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 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.

 

How To Prevent Downtime and Keep Your Machines Running

Downtime can cost your business thousands of dollars an hour, so it’s essential that you employ preventative measures that ensure that you make the most of valuable production time. While there’s a distinct need to maximize output from our machines, there’s equal value in ensuring that your production schedule isn’t pushing your plant too hard, and you are doing your best to prevent downtime.

There are many ways of securing a perfect symbiosis between efficient production, machine maintenance, and planned outages. While it may seem counter-intuitive to plan outage time to increase productivity, well-scheduled and planned maintenance pays dividends to the yield of your factory floor.

A highly trained work-force is the essential, direct link between worker and machine, but many problems can occur in the mechanical workings of your machinery that are easily missed.

Machine monitoring systems provide an efficient way for us to understand what is going on underneath the hood so that we can minimize unplanned machinery outage on the factory floor.

Machine monitoring can identify a problem before (or as) it happens, helping to avoid expensive damage, putting the machine out of action for an extended period.

Incorporating maintenance management practice is the best way to minimize and prevent downtime. Here are some tips on how to embed them into your factory floor:

Predictive Management

The Right-On Time strategy (as explored in our article “5 Lean Manufacturing Techniques and Benefits”) is all about pushing your machinery only when required.

Use your task-force’s skill-sets in combination with performance data derived from machine monitoring systems, maintenance history, and work projection schedules, to make informed and timely decisions regarding the most efficient times to maintain equipment.

Of course, it doesn’t mean closing down production of the entire factory all at once – it’s about identifying when the natural downtime occurs, and making it time-effective.

Identify trends from your machine monitoring data to recognize problems before they occur. Look for patterns – perhaps a specific electrical cable requires replacing every couple of weeks. If you know it’s going to fail, pre-empt its replacement, rather than letting it fail and slowing down your processes.

The critical concepts of predictive management require collating information from all available sources to recognize patterns in equipment depreciation. Understanding your data can help to determine appropriate corrective actions, at opportune times for your business. Use that data to help identify root causes of persistent problems.

Employees working to prevent downtime freepoint technologies

Being proactive rather than reactive puts you in a stronger position.

Preventative maintenance

Incorporating maintenance tasks into everyday schedules is an excellent way of avoiding unplanned downtime. Basic tasks such as cleaning, routine adjustments, and lubrication can become a part of a well-trained workers’ daily ritual.

Machine monitoring can help you record machine run-hours. Use this data, in combination with expected lifespan projections from manufacturers, to recognize when parts are likely to break down, such as bearings, shafts, sensors, gears, pipes or electrical cables.

Good training practices

A highly skilled workforce who are empowered to make decisions is a valuable practice resource in the effort to reduce and prevent downtime. If your people are well-trained, they’ll be able to recognize potential errors in operation, but most importantly, a well-trained staff-base will use your equipment correctly. Misuse is one of the most likely causes of downtime on the factory floor, so a trained workforce is an effective, safer one.

Employee trying to prevent downtime freepoint technologies

Recognizing common red flags is the difference between a quick maintenance task and a lengthy outage crisis.

Lubricate

Machines with moving parts require regular lubrication. High-quality oils may have a higher upfront price tag, but are more likely to benefit your plant in the long-run.

Clean

A scheduled and documented cleaning and maintenance program will help minimize wear and tear on machines, and extend the life-span of your equipment. Machine monitoring systems can help to recognize problems before they occur – so can simple scheduling.

Machine monitoring, in combination with effective cleaning and maintenance practice, is the best way to reduce costly downtime on the factory floor.

Remember, that being proactive is much better than reacting to a problem once it’s happened. If you have a big job that’s going to require constant work-hours, making sure that your machinery is in tip-top condition will boost productivity time.

 

 

The Effects of Big Data & Being a Data Driven Company

You could say that the business world, from the perspective of those who run it, is about facts and figures, or in other words, big data. Perhaps more specifically, efficient businesses gather information from many sources to provide an overview of process and manufacturer health.

When you collate data from your customers, from your staff, from your machinery, from your supervisors etc.— all to gather a lucid perspective of how things are – you gather lots of information. Also, your data might be more than text documentation – it could also include video and audio.

Welcome to big data.

 According to Watford Technologies 2.7 Zetabytes of data exist in the digital universe today.

Huge data sets are useless unless there’s a way of analyzing it for trends, patterns and associations – most importantly, in relation to human interactions and behaviors that affect your business efficacy for the positive and for the negative.

Storing all of this information is one problem, but making sense of it requires a dedicated solution.

The Future of Big Data

The fact of the matter is that the data mass is growing exponentially. The volume, variety, and velocity of data stored globally is literally inconceivable.

Big Data FreePoint Technologies

In 2008, Google was processing 20,000 terabytes of data (20 petabytes) a day.

This seemingly insurmountable problem, however, offers up a wealth of opportunity. If logically organized, analyzed and managed, big data provides invaluable insight into our customers and our business operations. The bottom line is that it’s not how much data you collate – it’s about what you do with it.

With the savvy application of your data, you can identify where cost savings are possible and how you can organize your employee resource more effectively. You can even identify which data sources are the most valuable and relevant to your practice.

Data collated can be used to help develop new products, optimize your existing ones and help you make business-critical decisions that are right for your business need and based on real-time revelation.

What is a Data-Driven Company?

A data-driven company doesn’t just collate data – they refine it into actionable insights that drive business-critical decisions. A CEO may make a decision based on gut instinct and that, of course, is a valuable resource if the decision turns out to be correct. In the past, they may have made decisions and looked for evidence to support it afterward – that’s a risky strategy.

Facebook big data applications freepoint technologies

Facebook stores, accesses and analyzes 30+ Petabytes of user-generated information.

Data analytic engines can help reinforce that gut-instinct with immediate access to the facts so that decisions can be fortified by evidence before changes are implemented.

A data-driven company makes summative information available to everyone who makes value-added decisions – not by inundating with confusing and potentially contradictory information; or by providing canned reports that are out-of-date as soon as they’ve slipped out of the printer – but by providing access to analytics that are relevant now; monitoring the pulse of the business and nursing it back to health.

How Machine Monitoring Can Help

Machine monitoring is just more data, of course. However, FreePoint Technologies don’t just create the data – they offer solutions that make sense of it, in a meaningful way that helps organizations improve productivity and employee engagement.

Industry 4.0 (or the “smart factory”) is all about machine-to-machine communication, producing data that provides fact-based real-time clarity of your bottom line, whilst allowing employees to measure their own activity.

In 2015, there were about 15.4 billion connected devices

Our Shiftworx service translates actionable information from the data that our machine monitoring hardware provides. It shares it with the people that can make a difference, right there and then. It allows you to store and organize your data, making it easily accessible via real-time reports that can even be used to create your own apps; engaging your people by sharing meaningful and actionable real-time information about the things that affect them.

If information means something  – we can help you make it do something.

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

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

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

What Is Gamification?

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

Examples of Gamification in the Workplace

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

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

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

Benefits of Gamification

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

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

What Makes FreePoint Technologies Unique?

Just like any other product or service, there are multiple companies that provide machine monitoring solutions which provide a way for manufacturers to track machine outputs. However, just like with any other product or service, not all solutions are created equal. FreePoint Technologies has been able to consistently beat out competitors by providing technology that can connect to any machine, deploy in a single day, and costs less.

In this blog, we are taking the opportunity to highlight the areas that make FreePoint Technologies unique and why we are continually being selected as manufacturers’ preferred machine monitoring solution.metal case freepoint solutions getfreepoint.com phillips screw heads mounting holes grey and white gradient background i/o freepoint technologies

1. The Ability to Connect to Any Machine

Our patent-pending technology allows us to connect simply and non-invasively with all machines, regardless of brand, type, complexity or age. Along with the 1914 Vertical mill we have connected to the internet, here is a sample of several of the machines we’ve connected so far:

  • CNC Routers
  • Sands
  • Grinders
  • Clampers
  • Lathes
  • Mills
  • Saws

The simple notion of connecting to any machine gives us a huge advantage over competitors that are limited to only being able to connect to new/specific machines. What does this mean for our customers? They don’t have to wait to purchase the newest machinery in order to start monitoring and improving their machining processes.

2. On-Premise or Cloud Stored Data

storage in the cloud freepoint technologiesWhen it comes to storing the data collected from the various machines, we give our clients two options; storing the data locally on their premise or storing it in the cloud. While both ways have different advantages, we make sure you are able to store and view the data the way you prefer.

Users can then access the information from various devices including their phones, tablets and computers. This makes it extremely easy to access your machines’ output information wherever you are.

3. Deploys in One Day

FreePoint Technologies is the only machine monitoring software that can be deployed in a single day. Installation of ShiftWorx takes around 3 hours per machine and immediately after it is installed, it starts collecting data. This provides tremendous value to our clients as the sooner they have key information from their machines, the sooner they can make better decisions based on that data.

4. Advanced Reporting

The reporting available from our machine monitoring software is simple to read, yet contains all the key information a machine operator would require. It features various reports on OEE, part count, downtime, job reports & more. All the information can be seen in real-time so operators and managers can quickly identify any issues that may arise.

5. Dedicated Team of Developers & Support 

Customer Support FreePoint TechnologiesWe have a team of 10 developers that continually work on creating new features for our software that better service our customers. We constantly take the feedback given from our clients and integrate their ideas into our updates. Our large development team also means that should support be required, we have the resources and manpower to fix the issue in an extremely timely manner.

6. 90-Day Trial Period

If all of the previously mentioned features didn’t convince you to use our machine monitoring software, our 90 day trial period should do the trick. For all new clients, we offer a risk-free trial period to try our software. If you are not satisfied with the outcome, we will refund your investment. As a testimony to our machine monitoring solution and the service we provide, as of this date, we have not issued a single refund.

To learn more about FreePoint Technologies or to schedule a call, email info@getfreepoint.com.

How to Know if you are Ready to Implement Machine Monitoring

The simple and straight answer is that, if you are a manufacturer and haven’t yet implemented machine monitoring, then you are ready. Machine monitoring offers a wide range of benefits including increased efficiency, engaged employees and an improved bottom-line. Machine monitoring solutions, such as FreePoint Technologies, can be set-up and running the very same day. However, if you aren’t convinced, and are looking for a few more reasons to implement machine monitoring, here are 3 signs you are ready to make the transition:

Machine Operators Aren’t Engaged 

A clear sign that something needs to change at your manufacturing facility is that your employees do not appear to be engaged in their work. When a machine operator is not engaged several things can result, such as loss of job enjoyment, more frequent sick days and less drive/commitment. Productivity can take a negative downturn as the employee simply stops delivering at a high or efficient rate.

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

A Machine Operator Engaged With His Task

At FreePoint, we believe in the importance of empowering and engaging employees with modern technology. Manufacturing processes need to be re-humanized and provide an environment for workers to play a larger role in identifying productivity improvements using factual, real-time process information. Machine monitoring enables that. When our customers share their machine data with their employees, the machinists begin to feel engaged and have a sense of accountability. When management invests in a machine monitoring system, it demonstrates to their employees that they are committed to increasing productivity and continuous improvement.

Lack of Information

Not having enough information on the performance of your operators and machines when making important decisions such as hiring new employees, purchasing new machines or quoting your next job can have a negative impact on the outcome.

With machine monitoring installed, you now have access to real-time and historical data of your machine’s performance. The monitoring system can measure data such as downtime, uptime, part count, OEE and more. This information gives you the ability to make better, more informed decisions with confidence.

Downtime is Consuming too Many Resources

Every manufacturing plant strives to run its operations as lean and efficiently as possible, and one of the largest obstacles that stand in the way is machine downtime. Downtime consumes valuable resources that could have been used for productivity.

With machine monitoring, the data collected can tell you when a machine is down and what type of fault may have caused the issue. Email and text alerts can also be set up to send alerts to supervisors. Knowing this valuable information can help to shed light on what is causing the issue and help to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Are you experiencing any or all of the above challenges in your facility? If so, you may be ready to implement machine monitoring. Get in touch with us today to learn how we can help engage your employees, provide you with meaningful data and limit the downtown of your machines.  

Image Processing Now Available

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

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

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

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

Product Specifications

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

FreePoint Xi Image Processing Module

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

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

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

Hacker Studios Presentation

Digital Manufacturing: The Future of the Factory is Now

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

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

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

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

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

How Will IoT Help?

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

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

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

Digital Manufacturing IoT Icons FreePoint Technologies

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

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

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

Get in touch with us today to learn more.