealing to new generations of workers.
Automation, application of robotics, and Artificial Intelligence are all progressive technologies that have found a natural home in manufacturing, but the upfront costs of incorporating these innovations have, at times, taken considerable durations to recoup the outlay.
Machine monitoring, however, is an innovation that is relatively inexpensive to incorporate into most existing factory infrastructures and has become one of the first technologies to pay for itself the second it’s switched on.
Machine monitoring gives instant visibility of production activity in a way that’s never previously been possible. The technology provides an instant overview of events on the factory floor, aiding management of people-power, and supplying immediate, quantifiable data regarding the efficiency of machinery and the synchronicity of production in line with availability. Machines that are monitored can communicate their maintenance requirements; avoiding over- or under-repair that can negatively impact the bottom line production.
With machine monitoring at the helm, a plant manager can glean production data from anywhere on the planet via their smartphone, tablet or computer. This interconnectivity is key to keeping management and floor staff informed as to their productive output.
Machine monitoring highlights the massive anomaly between perceived and actual plant utilization data. Currently, it is estimated that 2-4% of all factory floors are being monitored. Most plant managers estimate their plant utilization rate at around 65-75%. However, when hardware and software are installed and incorporated into processes, the actual figure produced by monitoring systems demonstrates that plant usage is usually closer to just 25-32%.
That’s a massive discrepancy that demonstrates that instant savings in production costs can be achieved from the installation of machine monitoring systems on factory floors.
Return On Investment
The recognized Return On Investment duration when installing hardware and software in the computer industry is usually expected to be in the range of 18-36 months. However, manufacturing has such a variance in actual versus perceived plant utilization that you can count the ROI in terms of weeks and months, rather than years when introducing machine monitoring systems into your established processes.
Machine monitoring of the kind offered by FreePoint provides millisecond-accurate data, giving a graphical image of production that provides Process Analysts plenty of food for thought. For example, many machines operate a series of non-essential mandatory and optional stops that slow down production times; perhaps just by seconds, but those seconds quickly add up to minutes, hours, and days, equalling lost production time.
A Case Study
A customer in Mexico, who operates a machine shop, successfully increased efficiency by 69% over a one-year time span, saving them $325/day as a result of implementing machine monitoring. At that rate of productivity improvement, the system as implemented paid for itself in 20 days, and the cost of the ShiftWorx subscription was recovered in the first day of every month.
Saving Factory Hours
FreePoint has been installing their state-of-the-art hardware into factories all over Canada and has saved thousands of factory hours in the process. Machine monitoring makes not only helps plant management but also provides instant visibility of individual contributions to the production process, allowing employees to monitor their productivity data via plant hardware and their smartphones. This data can be used for incentivizing hard work and assessing one’s working patterns.
When you consider the multi-step processes that go into the construction of a single product, you have multiple processes independently operating in a symbiotic operation. It’s almost impossible to oversee each individual production process from the factory floor; unless you incorporate machine monitoring that can pull together those errant processes into a single, synchronous process that saves downtime and increases the productivity of your factory and your workforce.
If you’re interested in processes that save people-hours, keep your machinery in tip-top condition, and provides instant oversight of the entire production process, you should consider machine monitoring – an investment with an almost immediate ROI.
Handing over control to the workforce might feel a little counterintuitive, but there’s plenty of evidence to support that this hands-off approach empowers workers and reaps the rewards. An empowered workforce is undoubtedly a productive one.
We’ve seen, time and time again, improvements in engagement where employees are given the ability to monitor their productivity – their natural competitive nature kicks in, and they try to excel themselves. It’s about managing expectation, gamifying the workplace, and putting your workforce in control of how they allocate their working day.
Machine monitoring provides a live stream of data, reflecting the productivity of machines on the factory floor. It affords forward-thinking managers the ability to keep track of production targets in real time, to identify devices that are in need of maintenance, and to keep adrift of the productivity of the team.
Of course, there are horror stories of certain large warehouse retailers who put their staff under colossal pressure to meet unrealistic targets – practically chaining staff to their beepers, keeping them confined to the factory floor while denying them even a toilet break.
That type of control breeds resentment; not engagement.
Machine monitoring is not about that. There are, of course, ways that the technology could be used to dictate and control – but who wants that?
Who wants a taskforce who are afraid to go to the toilet?
Who wants a taskforce who dread coming into work?
Dictatorships in the workplace just don’t get the best out of their employees – they run them into the ground, create an impenetrable wave of stony resentment, and – let’s face it – they treat their workers like machines.
And no-one wants that.
Setting unrealistic targets is the first step to disempowering your workforce. And this is about empowering your workers to come in to work with a positive outlook, with a recognition of how their role contributes to the bigger picture.
Machine monitoring provides a worker with the ability to track their productivity against targets. And if you incentivize workers who exceed those targets, then you have the perfect storm of motivated worker and high plant productivity.
Gamification is a relatively new notion in manufacturing, and it monopolizes on the competitive nature of the workforce. The concept applies and integrates elements of game mechanics (target hitting, normative comparison, consistency in the rate of production, etc.) to motivate participation, loyalty, and engagement.
Game designers understand that data drives a deep motivation to keep players playing.
Think about games like Candy Crush. It opens with the simplest, most novice-level possible; it seems unchallenging and straightforward and lulls the player into a belief that they can master the game. But it gets progressively harder, introducing new rules and, sometimes, setting you against the clock. As the challenge increases, you find that you just continue to play. You work with greater determination to beat the machine.
But, if the challenge becomes unwieldy, we give up.
Consider Minecraft – there are seemingly very few rules (and let’s face it, the graphics aren’t much to write home about!). But kids are hooked on creating a three-dimensional world that they can travel around and call their own. There’s no “game” in the traditional sense – sure, there are pirates and leopards that are keen to eat your digital chickens – but the sense that they are creating something that is undeniably their’s is a tempting (and addicting) quality.
So, if the rules of the factory floor are to create four pieces in an hour, you could incentivize anyone who produces five pieces. Your team player will be able to monitor their productivity and make sure that they exceed their targets.
FreePoint’s software provides the employee with the ability to keep scores, to track their progress, and to display their user-statistics, while comparing them against company norms.
But what about quality?
Quality is paramount, of course. Machine monitoring helps maintain quality because it provides accountability data.
An engaged employee uses their data to achieve a clear record of accountability for their work. And employees accountable for their productivity help maintain superior execution and greater creativity while securing a sense that they’re in charge of their own existence.
So, what do machinists think about being monitored?
The feedback received from the people on the floor is overwhelmingly positive. Machinists enjoy the gamification elements which directly engages them with their work function in the broader scheme of the factory. It provides context to their role and offers a consistent measure of their performance that they can monitor for themselves. They can view their own stats, and recognize their performance metrics in real-time.
The benefits of putting your workforce in the driving seat are two-fold: you facilitate greater engagement by monitoring own performance, and you work towards realistic targets. You maintain quality, while managers and factory owners get a team of engaged, motivated employees who naturally come together as a team: helping everyone achieve their targets; producing products that they’re proud of.
Downtime can cost your business thousands of dollars an hour, so it’s essential that you employ preventative measures that ensure that you make the most of valuable production time. While there’s a distinct need to maximize output from our machines, there’s equal value in ensuring that your production schedule isn’t pushing your plant too hard, and you are doing your best to prevent downtime.
There are many ways of securing a perfect symbiosis between efficient production, machine maintenance, and planned outages. While it may seem counter-intuitive to plan outage time to increase productivity, well-scheduled and planned maintenance pays dividends to the yield of your factory floor.
A highly trained work-force is the essential, direct link between worker and machine, but many problems can occur in the mechanical workings of your machinery that are easily missed.
Machine monitoring systems provide an efficient way for us to understand what is going on underneath the hood so that we can minimize unplanned machinery outage on the factory floor.
Machine monitoring can identify a problem before (or as) it happens, helping to avoid expensive damage, putting the machine out of action for an extended period.
Incorporating maintenance management practice is the best way to minimize and prevent downtime. Here are some tips on how to embed them into your factory floor:
The Right-On Time strategy (as explored in our article “5 Lean Manufacturing Techniques and Benefits”) is all about pushing your machinery only when required.
Use your task-force’s skill-sets in combination with performance data derived from machine monitoring systems, maintenance history, and work projection schedules, to make informed and timely decisions regarding the most efficient times to maintain equipment.
Of course, it doesn’t mean closing down production of the entire factory all at once – it’s about identifying when the natural downtime occurs, and making it time-effective.
Identify trends from your machine monitoring data to recognize problems before they occur. Look for patterns – perhaps a specific electrical cable requires replacing every couple of weeks. If you know it’s going to fail, pre-empt its replacement, rather than letting it fail and slowing down your processes.
The critical concepts of predictive management require collating information from all available sources to recognize patterns in equipment depreciation. Understanding your data can help to determine appropriate corrective actions, at opportune times for your business. Use that data to help identify root causes of persistent problems.
Being proactive rather than reactive puts you in a stronger position.
Incorporating maintenance tasks into everyday schedules is an excellent way of avoiding unplanned downtime. Basic tasks such as cleaning, routine adjustments, and lubrication can become a part of a well-trained workers’ daily ritual.
Machine monitoring can help you record machine run-hours. Use this data, in combination with expected lifespan projections from manufacturers, to recognize when parts are likely to break down, such as bearings, shafts, sensors, gears, pipes or electrical cables.
Good training practices
A highly skilled workforce who are empowered to make decisions is a valuable practice resource in the effort to reduce and prevent downtime. If your people are well-trained, they’ll be able to recognize potential errors in operation, but most importantly, a well-trained staff-base will use your equipment correctly. Misuse is one of the most likely causes of downtime on the factory floor, so a trained workforce is an effective, safer one.
Recognizing common red flags is the difference between a quick maintenance task and a lengthy outage crisis.
Machines with moving parts require regular lubrication. High-quality oils may have a higher upfront price tag, but are more likely to benefit your plant in the long-run.
A scheduled and documented cleaning and maintenance program will help minimize wear and tear on machines, and extend the life-span of your equipment. Machine monitoring systems can help to recognize problems before they occur – so can simple scheduling.
Machine monitoring, in combination with effective cleaning and maintenance practice, is the best way to reduce costly downtime on the factory floor.
Remember, that being proactive is much better than reacting to a problem once it’s happened. If you have a big job that’s going to require constant work-hours, making sure that your machinery is in tip-top condition will boost productivity time.
The simple and straight answer is that, if you are a manufacturer and haven’t yet implemented machine monitoring, then you are ready. Machine monitoring offers a wide range of benefits including increased efficiency, engaged employees and an improved bottom-line. Machine monitoring solutions, such as FreePoint Technologies, can be set-up and running the very same day. However, if you aren’t convinced, and are looking for a few more reasons to implement machine monitoring, here are 3 signs you are ready to make the transition:
Machine Operators Aren’t Engaged
A clear sign that something needs to change at your manufacturing facility is that your employees do not appear to be engaged in their work. When a machine operator is not engaged several things can result, such as loss of job enjoyment, more frequent sick days and less drive/commitment. Productivity can take a negative downturn as the employee simply stops delivering at a high or efficient rate.
At FreePoint, we believe in the importance of empowering and engaging employees with modern technology. Manufacturing processes need to be re-humanized and provide an environment for workers to play a larger role in identifying productivity improvements using factual, real-time process information. Machine monitoring enables that. When our customers share their machine data with their employees, the machinists begin to feel engaged and have a sense of accountability. When management invests in a machine monitoring system, it demonstrates to their employees that they are committed to increasing productivity and continuous improvement.
Lack of Information
Not having enough information on the performance of your operators and machines when making important decisions such as hiring new employees, purchasing new machines or quoting your next job can have a negative impact on the outcome.
With machine monitoring installed, you now have access to real-time and historical data of your machine’s performance. The monitoring system can measure data such as downtime, uptime, part count, OEE and more. This information gives you the ability to make better, more informed decisions with confidence.
Downtime is Consuming too Many Resources
Every manufacturing plant strives to run its operations as lean and efficiently as possible, and one of the largest obstacles that stand in the way is machine downtime. Downtime consumes valuable resources that could have been used for productivity.
With machine monitoring, the data collected can tell you when a machine is down and what type of fault may have caused the issue. Email and text alerts can also be set up to send alerts to supervisors. Knowing this valuable information can help to shed light on what is causing the issue and help to prevent it from happening again in the future.
Are you experiencing any or all of the above challenges in your facility? If so, you may be ready to implement machine monitoring. Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help engage your employees, provide you with meaningful data and limit the downtown of your machines.
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.
Having a screen at each machine that displays and tracks the employee’s production statistics empowers the operators in the following ways:
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 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
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.
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 email@example.com