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.

Smart Manufacturing: What You Need To Know

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

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

  1. Design
  2. Deployment
  3. Management

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

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

smart manufacturing graphic freepoint technologies

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

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

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

Phase 1:

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

Phase 2:

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

Phase 3:

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

How Smart Manufacturing Links to Other Automation Technologies Like IoT

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

Examples of Smart Manufacturing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BDC Study: Industry 4.0 – The New Industrial Revolution

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

The BDC report on Industry 4.0 includes:

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

Click here to view:

Fact Sheet

Complete Study 

Industry 4.0 – The Modern Industrial Revolution

The world underwent a massive technological change with the discovery of solid state technology. The 1960s & ’70s saw a major technological upheave, which later on came to be known as the 3rd Industrial Revolution. Through the application of electronics and use of computer technology, conventional assembly lines were given the first stint of automation.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and the world had transformed into a global village, with all the credit going to one entity, i.e. Internet. This very entity is the majority contributor & motivator behind the modern industrial revolution, Industry 4.0.

Industry 4.0 involves a series of groundbreaking innovations in production and leaps the industrial processes towards higher productivity. It shifts the handling of all production processes to a chain of autonomous devices, interlinked with each other along the entire value chain.

Here’s a better way to look at it. Imagine a model of a “smart factory”, where all physical processes from maintaining heat to checking assembly lines are monitored by an array of sensors. These sensors, in turn, are connected to computer units that monitor & control their output based on the sensory inputs. Furthermore, the bulk of all this data is fed into a business-centric computer system that receives inputs regarding customers’ requirement & market conditions.

Finally, a decision is taken by the Control System to scale up/down manufacturing based on real-world parameters in real-time.

The major features of Industry 4.0 can be summed up as:

  • Interoperability: Cyber-physical systems allow the use of multi-platform hardware/software.
  • Virtualization: Control programs are able to simulate manufacturers’ requirements based on real-world data.
  • Decentralization: Ability of control systems to work independently.
  • Real-time capability: Removes the uncertainty factors within the supply-chain.
  • Modularity: Industry 4.0 flexibility allows for quick customization & upgrades.

Industry 4.0 isn’t waiting to be implemented, rather it has already started gaining acceptance in several industries. The following companies have already changed their course to suit the canons of Industry 4.0:

  • Bosch Rexroth, a German Engineering Firm that develops mobile applications, machinery applications and factory automation services
  • Siemens, a well-known name in the world of industrial automation, Siemens has begun to integrate its solutions in a more streamlined manner in line with Industry 4.0
  • SAP, an Enterprise Software company that has started a collaboration with various clients on producing implementable Industry 4.0 models


Industry 4.0 hard at work at SIEMENS 

Other companies like Wittenstein, General Electric, Festo, Rockwell Automation, etc. are also in line and are gradually leading the Industrial Revolution.

But how does implementing Industry 4.0 and its associated concepts affect you and your plant?


In addition to monitoring your machines & equipment, Industry 4.0 solutions will safely control these systems and intelligently predict upcoming faults based on the measurements taken. The deep interconnectivity of each unit will ensure that its tracking & assignment is carried out automatically, irrespective of the complex user requirements.

Greater Productivity

Industry 4.0 will greatly increase the productivity of any manufacturing division. Through meticulous use of resources, control systems would be able to perform a wide variety of tasks in the most efficient manner possible. Not only will wastage of raw materials and energy be curtailed, but the productivity will increase as well as each product will have precision & refinement.

Shorten Time to Market

No matter how efficiently or accurately a product is made, it’s worthless without considering the actual market requirements. An Industry 4.0 solution would encompass the entire lifecycle, from production to consumption, so that manufacturers get real-time requirements regarding the market.

Increased Flexibility

Products can be manufactured based on user requirements, and not on a single design, all the while maintaining the economic efficiency of the plant. Minimum manual interaction would result in maximum plant efficiency, resulting in greater profits, a diverse market share, and tougher competition.

While “Industry 4.0 – The Next Industrial Revolution”, may seem like a thing of the future for most companies, manufacturers (big or small) don’t have to wait for implementation of new equipment to start seeing positive results. At FreePoint Technologies, our simple and noninvasive machine monitoring software connects with each of your current machines; regardless of brand, type, complexity or age. Going beyond the machine, we also focus on engaging and empowering your employees, equipping them with real-time data to see tangible progress, and allowing them to make informed decisions.

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Receive a Grant up to $100,000 for Installing Machine Monitoring

A partnership between the Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association (APMA) and the Ontario Centre of Excellence (OCE) created the Automotive Supplier Competitiveness Improvement Program (ASCIP) program to fuel productivity enhancements among automotive suppliers in Ontario. This pilot program provides grant funding towards installing machine monitoring equipment and software to make the applicant more productive, innovative, or competitive.

Manufacturers who receive the grant are eligible to put the money towards FreePoint’s Machine Monitoring Software.

Funding Snapshot: ASCIP Technology Adoption Stream


  • Up to 50% funding coverage up to $100,000 in grant funding for a $200,000 project.
  • Reimbursement is based on completing project milestones and submitting proof of expenses.

Eligible Applicants:

  • Ontario automotive supplier (at least 50% of total revenues must be generated from the auto sector).
    SME ( Only one application per company.

Eligible Projects:

  • Projects must increase suppliers’ capabilities to deliver shorter design cycle times, be more productive and more responsive to changes, and take advantage of new business opportunities.
  • Projects are assessed on their ability to improve product lifecycle management through IT and/or productivity enhancements to manage the entire lifecycle of a product efficiently and cost-effectively.
  • Projects cannot start before being approved for funding and cannot exceed 2 years.

Eligible Expenses:

  • Labour – Capped at 25% of the project budget.
  • Contractors – Two alternative quotes will need to be submitted with the application. Consulting costs are capped at 25% of the project budget.
  • Software (ex. Machine Monitoring)
  • Implementation costs
  • Equipment – May be eligible if it directly relates to a software implementation and leverages benefits of that software.


Intakes for 2017 applications close on November 7 at 2:00pm (Application review meeting: December 11, 2017).

Key Information:

Find out more information on the Automotive Supplier Competitiveness Improvement Program

Is your business eligible for the Automotive Supplier Competitiveness Improvement Program?

Grant Deadlines

Next Steps:

For more information on how to take advantage of these savings by installing machine monitoring with FreePoint Technologies, get in touch with Paul Hogendoorn at

Information sourced from Mentor Works. 

What is IoT & What Role Does it Play in Manufacturing

Scientific innovation continually finds a home within manufacturing. From the very invention of the machine, to the introduction of 3D printing, manufacturing has taken on-board new ways of doing things that increase productivity, improve efficiencies, and increase employee engagement.

Manufacturing’s adoption of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is, therefore, a natural progression; set to transform the way we monitor, exchange, collect, and analyze – providing fresh insight into the production process that was previously utterly impossible.

What is IoT?

There was a time when the internet was an unknown quantity. Nobody thought it would catch-on; and very few of us expected it to deliver a revolution in the way that we shop, socialize, and meet each other.

But the internet has become so integrated into our lives that we often cease to recognize the technological magic that drives it.

Breaking it down to its most simplistic form, the internet is a network of computers. Those computers share data, translated into information that bespoke applications use to provide services for us. The Internet of Things embraces that communication protocol to spring functionality away from cyberspace and into the real world.

The Internet of Things (IoT) embraces the ability for machines to intercommunicate; applying that machine-to-machine (M2M) protocol to everyday objects, such as light bulbs, heating systems, refrigerators, and smart TVs.

A smart fridge, for example, can recognize that you’re running low on milk. It can connect to your local supermarket via their online shop and order more milk; entirely independently of you. That milk gets delivered. You never run out of milk. The Internet of Things.

You could be on your way home, and you want to arrive to a warm house. You use your smartphone to connect to your heating system, and you switch it on remotely. The Internet of Things.

The IIoT is an extension of that concept. Machines communicating independently of human interaction.

How Does it Apply to Manufacturing?

To create a product we might have hundreds of processes. Some of those processes are completed by hand, but many of those operations are executed by machine. Most machines require some human interaction, even if it’s just to monitor consistency of output.

Through those hundreds of processes, you create a product. That product goes through a checking system, a packing department, and is finally shipped off to suppliers. The end-to-end process is a symbiotic system of dependent operations.

The Problem With Processes

But the problem with processes, however, is that they’re disparate. Each operation is an individual cog in a much larger engine, and so simultaneously overseeing all of those processes is literally impossible.

Any system that incorporates lots of machines has the potential to collapse the entire function if a single cog in the wheel fails. And this accounts for missed deadlines, over-production, and the infamous seven wastes.

This is a little over-simplistic, surely?

Perhaps; but that’s the point. The IIoT is simply a way of networking our existing machinery together to gain an infinitely deeper understanding of efficiencies and potential failures; before they happen.


For 2020, the installed base of Internet of Things devices is forecast to grow to almost 31 billion worldwide. (Statista)

If your factory floor has eight principal machines, overseeing production means physically monitoring each device – all you can create is a disjointed picture of production. As soon as you’ve walked away from that machine, your up-to-date snapshot is history. It’s literally impossible to gain full oversight over procedures as they happen.

Machine Monitoring

Machine monitoring systems facilitate M2M communication and are compatible with legacy machinery, so you don’t require brand new, digital machinery to gain a universal, real-time oversight of your entire production operations.

Once installed, machine monitoring provides a central hub, monitoring the productivity of all machines and operations across the factory floor, providing a real-time portal into the health of the production lines.

FreePoint has over 1,000 machines and 80 plants connected serving 1 billion data rows

And, thanks to the IIoT, the portal to your machine monitoring hub is available over smart technologies, such as mobile phones and tablets. You could be on the other side of the planet and (providing you have access to the internet) you can see exactly what is happening on your factory floor, and interact with those processes for afar.

So, the IIoT is Just a Network of Machines?

Exactly. But that’s just the start.

By combining M2M communication protocols, big data analytics, cybersecurity, and universal portal products compatible with a variety of smart technologies, the IIoT provides unprecedented efficiencies, performance, and productivity.

The IIoT uses its own communication transfer protocol, known as Message Queueing Telemetry Transport (MQTT), favored for its lightning speed, lightweight publish/subscribe model, as well as its bidirectional capabilities, enabling almost instantaneous two-way communication between all machines made ready for MQTT.

Other Advantages

Incorporating GPS technologies, inventory can be tracked around the factory, providing a real-time image of your stock as it’s needed. Over-ordering of inventory items requires costly storage space, while under-ordering can slow down production. Having exact locational details of finished products in storage means more flexible use of space and easier access to those products when they’re ready to be shipped.

Predictive maintenance is a new protocol emerging from interconnected machine systems that allow managers to use the operational data produced by machine monitoring systems to predict the risk of failure assets, allowing them to reduce outage and maintenance costs.

The IIoT is here, and it can make colossal improvements in the way we work, increasing productivity, efficiency, and employee engagement in a way previously thought impossible.

Manufacturing A Smooth Digital Transformation

Sometimes you come across an article you just have to share.

Manufacturing a smooth digital transformation is one of those articles.

You can read it here. 

This is a great read for all of the manufacturing facilities going through massive changes with the arrival of new digital technology.

One of the sections in the article that particularly caught our eye is the point about empowering your people. The article reads,

“Empower your people – As more people start to align their work with their passions (and of course market demand), they will not need micro-management. They should be given the latitude to be curious, to experiment, to fail, and to thus learn both personally and on behalf of the organisation.”

Employee empowerment and engagement is something we at FreePoint strive to deliver through our machine monitoring technology.

Always nice to see other sharing similar values.


Top 3 Benefits of Machine Monitoring

In our previous blog post, “How Machine Monitoring Works”, we explored the 6 steps involved in connecting your machines, storing and displaying information, and using the data to increase productivity.

Today, we are going to continue with this theme and look at the top 3 benefits of machine monitoring.

Benefit #1 – Reduce Downtime

Every manufacturing plant wants to run their operations as lean and efficiently as possible and one of the biggest obstacles that stands in the way is downtime. Downtime consumes valuable resources that could have been used for productivity. When a FreePoint’s monitoring system is integrated with your machines, managers and supervisors are notified as soon as the machine goes down. They can than investigate the issue, find out what the problem is and prevent it from happening again.  

When speaking with Vic Kinesella, plant supervisor of AutoTube, he mentioned that before their company implemented FreePoint, they had no idea how long machines were down for. Now that they have machine monitoring implemented, Vic can respond quicker to the issue and find the root of the problem. This has saved Vic’s company thousands of dollars in reduced down time.

Benefit #2 – Empower employees

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 bigger 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 start to feel engaged and a have 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.


Benefit #3 – Make informed decisions

With the data you receive from your machines, it will help to make more informed decisions on a daily basis. Here are just a few items where the information will be used:

  • More accurate quoting for jobs
  • Better decision making on purchasing more machines
  • More informed decision making on hiring employees
  • Useful information that can be used for training employees

At FreePoint, we are dedicated to helping manufacturing companies improve their bottom line, engage their employees and bring modern technology to the plant floor. Through the power of the internet and our patent-pending technology, we are able to connect to any machine, giving you the tools you need to keep your manufacturing facility going strong. Reach out today to start experiencing the benefits of machine monitoring!

Read more: Learn The 6 Ways Machine Monitoring Saves You Money!

Email And Text Notification Utility can now be set by Shift

The ShiftWorx Notifications module now allows email and text alerts to be active only during select shifts.

To edit an Alarm or Alert condition to be active only on certain shifts, turn the Alarm to “Off” and then select the “Edit” function.

After selecting the “Edit” function, scroll to the bottom of the window and check the “Only notify me if in an active shift” box.

After clicking that box, you can then select which shifts you would like the Alarms and Alert notifications active for.

As a reminder, if you enter any information in the data box below, you will also receive a notification when the alarm condition has been cleared.

Don’t forget to review your changes, save them, and then turn the Alarm/Alert back to “On”.


FreePoint Helps A Customer Increase Their Productivity By 42%

The following case study demonstrates how FreePoint’s technologies were successfully used by their customer to help increase the productivity of a critical machine by 42%.

The customer is a leading international manufacturer and distributor of high quality die sets, components, steel plates, and metal fabrications used in the production of tools, dies, and molds. The following figures demonstrate the impact of FreePoint Technologies’ system.   

During FreePoint’s ShiftWorx training in November 2015 with the client, ShiftWorx tools were used to assess the impact of the company’s recent continuous improvement project with a critical vertical machining centre. In September 2015 the customer implemented a change in their process, and FreePoint decided to use that situation as a training example.

The first chart below shows the active machining time for the machine from October 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016. FreePoint used this period to establish a “baseline” from which to compare the future improvements against. The period was selected for the following reasons:

  • The machine was operated by the same operator for the same shift in a steady fashion for a long period of time
  • The period did not include the traditional vacation period (July and August)
  • Workload varied from week to week and month to month, but a 9 month period leveled out the peaks and valleys.
  • “Zero days” show up on the chart but are excluded from the average calculation.
  • The percentage are based on a 24 hour (or 1440 minute) “day”. They can easily be converted to a shift by multiplying the percentage by 1440 (total for a 24 hour day) and then dividing by the minutes in that shift. (For instance, 11.72% of a 480-minute shift would be 35%)

The chart below shows that on average, the machine operated 11.72% of a 24 hour day, or 169 minutes of “value adding” time on a single 8-hour shift, which equates to 34.2%.


For comparison purposes, the following chart shows the summer months – June 2015 and July 2015. There are 3 weeks of inactivity, likely due to holidays or lack of work for the machine. The daily average is down a bit, to 10% of a 24 hour period, or 144 minutes or 30% for the 8-hour shift.

The month of September shows a slight increase over the pre-summer numbers, at 12.75% of a 24 hour period, or 183 minutes of value adding time per day or 38% for the 8-hour shift.

The month of October comes in at 13.46% of 24 hours, or 194 minutes or 40.4% of an 8-hour shift.

And finally, November 2016 (up to November 25th) comes in at 16.76%, or 241 minutes of value adding activity, equal to 50.2% of the 8-hour shift.

This represents a 42.6% increase in value adding machining time when compared to the baseline established for the 9 month period from October 2015 through June 2016.

We had the opportunity to ask the customer some clarifying questions to gain an insight into the effect FreePoint Technologies had on their business.

Q: What problem were you trying to solve?

A: The problem we were trying to solve was to reduce setup times on the machine and to increase the time the machine was working.

Q: What change or changes made the biggest impact?

A: The two biggest changes were that we added setup vises for clamping material, and made changes to our programming. Parts are put in vice and clamped square, reducing setup time on the first side. We also made changes to the program so that the face head was in contact with the material making chips more often. We did this by reducing air passes and reducing program editing by the operator.

Q: How long did it take to implement the change?

A: It took about 2 weeks to implement the changes and we saw results immediately.

For more information on how FreePoint can help your continuous improvement efforts, please contact engage@getfreepoint.comRemember, you can’t improve what you don’t measure!


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