Maintain Remote Visibility into Your Shop

To help further support our clients during this trying time, we wanted to outline how you can leverage ShiftWorx to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 limitations.

remote working in manufacturing

Remote Visibility & Automatic Alerts

Maintain Operations From a Distance or With Limited Staff

ShiftWorx is web accessible, so you can view your dashboards from home—keeping you informed on exactly what’s happening in your shop, in real-time. With the Notifications module, you can set up alerts that send directly to your phone or tablet, so you immediately know if any problems occur.

Upgrade to the New ShiftWorx Plus

Monitor Your Entire Shop Floor, With No Blind-Spots

Earlier this month we released an important update to the ShiftWorx platform —increasing overall functionality for manufacturers like you. Alongside this update, we streamlined our products into 3 different ShiftWorx bundles:

  • ShiftWorx Lite
  • ShiftWorx Standard
  • ShiftWorx Plus

With ShiftWorx Plus you can stay up to date with everything in your shop by logging and reporting on metrics ranging from job, operator and scrap, to parts, SKUs and more. You can also create custom, role-specific dashboards for your managers and supervisors; so everybody stays in the know, even from home.

New ShiftWorx Plus Reporting Dashboard

machine monitoring reporting dashboard

Report on machine uptime, downtime by part, status code usage, startup time, cumulative status code rank & more!

We are passionate about ensuring the success of our clients during difficult times like these. If you require further support over the coming weeks or have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. 

Explore The New ShiftWorx Plus

Big changes are coming to FreePoint Technologies! If you’re a manufacturer who wants more quantitative data from your machines while better understanding the context of that data, then we’ve got some great news for you – we have not only upgraded, but fundamentally improved the entirety of our ShiftWorx machine monitoring platform. This upgrade brings with it a variety of improvements including expanded functionality, enhanced customization and improved user experience.

ShiftWorx Plus Benefits

What is ShiftWorx?

ShiftWorx is a comprehensive machine monitoring solution that enables you to track your machine performance, downtime and activity. The platform collects and visualizes machine data in an easy to read, user-friendly dashboard that can be displayed on the shop floor for both your managers and operators to engage and discuss. This additional information empowers you to generate richer reports and gain deeper insight into your manufacturing process.

By displaying relevant metrics for everyone to see, you can improve accountability, make better, more educated decisions, and drive meaningful continuous improvement throughout your shop.

Introducing ShiftWorx Plus

The upgraded ShiftWorx Plus platform exists to provide manufacturers with additional data to help inform their decision making.  Enabling you to collect and monitor machine performance and downtime data, ShiftWorx Plus can also track additional variables, such as:

  • Jobs, Parts, Work Orders
  • Scrap, Waste, SKUs
  • Operators, Team Leads, Supervisors
  • And More!

ShiftWorx Plus ReportingYou can even use ShiftWorx Plus to create customized, role-specific dashboards! With more data available at your fingertips, you can run reports that highlight the various correlations between different data-points, see the run times on specific machines, determine yields on your part– the list goes on! With state-of-the-art, high-level monitoring capabilities, you get end-to-end, 360° insight into your entire shop with no blind-spots.

With optional add-ons available to ShiftWorx Plus users, manufacturers have more flexibility then ever before to build a solution around the specific needs of their shop. Available add-ons include custom integration, alerts & notifications, and our brand-new digital andon and call box system – giving you the benefits of an andon solution, without the additional wiring, labor and installation fees.

What it Means for You

For manufacturers, these new features provide more data to both drive improvement, and better inform their decisions. For current clients, rest assured nothing about your current ShiftWorx package is changing, except for the name. In the coming months, we will be performing the migration to the upgraded platform, at which point some additional training may be required for current customers.

 

For those looking to upgrade and experience the new features included in ShiftWorx Plus,  Reach out today!

FreePoint is Attending Microsoft’s VOX ISM FPAC Conference

FreePoint is excited to be taking part in this year’s Financial Process Automation Conference (FPAC). Hosted by Microsoft Canada partner, VOX ISM, FPAC strategically outlines how Canadian accounting departments, manufacturers and distributors can cut their workload in half.

This year, our Director of Sales, Al MacKinnon will be hosting a presentation geared towards manufacturers looking to get measurable ROI out of their IIoT investments.

Titled: Leveraging IIoT For Productivity Gain & Quick ROI, the presentation will focus on the benefits manufacturers can experience by integrating the various systems throughout their shop floor, and how quickly IIoT investments can pay themselves off. With benefits such as enhanced production performance, increased throughput and improved process quality, we’re excited to show manufacturers how they can cut costs while increasing the amount of value-adding work their machines perform – without necessarily hiring more people or acquiring additional resources.

As Al dives into topics ranging from ERP integration to machine monitoring, we hope to give manufacturers a better understanding of how they can take full advantage of new technologies throughout their production process. Most importantly, we will be illustrating to manufacturers how they can leverage their IIoT investments into engines of growth with quick ROI.

In addition to attending our presentation, there are a laundry list of reasons you should be attending the 2020 FPAC conference:

  1. Explore how accounting a finance departments can optimize their processes in preparation for automation
  2. Discuss strategies to enhance your organization’s understanding of emerging technologies
  3. Learn about potential applications and limitations of emerging technologies
  4. Discover how to build and validate AI, BI, and machine learning models in your accounting department
  5. Examine techniques to institutionalize automation for everyone at your company

If you would like to attend this years conference, you can register here.

5 Ways You Can Customize Your IIoT Experience

As more manufacturers begin to transition to an IIoT environment, sometimes they may find an off-the-shelf solution just isn’t enough. At FreePoint, we think manufacturers deserve a custom solution as unique as their process.

To ensure manufacturers can take full advantage of their IIoT solutions, those solutions must be flexible, versatile and scalable. Flexible, customized software solutions can grow alongside your business, meaning you don’t have to keep purchasing additional solutions as your needs evolve.

In light of our recent acquisition of custom software development company: CoreSolutions Software – we have come up with 5 ways we can to customize your IIoT experience:

  1. Custom Modules
  2. Customized Production Scheduling
  3. Customized Dashboards
  4. System Integration
  5. Data Mobilization

Custom Modules

custom modulesMany IIoT solutions will come with a standardized set of features and functions to help manufacturers increase efficiency. Machine monitoring and downtime tracking are usually two of the most common features. However, by offering custom module development, we can develop unique applications that perfectly cater to your distinct workflows.

For example, our ShiftWorx Notifications module sends email and text alerts when a specific machine condition has been met. We can even customize the notification module to automatically trigger specific actions elsewhere in your system.

Customized Production Scheduling

For manufacturers looking to increase production capacity without purchasing new equipment or hiring additional employees – consider custom production scheduling. An asset to managers as well as operators, customized production scheduling allows individuals to prioritize the data most relevant to them. Management can focus on scheduling views and performance statistics while operators focus on task lists and work instructions. The best part about customized solutions is that they are tailored to fit your shops unique needs. Whether you want to:

  • Increase production capacity
  • Reduce changeover & startup times
  • Reduce time & material waste
  • Improve scheduling accuracy

Custom scheduling solutions can help get you there. From defect reporting, to ERP and MRP integration, custom solutions pack more of a punch then their off-the-shelf counterparts.

Customized Dashboards

Custom dashboards are another powerful means of obtaining actionable, impactful insights into your process. Every manufacturer is different, so it makes sense that their Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) would be as well. Rather than a one-size-fits-all solution, customizable dashboards give you the power to view the information that is most important in your shop, in real-time. Custom dashboards can also access data from across your organization, allowing you to more easily identify production trends and patterns, as well as areas of improvement.

System Integration

Another way we can customize manufacturer’s IIoT solutions is through custom system integrations. By giving manufacturers more flexibility, they can work across multiple connected systems and complete more tasks in less time. In addition, manufacturers will find custom integrations open the door for major process improvements. For example, by integrating IIoT solutions with ERP & MRP systems, manufacturers can supercharge their quality control, as well as their supply chain:

“If you can catch deviations from specifications when the product is being manufactured, you could easily stop and fix them. This would greatly minimize defective parts, if not completely eliminate it.”

ERP Software Blog

Data Mobilization

custom data mobilization

Data mobilization is also an avenue through which we can customize your IIoT solution. Through CoreSolutions’ mobile application development, we can provide efficient, versatile, and reliable access to your data, regardless of where you are. Make your machine data accessible from company tablets anywhere across the shop floor, or even from your cell phone for the times you are off-site.

Final Thoughts

Industry 4.0 solution packages that are scalable allow machine and equipment availability to be increased and processes to be optimized. If you’re interested in processes that provide lightning-fast cost savings, provide a competitive advantage, and offer valuable real-time insight into your OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), you should consider machine monitoring.

Contact us to learn more about how we can create and customize an IIoT solution for you to call your own.

Why Manufacturers Need to Automate Data Collection

The speed and volume of data collection is rapidly increasing. This makes it overwhelming for manufacturers to determine how best to leverage the metrics at their disposal.

mac computers and ipad with freepoint technologies and shiftworx freepoint technologies

A recent study found just under half (48%) of manufacturers still use spreadsheets or other manual entry documents to keep track of their data, which explains why less than 40% of manufacturers use data analysis to solve production issues. If data was being collected automatically as opposed to manually, it would be easier to collect, analyze, and act on.

The study also found that 76% of respondents said in order to immediately act on collected data, they require “software solutions that analyze data in real-time”. By leveraging automation and industry 4.0 solutions, manufacturers can reap benefits ranging from increased efficiency to lowered costs and lower risk of error.

Enhancing Efficiency

Machine monitoring allows you to obtain real-time automated data that will not only improve your collection process, but also increase response time to any issues that may arise. Don’t wait for the weekly or daily data report to find out days after-the-fact that something went wrong. Automatic alerts can be set up to let you know the second a machine goes down, and in some cases, before it happens.

Data Accuracy

By automating your data-collection with industry 4.0 technologies, you also greatly increase the accuracy of your data. Multi-tasking workers, managers putting out fires, or an inexperienced employee don’t impact the quality of the data being recorded if the data is being recorded automatically – greatly mitigating the potential for human error.

Cutting Costs

Real-time data collection doesn’t just impact efficiency and production, it also impacts profitability and costs. Though it may seem like a small change, eliminating manual data-entry significantly decreases the paper-trail that comes along with printing excel spreadsheets or filling out data-tracking forms.

In our experience, the transparency gained through automation and real-time visibility has a significant impact on manufacturing costs. By leveraging the insights gained from their real-time data, a client of ours was able to save roughly $325 a day without hiring more employees or buying new equipment—a powerful incentive for those considering automation and industry 4.0.

Unlock Your Factory’s Potential Today with Real-Time Data

Overall, real-time data collection gives you a level of transparency and control over your process that would be impossible to achieve without automation. You will be able to improve performance, production and profitability just by implementing one vital, but very attainable change to your process.

If you are ready to enhance the efficiency of your factory, reach out today to book your free demonstration and get yourself started on the path of Industry 4.0!

Top 3 Reasons Manufacturers Aren’t Connecting to the Cloud

The Internet and cloud computing movements are gaining momentum and in full swing in many sectors in our society, including banking, healthcare, education, government, the services industry in general, and almost all areas of our personal life. Yet, despite the advent of IIoT technologies and Industry 4.0, and all the glitter and spectacular promise it appears to offer, many manufacturers are reluctant to connect their machines, assembly lines or processes to the internet. Why is that?

I have spent many hours in many plants in recent years, and this conversation has come up often. Here’s what I believe are the top 3 reasons manufacturers aren’t connecting their machines to the internet, starting with #3.

#3: Older ‘Legacy’ Equipment is Expensive to Upgrade

Many manufacturers have a wide variety of machine types, especially job shops and companies with many discrete manufacturing processes. The cost to upgrade them all with newer control systems is high, not to mention difficult, and the cost to replace them even higher. Since the machine continues to produce an acceptable quantity and quality of parts in its current state, the cost of the upgrade would have a long ROI.

#2: Security Concerns

This is a concern I hear about most often. Yes, all the other sectors above have the same concerns but have counted on the security systems built into the technology as well their own IT people, firewalls and strict policies, but many manufacturers I speak with remain unconvinced. Manufacturers are ‘tactile’ people, and their processes are equally ‘tactile’; its not numbers in an account, or an electronic transaction, or a video or a document, it’s a physical action, movement and part being produced. The thought of a machine being taken control of by an outside source is a scary proposition. Equally disconcerting is the thought that all their critical and sensitive production and product information is not securely locked down in their internal IT system, but it would be stored somewhere “out there”, outside of their four walls, and potentially available to others through hacking. The larger the manufacturing company is, the more serious the concern for this kind data.

#1: Little or No Perceived Benefit to Connect Their Machine to the Internet

For most manufacturers I speak with, this is true for them. The information they need access to is information needed in the plant, by people in the plant. By the time a machine is commissioned for production in a plant, there is little benefit to collect ‘lakes’ of data on all sorts of granular process information. At this point, the company is just looking for what I refer to as “fit bit” information: is the machine or process healthy? What’s its rate? How many parts did it produce? And, if it’s not running, why not? All this information is pretty simple to extract even from legacy machines at a very low cost, but there’s little or no benefit to pushing it up to the cloud – certainly not enough benefit to offset their security concerns. So why bother?

There are good reasons to make more information more accessible to more people in real time, most notable being productivity and efficiency, but it can be accomplished without connecting the machine directly to the internet. The biggest advantage of cloud-based software is the low cost of powerful and flexible software available that is easily adaptable and accessible from anywhere. Manufacturing companies need these kinds of IT solutions to remain competitive, and indeed to stay ahead, but they can do so by leveraging cloud-based solutions that help their people be more productive, without connecting their machines to the internet.

Final Thoughts

At FreePoint, the focus has always been on making the people smarter, because its people that make the machines run better and the processes run smoother. They are the ones that can most benefit from a connection to the cloud, not the machines. The connection to the machine can be indirect and ‘non-invasive’ (i.e. impossible to control externally). There are still some security risks to allowing use of cloud-based software, but those should be managed the same as all other personal cloud-based applications need to be.

For more information on FreePoint’s risk mitigated cloud-based machine monitoring and productivity improvement solutions, please visit www.getfreepoint.com or contact paul.hogendoorn@getfreepoint.com

Discussing Project Launches in Manufacturing Automation Magazine

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

Paul Hogendoorn – FreePoint Founder

Paul’s latest publication featuring in Manufacturing Automation Magazine discusses the challenge of project launches, stating:

“The hardest thing to do is often just to get started. Stepping into the unknown, or perhaps looking forward into a big, indeterminate and not fully defined project, is easy to avoid doing.”

Throughout the article, Paul explains the best approach to tackling a big, new endeavor like IIoT and Industry 4.0 – break it into more manageable chunks:

  • Zero to One
  • One to Ten
  • Ten to One Hundred

Zero to one, also known as project launch, is often the most difficult (and most critical) stage. This is primarily because it requires a significant leap of faith few are willing, or even able to take. As you move past the launch stage, more people begin to get on-board, adding momentum, and mitigating some resistance. Manufacturers will find the same amount of energy they applied in the beginning will get them a lot farther and a lot faster in the final stages of the project.

The mistake some companies make is trying to map out and enact the plan from start to finish in one fell swoop, making project launches more overwhelming than they need to be. Learn how to better tackle your next manufacturing project by reading the full article here.

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

The Secret Behind Monitoring Manual Processes

From a machine monitoring standpoint, the wide range of equipment and tactics used by manufacturers pose a challenge. For instance, Some equipment is newer and digitally compatible, whereas others are older and analog. Also, some processes are done manually by an employee instead of a machine. Manufacturers may find themselves wondering: is it possible to monitor manual processes? Luckily, at FreePoint, the answer is yes.

As the global supply of computing power and storage capacity continues to grow rapidly, the cost to access these resources continues to drop. The same is true for IIoT technologies. Sensory devices and the technology needed to interpret them have become more compact and affordable in recent years. Because of these advancements, we can monitor more than just machines, but the manual processes of factory workers as well.

Cyber physical systems freepoint technologies

By leveraging different sensors, you can create cyber-physical systems to monitor tasks ranging from welding and brazing to painting and sanding. These sensors include:

  1. Electrical Current Sensors
  2. Switch/Button Recognition Sensors
  3. Pressure Plate Sensors

Electrical Current Sensors

FreePoint Technologies Electrical Symbol

One of the easiest manual processes to monitor are those which produce an electrical current. For example, if you are performing a task involving a MIG Welder, an electrical current will pass through the tool whenever it is in use. By installing an electrical current sensor, you can monitor the use of the welder and its efficiency based on the amount of time the tool spent having an electrical current run through it. If there is no current running through the tool, that would be considered downtime. Obviously, the more time the tool spends with current running through it, the more value-added time it contributes.

Switch/Button Recognition Sensors

Another straight-forward means of monitoring a manual process is with switch/button recognition sensors. When using a tool that is button or switch activated, a switch recognition sensor will be able to determine when a switch has been flipped on or off. Like electrical current sensors, by tracking whether the switch/button is on or off – you can identify when a machine is experiencing uptime or downtime. Using downtime narration, you can attribute reasons to justify downtime, some of which may be preventable moving forward.

Pressure Plate SensorsFreePoint Technologies Pressure Plate Sensor

Pressure plates are useful to monitor any piece of equipment that exerts pressure—like a drill press. Using this in tandem with an electrical current sensor will give you valuable insight into the efficiency of certain manual processes. In addition, using a pressure plate sensor alongside an electrical current sensor allows you to tell when a machine is running, as well as performing a value-adding task. In the case of a drill press, the value-adding task would be drilling. Just because electricity is running through the machine does not mean the machine is being productive. With both sensors, you will be able to more accurately assess your processes productivity.

With our IIoT software, FreePoint can connect any machine on your shop floor and start collecting data within 24 hours. You can literally monitor any machine with an electrical current. The oldest machine we are currently monitoring is from 1914! Reach out today and let us walk you through how to monitor your manual processes!

Connecting Legacy Machines to IIoT

Implementing IoT technology may seem like a challenge to manufacturers: do they purchase new, digitally compatible equipment— or maintain the status quo with older, still reliable machines? Fortunately, the alternatives don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Older legacy machines can still be integrated into an IIoT compatible, smart factory environment. In fact, the oldest machine we have connected to was built in 1914!

Limitations of Legacy Equipment

According to a 2015 independent study commissioned by Cisco, 90% of the more than 60+ million advanced manufacturing machines remain disconnected from one another, further, 75% of them are more than 20 years old. However, these older machines can still be retrofitted to function within a digital ecosystem!

FreePoint Hardware Installs Non-Invasively to Legacy Equipment

Even today, many manufacturers still record machine usage on paper forms. At the end of a shift, they document the number of hours the machine ran and how long set up took. This helps managers correctly bill the number of hours for a specific job. Paper-based processes help create invoices, but the discrepancy between actual and documented data can often be quite large, primarily because the documentation is occurring after the work has been completed.

When machines generate real-time data, you eliminate the discrepancy between actual and documented data, because they become one and the same. This begs the question, how can you make older, non-digital equipment generate live data?

How We Connect Legacy Machines

ShitfWorx black box

FreePoint’s Black Box Sensor is a Bolt-on Solution

There a few ways you can connect your legacy equipment. FreePoint uses a single piece of hardware to connect almost all machines found on the shop floor. Stamping machines, CNC machines, lathes, injection molders, presses, mills, and assembly stations can all be made to produce real-time data – and it doesn’t have to break the bank! You just have to know where to start. For the many manufacturers with a mix of legacy and new equipment, it’s better to start off by building a simple foundation to collect and leverage machine data, rather than implementing a mass overhaul of their equipment.

Combining software with hardware, we add an adapter to your legacy machines that allows you to detect and collect Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), providing better insight into your operations. Bolted on without disrupting production, these adapters turn legacy machine signals into a software protocol our system can then interpret. This not only provides greater visibility into shop floor performance, but contextualizes data in a way that helps identify and improve performance issues while engaging operators and management. So whether your machines are 20 years old, or purchased this year, you can maintain the same level of insight and transparency across your entire shop floor.

ShiftWorx Dashboard

ShiftWorx Machine Monitoring Interface Allows for at-a-Glance Insights

Final Thoughts

FreePoint is helping manufacturing organizations discover and achieve their true operational potential through IoT. We strongly believe in universal integration, which is why we made it a priority for our technology to link brand-new and legacy equipment, making it easier than ever to transition your plant into industry 4.0.

Reach out to us today if you are interested in easily and non-invasively connecting all your industrial machines regardless of age, complexity or type.

FreePoint Named One of Manufacturing Technology Insights Top Industrial IoT Solution Providers of 2019

Manufacturing Technology Insights IIOT Top Logo

FreePoint Technologies is excited to announce that we have been named one of Manufacturing Technology Insights Top 10 Industrial IoT Solution Providers of 2019.

Manufacturing Technology Insights discussed how FreePoint is helping manufacturing organizations discover and achieve their true operational potential through IoT.

Referencing our ShiftWorx Platform, our CEO John Traynor explained how the “Visualization of real-time data triggers the Hawthorne Effect and supports collaboration among management and workers to use equipment for maximum efficiency.” As the article outlines, many manufacturers aren’t sure where to start with IoT, especially as they consider connecting new and old equipment. It’s better to start simple, by building a foundation to collect leverage data.

Using non-invasive sensors, FreePoint is able to connect to new and legacy machines to give greater visibility into shop floor performance and help contextualize that data to identify and improve performance issues and engage operators and management.

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