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Why Manufacturers Need to Automate Data Collection

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

mac computers and ipad with freepoint technologies and shiftworx freepoint technologies

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

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

Enhancing Efficiency

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

Data Accuracy

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

Cutting Costs

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

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

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

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

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

Top 3 Reasons Manufacturers Aren’t Connecting to the Cloud

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

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

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

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

#2: Security Concerns

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

FreePoint is Attending Microsoft’s Vox ISM Event

FreePoint is excited to be taking part in this year’s Best Manufacturing Apps Conference (BMAC). Hosted by Microsoft Canada partner, VOX ISM, BMAC unites Canadian manufacturers and industry experts, educating them on the latest in digital transformation technologies.

In addition, our President, Paul Hogendoorn is taking part in a panel of technology suppliers addressing industry leaders and manufacturing professionals. As always, FreePoint is excited to be displaying our non-invasive machine monitoring software and hardware solutions.

According to Vox ISM, there are 3 main reasons you should be attending the 2019 BMAC conference:

  1. Interact with BMAC exhibitors showcasing their latest technologies.
  2. The BMAC is recognized as the best platform for Canadian Manufacturers to interactions with the latest trends in the manufacturing industry.
  3. Experience and envision the business relationships being made and developed with prospective exhibitors of your interest.

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

BMAC VOX ISM Conference

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.