5 Ways to Increase Productivity on the Manufacturing Floor

An on-going concern for plant managers and production floor supervisors is productivity. Regardless of the size of your business, determining how to increase productivity is essential to enhancing gross profits and maintaining competitiveness. Productivity on the manufacturing floor depends on a combination of efficient employees, equipment and processes.

Here are five ways to increase productivity and stay successful on the manufacturing floor:

Manage Expectations

It is not always employees fault if they are not performing at their highest. At times, managers or supervisors have set expectations unrealistically. Maybe they have been given unachievable deadlines and impossible production targets. When there is not enough motivation and too much work, a worker’s natural response is dissatisfaction. A dissatisfied employee can never deliver his/her hundred percent.

Communicate

A worker’s relationship with his/her supervisor or manage does affect performance. It’s not that bad relations cause bad results from workers. The fact is that when there is lack of communication, there is lack of trust. Always communicate with your workers and give them a sense of being a valuable part of the company.

communication icons freepoint technologies

Invest in a Monitoring Software’

ShitfWorx black box

One of the best ways to keep production high is by installing machine monitoring software on the floor. Monitoring software collects real-time data from the floor machines and workers and displays them to on a dashboard and in reports. With modern software tools like FreePoint’s machine monitoring software, even the employees can have a look at their performance indicators in real-time. This gives the machine operators a sense of competition and enables them to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.

Stay Organized

FreePoint Technologies Calendar SchedulingWhen there is clutter, there is confusion. The distraction that arises from clutter can be detrimental for a manufacturing floor. Sometimes, the plant floor requires nothing more than a proper organization to give its best. Put the required materials and tools in their places, so they can be found instantly when needed. Furthermore, have the important documents available in an organized manner. These documents could be anything from a manual to help workers fix an issue with the machine to policies that have to be followed on the floor.

Invest in Continued Education

The modern world has made it quite easy to obtain education for skillful workers and add more to their repertoires. Just like IT professionals, the workers on your floor can also obtain education while on work to become even more valuable assets for your company. Rather than hiring new people and risking the learning period, let your existing workers be a part of the training to get the hang of the ever-changing modern manufacturing technologies.

Are you interested in exploring how you can increase productivity on your shop floor? Reach out to us today, one of our representatives would love to walk you through how machine monitoring can supercharge your factory!

Gamification: What is it & How is it Used in the Workplace

Do you have a strategy to motivate your workers? Are you worried about your production floor’s productivity? Do you find it difficult to stimulate your workers and ignite their passion to get the best from them? The best way to overcome these challenges may be to incorporate gamification within your workplace environment.

The best thing about gamification is that it is more about psychology and less about technology – it mentally convinces your workers to be at their best. It achieves those results through real-time monitoring and data reporting, rewarding employees for their work, developing a strong sense of competition etc. The result of gamification of the workplace results in behavior change—something most plant managers and corporate executives find impossible to accomplish.

What Is Gamification?

FreePoint Technologies GamificationSimply put, gamification is the introduction and integration of gaming mechanics in the existing system of a business to keep its employees engaged and performing at their peak performance. In most cases, businesses don’t have systems in place to motivate their workers to be at their best at all times. Even if they do, most of the old methods have become futile due to their outdatedness and redundancy. The thrill, fun, engagement and competitive elements of games are infused into the existing workplace in the process of gamification. The motive behind doing so is increased efficiency, productivity and worker engagement.

Examples of Gamification in the Workplace

Gamification is becoming a more acceptable concept as more and more businesses understand and find value in it. There are several examples of how some of the biggest businesses in the world are incorporating gamification into their system. For example, Google makes use of a travel expense game which is designed specifically for employees who have to do a lot of traveling. As they continue to keep track of their expenses on a business trip, they are encouraged to spend less than the amount that has been allocated for the trip. Every penny they save on the trip is then given back to them in their salaries or given out to charity if they choose to do so.

Salesforce is another great example of how to use gamification perfectly to reach the desired results for your business. Introduce Nitro to the Salesforce platform, and you have prepared the perfect place for your sales team to find motivation and perform at their best. They get real-time data about their progress and are rewarded for their performance while also appearing on a leaderboard just similar to what happens in the games.

With FreePoint’s machine monitoring software, many different elements of gamification are involved such as real-time data on worker’s progress, scores, and achievements. With uptime, downtime and error codes being reported constantly and consistently, and accountability being a part of the process, workers naturally become more engaged in their work and operate at a higher level.

Benefits of Gamification

One of the main benefits of gamification is that it provides workers with real-time data—an element of all addictive games. Furthermore, it introduces accountability to workers and brings a healthy sense of competition. Gamification also makes it fun for workers to perform at their peak abilities. Not to mention, if rewards are tied to great performance, gamification can be the “game changer” for small and large enterprises.

Speak with one of our representatives today to learn more about how machine monitoring can help incentivize your workforce.

5 Reasons Your Operator’s Performance is Slipping & How To Fix it

If you have a manufacturing business, you have to put in extra efforts to increase the performance and productivity of your workers and machines.

You need to look for ways to gauge and monitor the performance of your team. In addition to motivating them to work more productively, you also have to find out the reasons they are not giving their maximum performance. Here are the 5 signs/reasons your machine operators are not giving their best.

1. They Aren’t Properly Trained

When you hire workers, you have to ensure they know how to operate the machinery they will be working behind. If they don’t have the knowledge, you will have to provide them the training for operating a particular piece of equipment. If you see that your operator is taking too much time doing simple things, this is a clear sign he/she is not fully trained to operate the machine.

2. Your Machine Software Is Not Advanced

When you see that your operators are giving their best, but your productivity is still low, this could be a sign that the technology and software on the machine is outdated. For example, it might be missing the profile feature where it creates profiles to load certain settings with the tap of a button. Invest in better machinery.

3. Your Machines Aren’t Properly Maintained

If you have just installed advanced software on your machines, but the productivity hasn’t seen any boost, it could mean that your machine isn’t adequately maintained. Machines that are used frequently need to be thoroughly maintained, they need to have a change in parts and components. An inadequately lubricated machine can also have performance issues.

4. Your Operator Is Just Not Paying Attention

Sometimes, it is just the operator who is not interested in working. Maybe the operator is not happy with his work or he may be going through a difficult time in his life, it could be something personal. Repeated and prolonged downtimes are signs that your operator is deliberately delaying everything to find excuses for not working. Have a heart to heart with your employees.

5. You Don’t Have Any Accountability Mechanism

Do you have some software or tool to know the cause of unnecessarily long downtimes and low performance? When there is no accountability or a mechanism to hold people accountable, you can expect performances to be low naturally.

The point is, there could be a plethora of factors hampering your productivity. Your job is to find out what the problem is and fix it without delay. That’s where our Machine Monitoring Software comes into the picture. With this software installed on your machines, you will be able to collect detailed performance data of your machines. This data will be revealing enough to tell you who or what is causing any sort of downtime. You will get detailed reports on your machine’s runtime, downtime and part count.

In addition to giving you a detailed insight of your floor’s performance, it also helps your employees stay productive and efficient. With this software, they are able to monitor the performance of their machines in real-time and fix the issues that come up. Once there is proper check, monitoring, and accountability, you will see your manufacturing business flourish.

When you combine FreePoint Technologies machine monitoring hardware with our visualization software, you can exponentially increase both productivity and employee engagement.

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How to Know if you are Ready to Implement Machine Monitoring

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.

man in factory lab coat operating machine control panel stainless steel door

A Machine Operator Engaged With His Task

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.  

Image Processing Now Available

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

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

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

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

Product Specifications

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

FreePoint Xi Image Processing Module

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

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

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

Machine Monitoring & Employee Engagement: How We Connect The Two

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

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

Machine monitoring being used to enhance employee engagement

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

Accountability

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

Gamification

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

Consistent Measurement Of Performance

Machine Operator Displays his Machine Monitoring Dashboard

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

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

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Digital Manufacturing: The Future of the Factory is Now

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

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

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

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

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

How Will IoT Help?

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

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

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

Digital Manufacturing IoT Icons FreePoint Technologies

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

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

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

Get in touch with us today to learn more.

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Smart Manufacturing: What You Need To Know

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

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

  1. Design
  2. Deployment
  3. Management

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

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

smart manufacturing graphic freepoint technologies

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

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

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

Phase 1:

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

Phase 2:

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

Phase 3:

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

How Smart Manufacturing Links to Other Automation Technologies Like IoT

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

Examples of Smart Manufacturing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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References

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

BDC Study: Industry 4.0 – The New Industrial Revolution

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

The BDC report on Industry 4.0 includes:

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

Click here to view:

Fact Sheet

Complete Study