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.

Machine Downtime Narration is About Listening to Operators, Not Watching Them

FreePoint’s Narrative – it’s not management watching operators, it’s management listening to operators!

As the Co-Founder and Chairman of FreePoint Technologies, I often find myself speaking with curious prospects who ask a few similar questions:

  1. how does it work?” (how does it increase productivity)
  2. how do the operators feel about being monitored?

The Narrative Application works because it encourages management to listen to their operators, not watch them.

The machine data collected from the ShiftWorx system tells management everything it needs to know about the performance of a machine when it is producing parts. However, the best source of information regarding periods of time when the machine is not producing parts is the operator. Before Narrative was connected to a machine, there were no effective, operator-friendly ways of collecting that valuable operator sourced information.

FreePoint Technologies Narrative Application

Narrative Showing Downtime Periods Explained With Reason Codes

Our Narrative solution allows every customer to easily create their own down time categories and conditions unique to their process and company. Many customers often have a list of events they want to track, but since they track them manually, the events are not captured or reported accurately, nor in real-time. Narrative automatically sets the time boundaries of the event and requires only a simple click on the downtime period to associate the condition to the event. Simple. Quick. Accurate. The result is empirical and actionable information on demand, at the click of a mouse or touch of a finger.

FreePoint Technologies Narrative Reporting

Sample Downtime Report Summary Showing Downtime Codes/Events by Minutes and Frequency

The important part: putting these insights into action in a way that ensures management is listening to its operators, and not simply monitoring machines.

Operators will have their own list of things they believe prevent them from doing a good job. “Looking for tools” is an example I hear often from operators and is a great example of an opportunity to put insight into action right away. A small investment in tools, toolboxes, or tool boards will deliver a quick return on investment right away with saved downtime and will demonstrate that you not only value employee input, but listen to it.

Reason codes entered in Narrative provides a real-time explanation for bottlenecks in your process. Quick response changes have a huge impact; you no longer have to wait 2-3 days to discover what is actually happening on your plant floor and more importantly, the changes that need to be made.

Our studies have shown that simply measuring and displaying up-time in a meaningful and relevant way results in immediate productivity improvements of 10% – 15%, and fully engaging your operators can result in an additional 10% – 15% improvement. (not sure how to do that? Just ask us!)

If you are using FreePoint’s ShiftWorx system to monitor machine up-time, take the next step to understand why your machines are down and to shine the light on the bottlenecks preventing improvements to your production.

If you don’t monitor your machines with ShiftWorx, what are you waiting for?

Check out the following videos if you are interested in knowing more about Narrative or the ShiftWorx Platform.   

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.

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 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

FreePoint Featured in CIO Applications Top 10 Manufacturing Solution Providers

Top 10 Digital Manufacturing Solution Providers 2019

FreePoint Technologies is proud to announce that we have been featured in CIO Applications’ Top 10 Digital Manufacturing Solution Providers.

Our Senior Vice President, John Traynor, sat down with CIO Applications to discuss how FreePoint differentiates itself while addressing the needs of manufacturers and ensuring the security of their data.

Referencing our ShiftWorx Platform, John explained how we “enable operators to monitor machine performance in real time and document any shortcomings with the click of a button or the tap of a screen”, while maintaining a lower cost than most competitors. As the article outlines, the ShiftWorx platform is installed non-invasively and can take as little as 30 minutes to set up, making it easy to retrofit onto any machine, and keeping implementation costs low.

By avoiding physical connections between ShiftWorx and the machines, FreePoint can mitigate the risk of cyber-attacks:

“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 vector for cyber-attacks on the machinery.”

Read the article for yourself to learn more about how FreePoint is helping to revolutionize the manufacturing industry.

4 Ways to Increase Production Capacity (With the Same Headcount)

For many manufacturers, increasing efficiency and production capacity is the primary focus. However, where the challenge really lies is in increasing production capacity without hiring additional staff or purchasing more machines.

Fortunately, manufacturers can leverage industry 4.0 as a driver for growth as well as productivity; with machine monitoring technology, you can unlock the full potential of your factory, and those who operate within it.

Machine monitoring provides a long list of benefits to manufacturers, these benefits result in increased production capacity and increased profitability. For a real world example, a client of ours managed to improve overall efficiency by a 69% in just 1 year – saving roughly $325/day without increasing personnel or machines.

Read below to learn the 4 ways to increase productivity without hiring new employees or procuring new equipment.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement through machine monitoring is focused on inviting collaboration between management and machine operators. It is not a “big-brother” tactic, quite the opposite actually, by showing employees how their contribution affects the big picture, you help unite management and plant employees working towards the same goals.

Using visualized dashboards, employees can easily see their role in the manufacturing process from a data perspective – which helps them fully realize the value of their contribution. This can even evolve into a “gamified” environment, as employees compete to see who can be most productive. This encourages employees to constantly improve, as they can now view their performance in real-time.

Downtime Narration

Machine monitoring allows for real-time narration of downtime, another way a manufacturer can leverage IIoT to increase production capacity, without increasing headcount. Not only is downtime narration critical for plant managers seeking seamless production, it’s also a strong motivator for employees as well. Obtaining insight into what causes delays allows employees to better understand the impact of any delays in their work station.

It’s important to understand all data is good data. Even unexpected downtime or broken machines can give you valuable insight into your process. With proper real-time narration, managers can identify and mitigate root causes of machine downtime, as well as highlight strong points in the production chain.

Bottleneck Identification

Like we mentioned earlier, machine monitoring provides valuable insight into your manufacturing processes, one of those insights is bottleneck identification. When one process is being delayed due to another person or machines performance, you know exactly where along the workflow the delay is occurring – empowering you to address the problem in real-time, and create fixes to prevent it from happening in the future. By proactively identifying holdups in your process, you are better positioned to make actionable changes to your workflow that will increase both efficiency and productivity.

Maintenance Alerts

Machine monitoring also enables a more proactive approach to machine maintenance. Rather than having to wait for someone to notice a machine is broken, then communicate that to management, you can get real-time alerts as issues arise. That means a significantly faster response time when a machine unexpectedly goes down, and a much quicker fix. It all comes down to maximizing machine uptime, the more value-added time that a machine contributes, the more efficient your plant becomes.

Are you ready to Increase your Production Capacity without Adding more People or Machines?

With FreePoint’s globally deployed solution, manufacturers are seeing near-immediate benefits to their processes. Increased efficiency, mitigated machine downtime, and improved employee engagement are accessible benefits to all those willing to shift into the IIoT world.  Machine monitoring not only helps management make more informed decisions, it also provides real-time visibility into individual contributions and the entire production process overall.

If you’re interested in saving time and money, being proactive about your machine maintenance, and gaining total transparency into your entire production process, you should consider making the transition to industry 4.0.

How Reason Codes Help Reduce Machine Downtime

The worst enemy of any manufacturer is machine downtime. How to control and mitigate downtime is a constant battle for manufacturers trying to increase efficiency and maintain peak production. At FreePoint, through machine monitoring and production tracking technologies, we work with manufacturers to minimize downtime as much as possible, while maximizing machine output.

One of the ways we help manufacturers control their machine downtime is with Reason Codes, the backbone of downtime narration in our ShiftWorx platform. When a machine becomes idle, operators can apply a reason code to categorize that downtime period. Rather than seeing a machine offline for 20 minutes with no explanation, plant managers can see in real-time what the cause of the delay is— and address it. Those small increments of time add up, 10 minutes here or there can be worth over 6 figures in a year.

Using Reason Codes, you can:

  • Diagnose Machine Downtime Causes and Apply Solutions
  • Alert Decision Makers in Real-Time to Plant Floor Issues
  • Identify Machine Maintenance Needs
  • Empower Employees to be Part of the Solution

FreePoint’s ShiftWorx dashboard visualizes machine performance with one-click application of downtime reason codes.

Identify Downtime Causes

With reason codes, employees and managers can easily identify factors impacting machine downtime. Whether the reason is “waiting on materials” or “needs repair”, everybody is made aware of what factors are contributing to delays— valuable data for plant managers seeking to increase efficiency and achieve seamless production in real time. If someone has transparency into delay causes, they are more motivated to solve the cause of the delay. This makes the overall process more efficient and engaging.

Keeping Everyone in the Know

Reason codes also help mitigate machine downtime with real-time alerts. When reduced productivity or machine delays are detected, notifications are sent to all devices connected to our ShiftWorx platform, through SMS or email. Real-time alerts increase response time to problems that impact production—meaning solutions are found faster, and the length as well as the frequency of downtime can be decreased.

Identifying Downtime Patterns

By comparing actual performance to projected performance, you can benchmark productivity against past data to identify opportunities for improvement. A recurring reason code could indicate a machine issue in need of maintenance, or another machine consistently causing delays. Identifying these factors better positions plant managers to rectify them and prevent them from happening in the future.

It is important to understand that all data is good data. Even un-anticipated downtime, machine breakdowns or inefficient scheduling can give you crucial insight into your operation. When machine monitoring hardware works in tandem with data visualization, you can see every performance detail from any machine, regardless of industry or age of machine.

Schedule a demo today and learn what ShiftWorx can do for you!

Why FreePoint’s IIoT Solutions Have Quick ROI

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.

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