The transition to industry 4.0 can seem daunting at first. How much will it cost? How will it fit my process? How long will training staff take? All common questions we get asked from manufacturers. The most common question we get asked is “how soon can I expect an ROI?”. Luckily, the answer is simple: VERY SOON. In fact, one client of ours managed to save $300 per day as a direct result of our machine monitoring, which allowed the system to pay itself off in less than a month.
Manufacturers and industrialists in every sector are on the threshold of significant change. Industry 4.0 is the newest industrial revolution. It represents the use of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), automation, sensor technology, and other innovative solutions to streamline the production and distribution process.
IIoT solutions not only monitor but also automate many of the complex processes involved in manufacturing. While systems have been created in the past that track production progress, IIoT technology focuses on providing in-depth details to managers and staff. Here are seven compelling ways IIoT is transforming the industry today.
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.