Posts

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

Connecting Legacy Machines to IIoT

Implementing IoT technology may seem like a challenge to manufacturers: do they purchase new, digitally compatible equipment— or maintain the status quo with older, still reliable machines? Fortunately, the alternatives don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Older legacy machines can still be integrated into an IIoT compatible, smart factory environment. In fact, the oldest machine we have connected to was built in 1914!

Limitations of Legacy Equipment

According to a 2015 independent study commissioned by Cisco, 90% of the more than 60+ million advanced manufacturing machines remain disconnected from one another, further, 75% of them are more than 20 years old. However, these older machines can still be retrofitted to function within a digital ecosystem!

FreePoint Hardware Installs Non-Invasively to Legacy Equipment

Even today, many manufacturers still record machine usage on paper forms. At the end of a shift, they document the number of hours the machine ran and how long set up took. This helps managers correctly bill the number of hours for a specific job. Paper-based processes help create invoices, but the discrepancy between actual and documented data can often be quite large, primarily because the documentation is occurring after the work has been completed.

When machines generate real-time data, you eliminate the discrepancy between actual and documented data, because they become one and the same. This begs the question, how can you make older, non-digital equipment generate live data?

How We Connect Legacy Machines

ShitfWorx black box

FreePoint’s Black Box Sensor is a Bolt-on Solution

There a few ways you can connect your legacy equipment. FreePoint uses a single piece of hardware to connect almost all machines found on the shop floor. Stamping machines, CNC machines, lathes, injection molders, presses, mills, and assembly stations can all be made to produce real-time data – and it doesn’t have to break the bank! You just have to know where to start. For the many manufacturers with a mix of legacy and new equipment, it’s better to start off by building a simple foundation to collect and leverage machine data, rather than implementing a mass overhaul of their equipment.

Combining software with hardware, we add an adapter to your legacy machines that allows you to detect and collect Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), providing better insight into your operations. Bolted on without disrupting production, these adapters turn legacy machine signals into a software protocol our system can then interpret. This not only provides greater visibility into shop floor performance, but contextualizes data in a way that helps identify and improve performance issues while engaging operators and management. So whether your machines are 20 years old, or purchased this year, you can maintain the same level of insight and transparency across your entire shop floor.

ShiftWorx Dashboard

ShiftWorx Machine Monitoring Interface Allows for at-a-Glance Insights

Final Thoughts

FreePoint is helping manufacturing organizations discover and achieve their true operational potential through IoT. We strongly believe in universal integration, which is why we made it a priority for our technology to link brand-new and legacy equipment, making it easier than ever to transition your plant into industry 4.0.

Reach out to us today if you are interested in easily and non-invasively connecting all your industrial machines regardless of age, complexity or type.

Simple Reporting Systems Collect Valuable Data from Your Legacy Machines

Machines built 20-years ago were built to withstand decades of use. They are the core of many factories, but these machines also hinder your ability to compete, increase profitability and scale your operations to new heights. The problem with legacy equipment is that they were engineered in an era where access to real-time reports didn’t exist, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) were impossible to obtain on machines.

Read more