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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FreePoint and Intellacor Team Up To Reinvigorate US Manufacturing

Using ShiftWorx, Intellacor brings Industry 4.0 to existing factory equipment across the United States

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7 Ways IIoT Solutions Are Driving Manufacturing Success

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.

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How to Reduce Non-Value Added Time

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.

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How Technology is Transforming Manufacturing

By nature of the industry, manufacturing has always been an early adopter of new technologies as and when they happen. We’re seeing some amazing innovations enter the arena that are revolutionizing our processes to increase efficiencies, and employee engagement.

There are often countless micro-protocols to navigate within many factory processes, and it’s these disparate operations that lead to inefficiencies: unnecessary procedural repetition, unplanned outages, and employee boredom.

Lacking a universal vision of factory processes can lead to the failure of the entire operation if just one element becomes unexpectedly interrupted. Perhaps a machine breaks down because it hasn’t been correctly maintained, halting the entire operation; or one device begins to over- or under-produce. New technologies provide an overview of the whole process so that that maximum output can be consistently achieved.

So, here’s a precise of how technology is transforming manufacturing from an industry notoriously caked in grease, dangerous processes, and meaningless, repetitive human tasks; to a safe, attractive employment environment, creating new possibilities for people and efficient processes that exceed what you thought previously impossible.

Automation

Automation is nothing new in manufacturing – it’s been around since the industrial revolution. The first round of automation was met with massive swaths of protest, resulting in groups such as the Luddites setting out to smash machines introduced into the textiles industry in the 19th century. The fear was that machines would claim jobs from the workers – and to a certain extent, they did. But as with all change, people get used to the idea, and automation slowly became an integral aspect of the industry.

The latest innovation in manufacturing has been around in industries such as car building for years: robots. Again, we face the habitual fear that robotics diminish opportunities for human workers, but in actuality, human labour often seizes the opportunity to move into other areas of the same business, presenting scope for career development.

Humans are still much more adaptable than robots, so people will always be the essential cog in the wheel.

Repetitive tasks are being outsourced to robots who can perform them more safely and more consistently than humans, but, for the time being, humans are still a valuable resource.

The Benefits of Robots

Of course, robots don’t need to take breaks, and never have to take an unscheduled day off because their child is sick. They can work consistently all day through and, as long as they’re regularly maintained, are reliable and efficient.

By 2019, more than 1.4 million new industrial robots will be installed in factories around the world. (International Federation of Robotics)

Automation is great for repetitive tasks – robots drastically increase efficiency. Administrative duties are frequently reassigned to automation, often outperforming humans in rote tasks, making essential back-office roles more effective.

Artificial Intelligence

Processing power is doubling each year. Quantum technology continually diminishes the size of computer chips and processors, so the potential for calculation and prediction has accelerated way beyond previous expectation.

The AI market will grow to a $5.05 billion dollar industry by 2020. (The Motley Fool)

Back in the 90s, Ray Kurzweil predicted that computers would become artificially intelligent by the year 2045, stating that to simulate the human brain you’d need around 10 quadrillion calculations per second (cps). Kurzweil is well-known for the accuracy of his technological predictions – however, he massively underestimated the rate of advancement in AI. The fastest computer currently on the planet can handle 33.8 quadrillion cps, meaning we’re progressing at an unprecedented pace.

So, AI in manufacturing is an inevitability.

Regardless of the nature of your manufacturing business, data is the driver that helps to increase efficiencies. Data can facilitate a universal overview of your entire process infrastructure, ensuring that you make thousands of micro-efficiencies. Companies that embrace this big data aspect of their business are inevitably the most successful because they have an accurate understanding of their productivity efficiencies.

AI algorithms can help create efficient factory plans with profound insights into inefficiencies that are literally invisible to the human eye. A single process might be tightened by a millionth of a second, which might not sound like much – but when you consider how many milliseconds could be saved per hour, per day, per month, per year – it begins to account for big savings.

Machine monitoring

Machine monitoring is the more human approach to improving efficiencies in manufacturing businesses. By providing a universal vision of the entire factory floor, machine monitoring creates data that is immediately actionable by humans, relying on their unique ability to weigh up the options and make informed decisions.

Machine monitoring effectively networks your entire factory machinery to a single interface that provides real-time analysis of productivity, helping humans identify potential problems with processes before they happen. The data produced by machine monitoring systems helps to keep the workforce engaged in their activities by providing an accurate data depiction of their productivity, and keeping them aware of their contribution to the overall process.

So, yes – technology can be a daunting prospect, but there’s no stopping it. To embrace it is to take control of it, and to take control of it in the early stages is to create a safe working environment for everyone, and options for people to find opportunities in other areas of the business if their job is replaced by a machine.

Machine monitoring systems offer one of the most versatile of all the new technologies because it creates co-dependency between man and machine; rather than simply surrendering to our more efficient, tireless digital counterparts.

 

[Infographic] Top 10 Reasons It Is Great To Work In Manufacturing

Manufacturing is a great place to work. As an industry, it contributes significantly to Canada’s GDP, which brings wealth to the nation. It’s one of the largest sectors in North America, which means that manufacturing is here to stay; with careers that could span a lifetime and offer strong remuneration that could offer stability and a pension.

Manufacturing accounts for almost 11% of Canada’s GDP, bringing in, on average, $174 billion per year. Canada’s manufacturing industries export more than $354 billion in products per year, representing 68% of the entirety of Canada’s merchandise exports.

Manufacturing is strong: employing 1.7 million people in full-time, well-paid, quality jobs.

If you’re considering your career options after high-school, there are few industries that offer better career progression, pay-scale, and stability than manufacturing. If you’re great with your hands and a lover of technology, manufacturing offers you an exciting world of opportunity, while contributing something positive back to society.

Be the first to use the newest technologies, and become part of an industry that creates products that make everyone’s lives easier, more convenient, and more accessible.  

There are lots of reasons why it’s great to work in manufacturing. We’ve asked the people who work in the industry for their insights.

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How Manufacturing Is At The Cutting Edge

The world of industry and technology are merging and expanding exponentially, forming a connected network of people and machines that maximize productivity, innovation, and possibility. For those of us in the manufacturing industry, we’re living in amazingly exciting times, but it’s certainly not without the fear that we might get left behind.

Moore’s Law is the belief that the processing power of computers doubles every two years. But recent advances in Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality have progressed with such processing power to literally blow Moore’s Law entirely out of the water.

Woah! Slow down

All this progress can feel a little intimidating, to say the least. But there’s a huge amount to be excited about.

The “inter-connected factory” is a conduit between our existing manual (and digital) machinery and the productivity of our people. Through machine-monitoring technologies, these innovations provide real-time oversight of the entire manufacturing process that helps us to increase productivity and efficiency in a way never before possible.

Let’s Put This All Into Context –

First, we had steam and the first wave of mechanization. It was met with initial panic because it was believed that the machines would put workers out of work. Whole gangs of Luddites gathered together to protest and smash up the machines. Nonetheless, progress overcame, and human labor found new roles within the same industries.

Next came electricity, assembly lines, and the advent of mass production. Machines became more powerful, able to produce more, with higher efficiency, and in new ways. It was met with initial panic because it was believed that it put jobs at risk. But, again, industry adapted, and human resources were redeployed in new areas made possible by the new paths that those innovations had forged.

Then came computers and the introduction of robots onto the production line. Again – met with initial panic that humans were going to lose out.

There’s a Pattern

So, there’s a pattern, here. And it’s understandable.

But manufacturing has always embraced change, and has always been at the cutting edge when it comes to the application of new technologies. And as technology frees up human resource, we find new ways to re-deploy the unique skills and talents of the workforce.

Utilizing the Unique Skills of the Workforce

Where machines have made production more efficient, human labor has become more valuable in skilled areas; employing potential, rather than just headcount.

Machine Monitoring

Machine monitoring is the next leap forward in mechanization, unifying repetitious machine-driven processes with the workforce while creating a monitoring system that consolidates human and mechanical processes together in a data-center that provides a real-time window into the productivity of your factory.

Machine monitoring is compatible with old-school, manual machinery and up-to-the minute networked machines alike. It creates a digital infrastructure that connects real-time production efficiency with the needs of your customers, helping you to avoid the big 7 (or in our case 10) wastes of manufacturing. It helps empower your staff by allowing them to monitor their own productivity, and gamify their work-day to add a little competitive spirit into their daily role.

Machine monitoring provides you with a real-time oversight of the entire production line – letting the machines tell you when they require maintenance; recognizing areas in production that are over-producing or under-producing; and using the interchangeable skills of the workforce to keep production at maximum potential.

And the future?

The future never stops, of course. And manufacturing will continue to evolve, finding new ways to employ the unique talents of the individuals we employ.

The truth of the matter is that to stay current, you need to look ahead – and consider human and machine as allies. The evolution of production is something to embrace, to protect the jobs and the securities of those we employ.

FreePoint Technologies has a comprehensive suite of machine monitoring technologies that help you stay at the forefront of manufacturing innovation.

 

Why Employee Engagement Matters in Manufacturing

The term “employee engagement” might sound like just one more inaccessible management consultant’s buzzword but, in actuality, the importance of positive employee engagement certainly can’t be overstated. Companies that fail to take employee engagement seriously often suffer from poor productivity, worrying staff retention, and weak profit margins due to fast staff turnaround and disenfranchized people functioning at minimum velocity in under-valued jobs.

What do we mean by “engagement”?
Engagement is about focus, presence, enthusiasm, and, perhaps, most importantly, purpose. If you can provide reward in ways additional to the obvious financial, some surprising things will happen.

Job satisfaction is that intangible product of a positive environment that might surprise and enthuse when present, but certainly dishearten when absent.

Engaged people naturally go above and beyond what is required of them because they feel a part of something important; they want to contribute to the bigger picture; and they can see how the end product benefits society in some way (perhaps by just making everyone else’s lives a little easier, or more pleasant). Engaged workers feel included, and they feel valued, so they repay you in dedication, loyalty; all with the unifying power of the positive person.

Some facts
It’s estimated that over 25% of all workforces are subject to reduced staff retention, and a third of those are amongst the most talented, motivated employees (under the right conditions). It’s a commonly recognized belief that nurtured talent thrives, while ignored talent and enthusiasm diminishes.

A piece of research carried out by recruitment website, Glassdoor, concluded that 54% of currently employed individuals felt confident that if they were to quit or lose their job, they’d be successful in finding a comparable job within six months.

If employees know that there’s something equivalent or alternative just around the corner, then we have to make the manufacturing industry an engaging employer who trains, invests, and retains their most valuable resource – their people. In short, if you don’t make the workplace a satisfying, rewarding, and engaging place to work, you’re going to lose your staff. Or continue to achieve low or mediocre productivity.

So, how do you keep hold of your most talented employees? And how do you nurture the dedication and enthusiasm of the rest of the workforce? Everyone deserves to feel valued, so here are some tips on methods to keep your workers happy and engaged.

So, how do you engage your staff?

Recognition
A bit of civility doesn’t cost a penny, but it could surprise you. Words of encouragement and appreciation go a long way in nurturing a positive working environment. It’s said that “a thank you is worth its weight in gold” and it’s undoubtedly true that verbal recognition for a job well done is a great morale booster.

A “thank you” card might feel a little “soft-skill” but who wouldn’t appreciate a personal note from their boss recognizing their contribution? A team night out can help amalgamate a disparate workforce, as long as it remains optional and there is no sense of social rejection for those that choose not to attend.

Opportunity
There is very little in life guaranteed to stultify more than repetition and the prospect of eternal, monotonous servitude. Engage your workforce by listening to them and involving them in change. Workers who operate machinery, for example, are most likely to have lucid, valid perceptions of how to improve productivity, so invite and listen to their suggestions. But listening isn’t enough – make efforts to implement the improvements that they have instigated and credit them for their input.

Training
Enthusiastic individuals who have proven their mettle on the work floor should be offered opportunities to develop, and training them in new roles (or offering secondments to other departments) is a great way to reward dedication. Of course, not everyone wants to progress, and this should certainly be respected if they’re performing well in their current role.

 

Likewise, forcing the workforce to carry out training courses that feel irrelevant or counter-intuitive to their current role can be disenfranchizing.

Flexibility
Everyone has a life outside of work and accommodating people’s family lives goes a long way to garnering a positive working environment. Flexibility goes both ways, of course, so if you can help your workers when they need time off to attend something important, they’re going to be much more likely to go out of their way to help you out when you most need them.

Employee engagement tools
Machine monitoring is an employee engagement tool that doubles as an efficiency monitor. Machine monitoring hardware is compatible with most analog and digital machines, so adopting this technology costs much less than you might think.

metal machining industry. Worker or service engineer operating cnc milling machine at factory

In essence, machine monitoring software collects efficiency data that can help improve productivity and increase employee engagement by putting the individual in control of their daily activity. Data collated from machine monitoring can be used to justify incentives and reward the most hard-working, while giving those who might naturally sit in the background to recognize that greater contribution brings better rewards.

Machine monitoring introduces gamification into the workplace as a means of incorporating data into productivity. You can encourage a little friendly competition into daily production by recognizing the best performers and the best improvers; all backed up with a transparent, irrefutable data stream.

Contests
Running contests on the shop floor is an excellent way of engaging your workers; encouraging a sense of healthy competition and camaraderie if the contest requires teamwork.

There are lots of ways of helping promote a positive working environment with engaged employees who are likely to go the extra mile for you. Most require a just change in culture as opposed to a financial investment, so can you really afford to deny your workforce the opportunity to fully engage with your workplace?

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Top 10 Reasons It Is Great To Work In Manufacturing

Manufacturing is a great place to work. It’s an industry that satisfies those who enjoy “doing”, and it’s one of the largest sectors in North America. Manufacturing employs 8.7% of the population in the USA and accounts for almost 11% of Canada’s GDP.

There are lots of reasons why it’s great to work in manufacturing. We thought we’d do a bit of research to find out what people who work in manufacturing think about manufacturing.

 

1. It’s exciting

Manufacturing covers a wide array of industries – it’s difficult for people not to find it interesting. Manufacturing spans some of the most interesting high-tech industries, such as aerospace, food technology, machine monitoring, and pharmaceuticals. Not everyone gets the opportunity to tell friends about their day-job, but when you’re working on the latest developments in aerospace, people want to listen.

 

2. It’s safe

To the contrary of what’s widely believed, the days of workers crammed into darkened sweat-boxes, handling dangerous chemicals and machines that would gladly rip off a limb are now, mostly, resigned to history. Things have come a long way. Robots, machine monitoring, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and automation are all employed to ensure that the workplace is a smart and safe one.

 

3. You’re creating tangible things

Manufacturing is all about producing things which go on to help people live their lives. And there’s very little that’s more satisfying than seeing the fruits of your labor and saying “I made that”. Workers in manufacturing are responsible for bringing products into stores, and maybe even set pieces into blockbuster movies. If you work in a bank, you shuffled some numbers today – and those numbers got shuffled by someone else. Manufacturing produces tangible products.

 

 

4. There’s a career path

There’s more to manufacturing than fabrication and welding – although, these days, these are highly skilled roles. Automation has taken a lot of the dangerous, repetitive work away from the factory floor, leaving many specialized tasks behind for talented individuals.

As the baby boomers retire, there are opportunities in leadership, as well as opportunities in sales, business development, marketing, product research and development, and HR. Manufacturing can provide stability and life-long career paths.

 

5. The Cutting Edge

Manufacturing has always driven innovation: 3D printing, the IIoT, drones, robotics, for example. We adopt new technologies before they become widely available on the consumer market, so we get the opportunity to use and perfect the development of these cutting-edge technologies. It’s a great reason to get up for work in the morning.

 

6. Contributing

Manufacturing makes a significant contribution to home and global economies, as well as puts food on the table at a local level. With a substantial contribution to GDP, manufacturing helps raise the standard of living for workers and consumers, while lubricating the economy. We’re also producing products that make lives easier, so not only is the contribution financial, but we’re adding to the quality of life for millions of consumers.

 

7. There’s a need

There’s a huge skills gap in manufacturing. In 2011, the National Association of Manufacturers identified that there was a 67% deficit in available, qualified workers. That means that there’s a huge opportunity for training, and for those hoping to develop life-long skills. The world of work has become transient as our economies have shifted to a service-based focus; the “job for life” in those industries has become a thing of the past. But manufacturing is here to stay and needs skilled workers, especially as the baby boomers are retiring, leaving huge gaps in the workforce.  

8. Diversity

With the massive demand for skilled people, there’s a huge array of career progression opportunities in manufacturing. The image of repetitive production lines and grubby overalls is not the new norm. Of course, those roles are still available for those who want them, but technology has stepped in, leaving wider possibilities for skilled workers. It’s not all shop-floor working; there are opportunities in prototyping, product development, as well as the many office and marketing roles.

 

9. You get paid!

Manufacturing offers competitive pay and benefit packages. There’s a higher percentage of workers in manufacturing with retirement plans, in comparison with other private sector industries. And there’s often a good range of health care benefits available, and on a more generous basis than in other industries.

Pay, on average, is higher for equivalent roles in other industries.

10. New skills

As manufacturing adapts to new technologies, so do the roles. There’s a distinct push for people with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills, as machines require programming and new software needs development.

Companies are struggling to recruit people with these skills; partly because it’s not widely understood that these skills are required. But for highly qualified, technical specialists, manufacturing offers excellent potential for a great career.

So, there you have it – ten reasons why it’s great to work in this exciting industry. If you’re interested in getting involved, speak to your local careers advisor, or approach your local manufacturer directly and let them know what you have to offer them.

If you are already in the manufacturing industry and what to improve your productivity, reach out to us today.