How Narrative Software Helps Your Operators Feel Heard

As a plant manager or team lead, you have the essential responsibility of keeping your operators motivated. Helping them gain new perspectives on their work can improve employee engagement and, ultimately, your bottom line. When employees are provided with narrative software resources to see how their contributions make a difference, they become much more interested in putting in a productive day.

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2017 Manufacturing: A Year In Review

The political landscape of 2017 has been a portrait of peaks and troughs. Brexit in the UK presents potential possibilities for trade deals with the US and beyond, and (love him or hate him) President Trump’s tempestuous first year in office was preceded with promises to rebuild North America’s industrial sector. Whether his ambitious promises yield fruit is yet to be seen, and it’s rather too easy to get lost in the crowd hysteria that big change conjures. However, significant transformation brings significant opportunities, and in the manufacturing sector particularly, we’ve seen increased adoption of digital technologies, harboring a new dawn in manufacturing processes.

In the same way that the Industrial Revolution had a major impact on manufacturing and society, digital transformation within manufacturing houses is set to change the way we produce and cater to our customers. Not since Henry Ford developed mass-production manufacturing have we seen changes like those that 2017 has exposed us to; but “digital” represents a move away from mass-production, toward a leaner, less wasteful, bespoke, and customized production approach.

However, only 5% of manufacturing executives are satisfied with their existing digital strategies, or even recognize the importance of this digital revolution. Digitization helps to overcome the “Seven Wastes” of lean manufacturing by making more affordable the bespoke production approach; as opposed to over-producing, under-engaging employees and keeping customers waiting while we produce against demand.

Internet of Things (IoT)

At the heart of the change in manufacturing processes in 2017 was the implementation of IoT processes, providing live reporting of incremental production data, defect and damage.

By effectively connecting our analog (and digital) machines to monitoring networks, companies have found an essential, competitive edge in consistency, efficiency, employee engagement, and instant visualization of project progress; yielding benefits to the manufacturing process and to the customer, as the price of wastage drops as a result of digital monitoring.

Industry 4.0 and mass customization

Scary as it sounds, Industry 4.0 presents a reverie of the interconnected factory, and this has developed exponentially in 2017. Machines are online and capable of making decisions.

Now, don’t run for the hills, here – this is good! Industry 4.0 presents a hybrid approach of actual and virtual content-producing warehouses, freeing up workforce to focus on mass customization which can directly react to consumer demand.

IoT and Industry 4.0 are developing the way we interact with our customers post-sale, by providing immediate and consistent support online.

Machine Learning

AI is nothing new – IBM’s supercomputer defeated the world’s best chess player over ten years ago, after all. Advanced algorithms are collecting data on the factory floor, performing skilled labor, and predicting consumer behavior, so that we, the manufacturer, can better cater to their needs. Smart factories can increase production capacity by 20% by gleaning live information from integrated IT systems. And FreePoint Technologies can help!

Quality becomes more consistent as machine learning determines the factors affecting service and quality of product.


Manufacturing continues to be an essential contributor to Canada’s GDP; providing 1.7 million quality, well-paid jobs, and contributing over 10% of Canada’s overall GDP (around $174 billion).

The manufacturing industry, therefore, has massive potential for strengthening Canada’s economic future. We have the skills, innovation and exports of more that $354 billion each year, which represents 68% of Canada’s entire merchandise exports. Competition is healthy and success breeds success: where our industry grows, we attract new investment.

Growth is dependent upon continued innovation, and the more we adopt new technologies, the more our healthy manufacturing sector continues to grow.

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Case Study: Machine Shop Increases Efficiency By 69% In One Year

The following case study demonstrates how FreePoint Technologies has successfully helped a customer increase efficiency by 69% over a one-year time span and saved them $325/day.

The customer is a modern machine shop located in the border region in Mexico. The shop has 4 Electrical Discharge Machines (EDM) that are critical to the company’s production. The following figures demonstrate the impact of FreePoint Technologies’ system.   

The image below (the before scenario) shows pertinent productivity information from these 4 machines from a typical day in October 2015. The blue bars illustrate the EDM machines’ run times for a 24 hour period and the white gaps indicate the setup time between each run. Both the run (blue bar) & setup times (white bar) vary depending on the job. The shop, in the before scenario, required 24 hours of scheduled production time to produce a total of 43.5 hours of “value adding” activity using the 4 machines on that day.


The screenshot below illustrates the exact same 4 EDM machines shown one year later (October 2016). Similar to the previous scenario, the blue bars still vary in accordance with the jobs being run on each machine, however, the setup times (the white gaps between the blue bars) are now consistently smaller than the 2015 snapshot. The result from integrating FreePoint Technologies’ system is that less time is being lost between productive “value adding” periods. For the customer, this means that more value adding activity (specifically 57 hours on this day) occurred in less scheduled production time (two 8.5 hour shifts vs. three 8 hour shifts). All of the recovered lost machine time was then aggregated, and the machines were freed up for an entire shift. Not only does this decrease production cost for parts being produced, but it increases the plant’s capacity and ability to take on more work.


The image below compares the month of October 2015 to the same month, one year later in 2016. As illustrated in the graph, every day of the month in October 2015 had machine activity, meaning that employees were in the shop running the machines. In 2016, the machine activity occurred only on weekdays, freeing up most weekend shifts as well. This allowed the customer to increase their capacity and take on more business. The machine’s efficiency went up from 33% on a typical 24 hour day in 2015 to 56% on a typical 17 hour day in 2016 representing an increase of 69%.

At that rate of productivity improvement, the system as implemented paid for itself in 20 days, and the cost of the ShiftWorx subscription is recovered in the first day of every month. It’s hard to beat that kind of ROI!

For more information on how a FreePoint system can benefit your plant, please contact

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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