7 Steps to Selecting the Best Software Vendor

As an IT manager, engineering manager, CFO or CEO, you will likely at some time in your career be faced with selecting a software vendor. Get it right and you and your company may enjoy years of improved efficiency and productivity, happier workers, and lower costs. Get it wrong and you could spend years in litigation. So here’ a simple 7-step formula to follow to ensure you get it right.

1: Determine Your Business Requirements

Sit down with the stakeholders—the frontline people who will be using the software every day, and come up with a detailed list of what they need, and what it would be nice to have. The solution should satisfy their demands while aligning with the goals of the business.

2: Investigate and Perform Vendor Due Diligence

Vendor Company Size

What you’re doing here, is conducting as thorough an investigation as possible of potential vendors who meet a predetermined set of requirements. Do you want to work with a small company, a mid-sized company or a large company? Big companies usually have all the expertise and handle big jobs, but their downside is they tend to be inflexible in prices, schedule, and offerings, and they work at their convenience and can move like slow-floating icebergs. The problem with working with a small company is often they don’t have a verifiable track record and you take a huge risk that they can do the job right. So know what you’re getting into with different sized vendors.

Vendor Company Location

Are you working with a local vendor or one from half way around the world? Offshoring may save some money but can create communication challenges and present cultural work differences that may hinder a harmonious relationship. Likewise, be ready to pay more for an on-shore company but communication is usually easier.

Software vendor assessment

It is important to perform the necessary due diligence when assessing different software vendors

Vendor Software Credentials and Certificates

Do they possess authentic documentation that demonstrates they have been educated and trained to perform the job in question?

Testimonials and References

Don’t just read the testimonials on their website. Ask for a list of 10 customers who had the same product/solution installed. Contact those customers with a detailed list of questions like: “Were you satisfied with the job?” “Would you hire them again?” “Did they meet all of the deadlines?” “Did you receive everything you expected?” “Did they support you after the sale?” “Were there any problems?” “Is there any question I should be asking you that I already haven’t?” “If you could change one thing with the vendor regarding their product/service offering, what would that be?”

Investigate the Vendors Background

Prepare a detailed list of questions and investigate to find answers about the software vendor, like:

“How long have they been in business?” “Are they growing or downsizing?” “Do they have significant experience working in your company’s industry?” “Have they ever had a customer sue them?” “Why?” “Do they have negative reports with the Better Business Bureau?” Do they have a high rating on Google Maps and Yelp?” “Why not?” “What do their employees say about them on Glassdoor?” “Do they ask good probing questions when you sit down to talk with them?” “Do they seem to understand your problems and concerns?” “Do they seem to care?” Are there any conflicts of interest associated with the vendor company and decision-makers at your company?” “Do they have partner certifications relevant to the solutions you are looking to implement? Do they have an engineering team to focus on product/solution development?”

Ask your friends/coworkers/LinkedIn network for software vendor recommendations.

3: Interview the Software Vendors

Conducting preliminary interviews will ensure you have the information you need to make the correct decision

Conduct preliminary interviews with a list of three to five strong vendor candidates who will send you their detailed proposals. Prepare a detailed list of specific questions to ask them during a formal interview, like:

“Will the software integrate with your existing system?” “How easy is it to set up and train users?” “Who provides the training?” “Is training included with the cost?” “Will you support us after the sale?” “What kind of guarantees and warranties are there?” “How are upgrades and updates managed?” “Are there a lot of business interruptions and downtimes due to maintenance?” “Why are you better or worse than your competitors?” “Will the software scale in case you experience high growth?” “What level of customizations are available with their product?” “Will you and your direct employees be doing the job or will you be contracting it out?” “Who gets custody of your data in the case your vendor and your company split up?” “Are there any additional fees or provisions that we haven’t discussed?” “Is there anything that you have not disclosed?”

4: Additional Fees

Look for hidden costs in the contract, such as additional fees for in-person training, document management services, setup or annual maintenance fees in addition to the monthly support costs. Also, watch for provisions that allow the vendor to increase fees during the course of the contract — and see if there are provisions that would allow you to get out of a contract after six months or a year if the system is not working for you.

5: Vendor Selection

After getting proposals from your shortlist, you are finally ready to select the vendor to move forward with.

6: Embark on a Free Trial Period

Before committing to a new software solution, be sure to test the software in a non-committal test period. Most SaaS companies offer a free trial to test features, benefits, and usability. Then, during the trial, make sure the software contains the features you need, as well as the functionality.

7: Contract Negotiations

Don’t be afraid to negotiate. It’s not always possible to get a price reduction, but things like training and payments are usually negotiable.

Contract Benchmarks and KPIs

Agree to key performance indicators (KPIs) before signing a contract.

Good luck!

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At FreePoint Technologies, we go beyond just software and machines. We also focus on engaging and empowering your employees, equipping them with real solutions to make them more efficient and often make their jobs easier.

Get in touch with us today to learn more.

Blueberries, Blockchains & Manufacturing Blockchain Made Simple: Part 2

In our last blog in this 2-part series on blockchains, we defined and illustrated blockchain in manufacturing and its rising notoriety. In this final segment, we dive deeper into its benefits and ROI.

Oversight and Accountability

Gary Brooks, Chief Marketing Officer of global manufacturing and supply chain technology company Syncron, in an interview with ZDNet said blockchain is of particular interest to the manufacturing industry due to its benefits regarding verification and transparency.

manufacturing supply chains and logistics

Supply chains in manufacturing are both critical and complex.

“Manufacturers’ supply chains are sophisticated, complex organizations with a number of nuances that can make transparency and accountability challenging — especially when it comes to the logistics of building and shipping new equipment and service parts,” Brooks said. “This is particularly true as manufacturers shift from a transactional, break-fix model of after-sale service — where a service part is replaced after it has already failed — to a subscription-based model that focuses on maximizing product uptime.”

“In this case, manufacturers leverage IoT and predictive analytics in their service parts supply chain to proactively repair equipment before it ever breaks down,” the executive added. “Blockchain can provide an increased level of visibility into this process, as it would allow an entire global service supply chain to see when and where parts are moving to ensure the repair is made just in time.”

As data held within a blockchain is decentralized and shared across nodes, the technology can be used to create and maintain a shared and continually reconciled database.

“With a blockchain solution, manufacturers now have a living dossier of activity logs and more”

For example, a hospital that implants an artificial cardiac pacemaker into a patient which happens to contain faulty parts resulting in injury to a patient can use the blockchain to trace the manufacturer of the faulty parts more efficiently, confining and correcting the issue.

“With a blockchain solution, manufacturers now have a living dossier of activity logs and more so they can keep tabs on the flow of goods between companies,” Brooks said. “This provides an extra level of transparency and control — and will enable large manufacturers to compete and win against the competition.”

When Chipotle had an E. coli outbreak in 2015, the food chain had serious trouble tracing the source of the bacteria through suppliers. As finding the source was incredibly difficult, Chipotle was unable to immediately stop the spread of contamination. Blockchain could have more rapidly contained and alleviated the trouble.

According to Brooks, blockchain could hold the key for similar issues to be resolved and eradicated quickly.

“For manufacturers specifically, blockchain could help mitigate similar risks,” the executive noted. “Multiple parts and pieces comprise large pieces of equipment, and with networks and suppliers around the world, blockchain provides a way to see every part in the supply chain in real-time — and identify problems before they become widespread.”

Blockchain ROI

Blockchain, just as in any new and developing technology endeavor, comes with a cost. Manufacturers will need to have their IT teams research the technology to both determine if the investment provides an adequate return and to gain the knowledge to deploy it successfully.

man in factory lathe chuck coolant nozzles safety glasses freepoint technologies

Manufacturing has always been at the forefront of technological adoption.

Under consideration will be whether to overhaul existing infrastructure and legacy systems. Manufacturers will have to consider modernizing existing IT process and the long related upgrade cycles that accompany new technology.

Then there is the nescience factor that accompanies any new technology. According to a Price Waterhouse survey, 45% of respondents cited lack of trust as a hurdle to blockchain adoption.

Many traditionalistic manufacturing CEOs, many of whom are set in their ways, are wary of new technology like blockchain and what the innovation can bring to the table that legacy systems cannot.

All things being equal, blockchain is an emerging and very important idea that CEOs or their predecessors will likely embrace, and is redefining the way companies do business. Manufacturers that adopt developing technology and business practices will tend to move beyond their competitors and will be the winners.

FreePoint Technologies has been helping manufacturers optimize machine performance, gain greater visibility of production, increase capacity and streamline operations with unprecedented precision. See how we can impact your industrial manufacturing.

FreePoint Founder Hits the Trifecta in Manufacturing Automation Magazine

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

Paul Hogendoorn – FreePoint Founder

FreePoint Founder and Chair, Paul Hogendoorn has featured in Manufacturing Automation Magazine’s October issue with his article titled “Hitting the Trifecta”. In his article, Paul outlines a simple three-step approach that will enable manufacturers to take full advantage of IIoT and industry 4.0 technologies:

  1. Establish Empirical Baseline Metrics
  2. Engage Your People in the Process of Improvement
  3. Connect Your Data to Your People in Real-Time

By properly implementing these steps, manufacturers can typically expect to see anywhere from 45-79% increases in capacity and/or productivity. With such a significant opportunity for ROI, Paul strongly encourages manufacturers to not only leverage new and emerging technologies on the shop floor, but to engage with their operators – making them part of the continuous improvement process.

Throughout his article, Paul stresses the importance of the order in which these steps are performed – likening the approach to horse-racing wagers:

“If you had the knowledge of which horses to bet on and which order to bet on them, would you?”

Manufacturers can do more to ensure their success by taking a systematic approach to industry 4.0 and digitization in their shop. By focusing on just one of the three points Paul discusses in his article, manufacturers may limit the success of their digitization efforts. But by properly combining people and technology, manufacturers will be much better positioned to take full advantage of their industry 4.0 technologies.

Don’t struggle to get the most out of your IIoT solution. Make sure you are leveraging both your people and your technology in order to ensure the highest levels of success in your organization.

Learn more about how you can hit the manufacturing trifecta by reading Paul’s full article here.

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

Blueberries, Blockchains & Manufacturing Blockchain Made Simple: Part 1

Intel, the Silicon Valley-based computer chip maker, has been working with Oregon blueberry farmers and fruit processers this year in an effort to refine its supply chain for cold chain uses. And when we say “cold chain,” we are talking about the low-temperature range variety and the series of actions and equipment applied to maintain products throughout a cold temperature-controlled supply chain.

Blueberries require a lot of care to maintain their quality

Blueberries are highly sensitive food products that demand the utmost care, and a blueberry supply chain is a high stakes business. One snag, one malfunction or one technical failure, can mean catastrophic losses.

“It’s easy for people to think of a produce truck as not really high value, but the value of a blueberry truck could be over $100,000,” Aaron Ensign, president of fruit distributor Curry & Co., told a ZDNet reporter. “So it’s a significant investment. And ensuring that you’re optimizing that value and that you’re protecting that value throughout the supply chain, is really critical.”

ZDNet reports that the cold chain market is expected to be worth $447.50 billion by 2025. Intel is no company to sit on the sidelines and watch the Internet of Things (IoT) pass it by. The chip maker is investing in things like sensors that can be deployed as far away as a blueberry patch in Brooks, Oregon or a shipping vessel on its way from Oregon to Indonesia, as well as blockchain platforms for building distributed ledger networks.

From its various distribution centers, Curry & Co. exports produce to about a dozen countries around the world, 52 weeks out of the year. The berries can be in shipment for weeks at a time. If their climate-controlled environment is compromised, no one may realize it until the shipment arrives at its destination, spoiled.

By contrast, Ensign said, “let’s say that we’re shipping a load of blueberries to Dallas. If we see in real-time that there’s been a disruption in temperature, we can then react to the situation. We can say, ‘Let’s put another load on the highway, and let’s divert that shipment to someone who’s going to process and perhaps freeze it, or make juice or something else.'”

It’s blockchain technologies that help to maintain accountability. If, for instance, a customer lets its shipment of berries sit out in hot temperatures for hours after its arrival, Curry & Co. can be sure it’s not at fault for the berries’ quality.

Quality assurance isn’t just an issue for individual farms or distribution companies, but for the state as a whole. Agriculture is a major part of the economy in Oregon, and the state produces more than 100 million pounds of blueberries a year.

“American farming is about trust, honor, and integrity,” Ensign said. “Any time we can incorporate technology” to build that trust, he said, “that’s huge.”

Blockchain Defined

Most people have heard of BITCOIN but many have not heard of the platform infrastructure on which the currency is built – “blockchains”.

from https://learn.g2.com/what-is-blockchain

Simply put, a blockchain is a public digital ledger or public record of online events which can be used to store and record transactions. As records along the chain are stored and distributed across all the different parties or nodes in the network, it is extremely difficult to falsify records, making the blockchain a more secure and transparent way to record transactions and service records. It can only be updated by consensus from a majority of the users in the system. Additionally, once entered, the history is permanent and can never be deleted, ever.…a blockchain is a highly-distributed, leaderless, jurisdictionless, identityless, nearly anonymous, decentralized architecture for managing ownership.

As a result, the blockchain possesses applications outside of cryptocurrency exchanges. Think manufacturing and supply chains. More on this later.

Andreesen on Blockchain

Marc Andreessen

Marc Andreesen, one of Silicon Valley’s most influential venture capital investors and Web browser pioneer thinks the blockchain is the most important invention since the internet itself.

“So the really new disruptive technologies come from the fringe,” Andreesen told the Washington Post. “No big technology company thought the Internet was going to be important, right up until basically 1995 or 1996.”

“Bitcoin is a classic instance of that. Bitcoin didn’t come from Citibank; it didn’t come from the Federal Reserve; it didn’t come from Visa. It came from the fringe.”

Andreesen sums up blockchain as “distributed trust.”

WP (Washington Post): So the business opportunity posed by this “distributed trust network” — as an investor, what do you see that you could potentially —

Andreesen: Hundreds of thousands of applications and companies that could get built on top.

WP: Is this, like, a billions-of-dollars kind of industry?

Andreesen: Yeah.

WP: Trillions…?

Andreesen: Yeah!

Digital stocks. Digital equities. Digital fundraising for companies. Digital bonds. Digital contracts, digital keys, digital title, who owns what — digital title to your house, to your car… it’s all digital, and it’s all unique, and it can’t be cracked. You’ve got digital voting, digital contracts, digital signatures. You’ve got unique pieces of digital content. If you guys wanted to know exactly who had every piece of content you ever made, you can track that. It’s this long list. And then every aspect of financial services: insurance contracts, insurance derivatives, currency exchange, remittance — on and on and on. It gives you a chance to basically go after this very broad category of online business in a new way. And, by the way, if we had had this technology 20 years ago, we would’ve built it into the browser.

E-commerce would’ve gotten built on top of this, instead of getting built on top of the credit card network. We knew we were missing this; we just didn’t know what it was. There is no reason on earth for anybody to be on the Internet today to be typing in a credit card number to buy something. It’s insane, because — which is why you have all these security problems…. And these high fees, this high fraud rate. It doesn’t make sense online to have a payment mechanism that requires you to hand over your credentials to make a payment. That’s just an invitation to fraud and identity theft. It’s just stupid.

Distributed Trust

Andreesen: I have a lot of friends who are programmers. The programmers have always gone like, ‘Those [Bitcoin] guys are crazy.”

And then, almost 100 percent of the time, they sit down, read the paper, read the code — it takes them a couple of weeks — and they come out the other side. And they’re like: “Oh my god, this is it. This is the big breakthrough. This is the thing we’ve been waiting for. He solved all the problems. Whoever he is should get the Nobel prize — he’s a genius. This is the thing! This is the distributed trust network that the Internet always needed and never had.”

Blockchain and Manufacturing

So does blockchain integrate with manufacturing?

“Increasing visibility across every area of manufacturing starting with suppliers, strategic sourcing, procurement, and supplier quality to shop floor operations… blockchain can enable entirely new manufacturing business models.”

According to Forbes contributing writer Louis Columbus, blockchain very much fits into the manufacturing world in the near future.

“Blockchain’s greatest potential to deliver business value is in manufacturing. Increasing visibility across every area of manufacturing starting with suppliers, strategic sourcing, procurement, and supplier quality to shop floor operations including machine-level monitoring and service, blockchain can enable entirely new manufacturing business models. Supply chains are the foundation of every manufacturing business, capable of making use of blockchain’s distributed ledger structure and block-based approach to aggregating value-exchange transactions to improve supply chain efficiency first. By improving supplier order accuracy, product quality, and track-and-traceability, manufacturers will be able to meet delivery dates, improve product quality and sell more.”

  • The business value-add of blockchain will grow to slightly more than $176B by 2025, then exceed $3.1T by 2030 according to Gartner.
  • Typical product recalls cost $8M, and many could be averted with improved track-and-traceability enabled by blockchain.
  • Combining blockchain and IoT will revolutionize product safety, track-and-traceability, warranty management, Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul (MRO), and lead to new usage-based business models for smart, connected products.
  • By 2023, 30% of manufacturing companies with more than $5B in revenue will have implemented Industry 4.0 pilot projects using blockchain, up from less than 5% today according to Gartner.
  • 24% of industrial manufacturing CEOs are planning, piloting or implementing blockchain technology according to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • 62% of PwC survey respondents have a blockchain project underway

________

In part 2 of this series on blockchain coming up next, we take a deeper dive into blockchain benefits and ROI.

How FreePoint Ensures IIoT Data Security

According to Million Insights, by 2025 the Industrial Internet of Things market will be valued at $933.62 billion. As we continue to unify our cyber and physical systems, vulnerabilities emerge that didn’t exist before the Industry 4.0 revolution.

The Importance of IIoT Security

Security blue finger print scan FreePoint TechnologiesIIoT, or, the Industrial Internet of Things creates networks of connected industrial devices that collect, record and assess data to provide manufacturers with better insight into their production processes. As these devices interface with your machinery, IIoT security ensures that your hardware and software remain secure and protected from malicious intent.

According to IndustryWeek.com:

“if the devices that are connected become compromised and the threat has access to that communication link, a hacker can then push malicious data, cause denial of service (DoS), or introduce viruses to the entire network.”

Before industry 4.0, machinery operated separately and isolated from one another. Taking preventative measures will ensure external entities can’t access your data or impact your machine’s functionality.

How FreePoint Enforces Machine & Data Security

As with any IoT network, sensors and applications must remain protected from operational technology (OT). Without protection, compromised devices can serve as doorways to siphon data, insert foreign code and even halt production.

At FreePoint, we have developed an approach to ensure that the security and integrity of our client’s machines and data is protected. Primarily, we accomplish this by maintaining an “air-gap”. An “air-gap” can be defined as “a security measure that ensures total isolation of a given system from other networks, especially those that aren’t secure”.

As stated by our Vice President during a recent interview with CIO Applications: “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 route for cyber-attacks on the machinery”. Because there is no physical connection between our solutions and the manufacturer’s machines, we can improve security while significantly reducing the possibility of cyber-attacks.

Contact us today if you are interested in learning more about how you can maintain a secure IIoT network. One of our reps would be happy to speak with you!

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Manufacturing Machine Maintenance the Smart Way

Question: What is “the world’s most common and safest mode of transportation?”

Wait for it…

elevator maintenance freepoint technologies

Elevators have long been the most common and safest form of transportation.

Answer: Elevators. Those ubiquitous mobile cubicles found in office buildings all over the planet. Elevators are big business, and the manufacturing and servicing these machines is no easy venture. German-based Thyssen Krupp, one of the world’s leading elevator companies, has turned to a disruptive approach to machine maintenance to keep the trains—i.e. elevators–running on time.

As Thyssen Krupp tells it, “Worldwide, more than 12 million elevators make seven billion trips and move over one billion people every day. Yet every year, maintenance needs render elevators unavailable for a total of 190 million hours.”

The deck is stacked against efficiently maintaining that kind of fleet; or at least it used to be.

With the advent of IoT (Internet of Things) machine sensor technology, machine learning, and cloud-based asset maintenance software, digital prescriptive maintenance can be conducted as easily as the touch of a button.

Thyssen Krupp employs predictive machine maintenance to dramatically increase elevator availability by reducing out-of-service situations through real-time diagnostics. They are able to predict maintenance issues before they occur, and alert elevator engineers by flagging the need to replace components and systems before the end of their lifecycle.

Thyssen Krupp believes that the growing requirement of high-speed and energy-efficient elevators in hotels, hospitals, parking buildings, commercial, residential, and industrial sector will be boosting demand for IoT in elevators market.

Other manufacturers are taking to predictive maintenance to manage the machines running their factory floors and the machines their customers rely on. Sensing end-user demand, manufacturers are focusing on the development of smart products with interactive touch screen panels, intuitive technology, and cloud-predictive maintenance. Customers are looking for manufactured products that are highly efficient, effective, and engaging. The demand is going up for smart products.

machine maintenance freepoint technologies

Historically, manufacturers have practiced preventative maintenance.

First, it’s important to distinguish between predictive and preventative maintenance. Preventative maintenance, a.k.a reactive maintenance, breakdown maintenance or run-to-failure, is a maintenance practice that seeks to decrease the likelihood of a machine’s failure through the performance of regular maintenance. However, predictive maintenance relies on data to determine a machine’s likelihood of failure before that failure occurs. This allows manufacturers to move from a repair and replace model to a predict and fix maintenance model using predictive analysis.

The good news is, machine monitoring costs less than you think (see our June blog). 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. Machine monitoring solutions can help manufacturers save on production costs, helping pay off the system in days rather than months and years. Once switched on, machine monitoring solutions instantly start paying themselves off. Learn more.

The Rewards

The main objectives or rewards for manufacturers to move to a predictive maintenance model are about improving production efficiency and improving maintenance efficiency. The cost savings can be enormous.

A recent McKinsey Global Institute report as one of the most valuable applications of the Internet of Things (IoT) on the factory floor. The report, The Internet of Things: Mapping the Value Beyond the Hype, calculated that predictive maintenance manufacturers’ savings would total $240 to $630 billion in 2025.

Predictive maintenance in factories could reduce maintenance cost by 10 to 40 percent by fostering better maintenance, according to McKinsey. It also reduces downtime by 50 percent and lowers equipment and capital investment by 3 to 5 percent by extending machine life.

A report by Deloitte University Press, Industry 4.0 and manufacturing ecosystems provides examples in which, for companies like Schneider Electric and Caterpillar, predictive maintenance and understanding root cause of failures can offer millions of dollars in potential savings along with far fewer days of equipment downtime.

The McKinsey study calculated that predictive maintenance manufacturers’ savings would total $240 to $630 billion in 2025. Predictive maintenance in factories could reduce maintenance cost by 10 to 40 percent by fostering better maintenance, according to McKinsey.

GE Transportation is moving toward self-aware locomotives and digitalization of the entire rail operation system. Sensors mounted on railcars enable operators to receive real-time notifications about the condition of key railcar components, as well as broader risk events related to broken wheels, hot bearings, and handbrake application. Using predictive maintenance, GE Transportation is applying the technology to help extend the life of locomotives, reduce fuel consumption, decrease emissions, boost velocity and improve operations.

locomotive freepoint technologies

Locomotive technology has come a long way since the invention of the steam engine.

And we come full circle…

Thyssen Krupp competitor, Otis Elevators, “the world’s largest manufacturer and maintainer of people-moving products”–elevators, escalators and moving walkways—is using smart sensor technology in its “Otis ONE” digital platform that monitors and gathers data from more than 300,000 connected units to create predictive insights and a more proactive service solution for their customers. This allows Otis teams to stay ahead of potential issues – keeping equipment running and passengers moving safely and reliably. In the event when service is required, OTISLINE customer care can proactively contact the customer and service professionals to arrive on site with the information and parts needed to enable a faster return to service.

Predictive maintenance in manufacturing is becoming the norm, not the exception

Autonomous operations in manufacturing may be futuristic in the eyes of some but your business can start moving towards operational intelligence. For example, ask yourself, how do factory analytics impact your business and what software will work with your current manufacturing execution system (MES) to give you the data that is critical to your business. Do you have intelligent software solutions in place to help manage your maintenance and service operations to make them more efficient?

For more on how technology can help you improve your own maintenance needs and open services-based offerings for your customers while enabling cost savings and productivity gains throughout your organization, get in touch with us.

FreePoint Founder Redefines Success in Manufacturing Automation Magazine

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

Paul Hogendoorn – FreePoint Founder

Earlier last week, FreePoint Founder and Chair, Paul Hogendoorn was featured in Manufacturing Automation Magazine for his article titled “Redefining Success in Manufacturing”. Throughout his article, Paul explains the importance for manufacturers to not only measure their success, but to properly define what it means for them, and what it looks like in their shop.

Depending on who you ask in a manufacturing environment, success could look like a lot of things. Is it profitability and growth, or stability and job security? The challenge with having one catch-all definition is that success looks different depending on your manufacturing environment.

Many manufacturers like to use OEE as their metric for and definition of success, but as Paul outlines in his article, that may not always be the best indicator, as OEE does not easily apply to operations where each job is different. Instead, for some shops, machine utilization and average set up times may be far better metrics to use.

Despite our tendencies to aim for objectives others suggest as valuable, we must first define success in a way that is relevant to everyone on the plant floor. At the end of the day, it all has to do with what factors directly lead to success in your shop, and how those factors can be made quantifiable.

Don’t struggle to get the most out of your IIoT solution. Make sure you are collecting the right metrics to determine your success so that you can focus on the most important factors of your production process.

Get all the expert insights by reading the full article here.

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

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.

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FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

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

 

New API Enables Enhanced Integration Capabilities

FreePoint Technologies now has an API that enables outside resources to connect with the ShiftWorx platform. FreePoint’s application programming interface enables you to access services outside of our user-interface. For example, within your ERP system, you can:

  • Get processed data for your machines and inputs as well as generate personalized:
    • KPI’s
    • Bars indicating machine activity
    • Metrics for your organization
  • Get distinct On and Off states for your FreePoint connections.
    (Identify which machines are running and not running)
  • Get information about your corporate structure
    • Parent company / Child company / Machine / Inputs for each FreePoint remote

FreePoint Technologies API

FreePoint’s API exists to support your internal development and applications without a front-end. In addition, it enables you to connect with your data while you build-out your own solution.

Please contact us to learn more about our API capability.