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FreePoint is Back At Microsoft’s Vox ISM Event

FreePoint is once again excited to be taking part in this year’s Best Manufacturing Apps Conference (BMAC). Hosted by Microsoft Canada partner, VOX ISM. BMAC is the one-stop experience that brings together Canadian manufacturers, industry experts, and Microsoft’s top APPs, helping to keep them on the forefront of manufacturing’s digital transformation. ShiftWorx PlusThis year’s iteration of the conference will be an online experience with sessions and virtual vendor booths. Paul Hogendoorn will be presenting about machine integration and 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 2020 BMAC conference:

  1. Find the right app for your business needs and get solutions tailored to your industry that works with the products you already use.
  2. The BMAC is recognized as the best platform for Canadian Manufacturers to interactions with the latest trends in the manufacturing industry.
  3. Attendees can interact with BMAC 2020 presenters showcasing their latest technologies “Live”.

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

 

Explore The New ShiftWorx Plus

Big changes are coming to FreePoint Technologies! If you’re a manufacturer who wants more quantitative data from your machines while better understanding the context of that data, then we’ve got some great news for you – we have not only upgraded, but fundamentally improved the entirety of our ShiftWorx machine monitoring platform. This upgrade brings with it a variety of improvements including expanded functionality, enhanced customization and improved user experience.

ShiftWorx Plus Benefits

What is ShiftWorx?

ShiftWorx is a comprehensive machine monitoring solution that enables you to track your machine performance, downtime and activity. The platform collects and visualizes machine data in an easy to read, user-friendly dashboard that can be displayed on the shop floor for both your managers and operators to engage and discuss. This additional information empowers you to generate richer reports and gain deeper insight into your manufacturing process.

By displaying relevant metrics for everyone to see, you can improve accountability, make better, more educated decisions, and drive meaningful continuous improvement throughout your shop.

Introducing ShiftWorx Plus

The upgraded ShiftWorx Plus platform exists to provide manufacturers with additional data to help inform their decision making.  Enabling you to collect and monitor machine performance and downtime data, ShiftWorx Plus can also track additional variables, such as:

  • Jobs, Parts, Work Orders
  • Scrap, Waste, SKUs
  • Operators, Team Leads, Supervisors
  • And More!

ShiftWorx Plus ReportingYou can even use ShiftWorx Plus to create customized, role-specific dashboards! With more data available at your fingertips, you can run reports that highlight the various correlations between different data-points, see the run times on specific machines, determine yields on your part– the list goes on! With state-of-the-art, high-level monitoring capabilities, you get end-to-end, 360° insight into your entire shop with no blind-spots.

With optional add-ons available to ShiftWorx Plus users, manufacturers have more flexibility then ever before to build a solution around the specific needs of their shop. Available add-ons include custom integration, alerts & notifications, and our brand-new digital andon and call box system – giving you the benefits of an andon solution, without the additional wiring, labor and installation fees.

What it Means for You

For manufacturers, these new features provide more data to both drive improvement, and better inform their decisions. For current clients, rest assured nothing about your current ShiftWorx package is changing, except for the name. In the coming months, we will be performing the migration to the upgraded platform, at which point some additional training may be required for current customers.

 

For those looking to upgrade and experience the new features included in ShiftWorx Plus,  Reach out today!

FreePoint is Attending Microsoft’s VOX ISM FPAC Conference

FreePoint is excited to be taking part in this year’s Financial Process Automation Conference (FPAC). Hosted by Microsoft Canada partner, VOX ISM, FPAC strategically outlines how Canadian accounting departments, manufacturers and distributors can cut their workload in half.

This year, our Director of Sales, Al MacKinnon will be hosting a presentation geared towards manufacturers looking to get measurable ROI out of their IIoT investments.

Titled: Leveraging IIoT For Productivity Gain & Quick ROI, the presentation will focus on the benefits manufacturers can experience by integrating the various systems throughout their shop floor, and how quickly IIoT investments can pay themselves off. With benefits such as enhanced production performance, increased throughput and improved process quality, we’re excited to show manufacturers how they can cut costs while increasing the amount of value-adding work their machines perform – without necessarily hiring more people or acquiring additional resources.

As Al dives into topics ranging from ERP integration to machine monitoring, we hope to give manufacturers a better understanding of how they can take full advantage of new technologies throughout their production process. Most importantly, we will be illustrating to manufacturers how they can leverage their IIoT investments into engines of growth with quick ROI.

In addition to attending our presentation, there are a laundry list of reasons you should be attending the 2020 FPAC conference:

  1. Explore how accounting a finance departments can optimize their processes in preparation for automation
  2. Discuss strategies to enhance your organization’s understanding of emerging technologies
  3. Learn about potential applications and limitations of emerging technologies
  4. Discover how to build and validate AI, BI, and machine learning models in your accounting department
  5. Examine techniques to institutionalize automation for everyone at your company

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

Forbes Article: Industry 4.0 – Are Companies Doing Enough?

Industry 4.0 is the latest industrial revolution to shake up the manufacturing industry. As organizations begin to transition into this new, universally connected ecosystem, it can become challenging to leverage all of the data and information at their disposal.

An article published by Forbes Magazine explores industry 4.0 adoption, and how companies have been handling the transition:

“while connecting things and even gathering and analyzing the data supplied by those things has been growing, the actual application of data to inform better business decisions is still elusive for many organizations.”

Even though many manufacturers have begun collecting data throughout their shop floor, they are still having trouble taking full advantage of it. More than 60% of survey respondents mentioned in the article claim data-informed decision making has led to significant ROI, making it no surprise why so many manufacturers are eager to start putting their data to work. Corroborating Forbes findings is another study we referenced in a past article that found 66% of early IIoT adopters say IIoT is now a critical advantage for their business.

Some key takeaways from the article include:

  • “The B2B IIoT device market is expected to increase to 5.4 billion in 2020 from 2.5 billion in 2017.”
  • “+90% of respondents gather data from traditional sources such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), product lifecycle management (PLM) systems, or non-transactional internal systems such as email – whereas than half of respondents collect data from some form of IoT.”
  • “Just over half of respondents rated themselves as capable of using data to make decisions in real time, while 45% said they don’t currently have the capability”

Read the full Forbes article here.

5 Reasons to Start Your Digital Transformation Today

With the end of the year fast approaching, it is not uncommon for manufacturing plants to experience a slow down for a few weeks in December and January. This lull in productivity provides the perfect opportunity for you to begin your digital transformation.

Why Start Early?

Regardless of when you transition to industry 4.0 – you will still experience a variety of benefits. However, there are some advantages to starting earlier in the year. First, it allows you to avoid and mitigate unnecessary disruptions to productivity, before your workload becomes too overwhelming.

In addition, you can start capturing data with a fresh start in January – making it easier to compare true year over year improvement.Visualizations of your improvements will be more straight-forward, and you will be able to see the stark contrast between your 2019 performance, and ongoing 2020 performance.

Machine operator engaging with manufacturing innovation technologies

Digital Transformations Are More Attainable Than Ever

By beginning your digital transformation now, you also set yourself up for massive productivity boosts in the new year! When you monitor machines through a central platform, you can predict slowdowns, bottlenecks, and machine failure. These benefits often result in more uptime and lowered operating and maintenance costs.

Starting your transition in December also provides an added benefit; Director of Marketing for CADENAS PARTsolutions recommends finding opportunities to spend now, for work that can be delivered later:

“The end of year is crunch time. You’re focused on closing deals, strategic planning and getting your house in order so you can try to enjoy the holidays. The last thing you have the time or energy for is a new project. So, look for opportunities to spend your extra budget on products or services that you can utilize when things free up. Think about it as a sort of layaway for the future.”

Final Thoughts

This more proactive approach sets you up for success early in the new year, and provides an opportunity to give back to your employees! Machine monitoring will not only empower your operators on the shop floor, but it will make their voices heard to management – and feel more valued overall.

At FreePoint Technologies, we can get your factory fully connected, often within 24 hours. If you are ready to take your first steps towards machine monitoring, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today!

Discussing Project Launches in Manufacturing Automation Magazine

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

Paul Hogendoorn – FreePoint Founder

Paul’s latest publication featuring in Manufacturing Automation Magazine discusses the challenge of project launches, stating:

“The hardest thing to do is often just to get started. Stepping into the unknown, or perhaps looking forward into a big, indeterminate and not fully defined project, is easy to avoid doing.”

Throughout the article, Paul explains the best approach to tackling a big, new endeavor like IIoT and Industry 4.0 – break it into more manageable chunks:

  • Zero to One
  • One to Ten
  • Ten to One Hundred

Zero to one, also known as project launch, is often the most difficult (and most critical) stage. This is primarily because it requires a significant leap of faith few are willing, or even able to take. As you move past the launch stage, more people begin to get on-board, adding momentum, and mitigating some resistance. Manufacturers will find the same amount of energy they applied in the beginning will get them a lot farther and a lot faster in the final stages of the project.

The mistake some companies make is trying to map out and enact the plan from start to finish in one fell swoop, making project launches more overwhelming than they need to be. Learn how to better tackle your next manufacturing project by reading the full article here.

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

The Secret Behind Monitoring Manual Processes

From a machine monitoring standpoint, the wide range of equipment and tactics used by manufacturers pose a challenge. For instance, Some equipment is newer and digitally compatible, whereas others are older and analog. Also, some processes are done manually by an employee instead of a machine. Manufacturers may find themselves wondering: is it possible to monitor manual processes? Luckily, at FreePoint, the answer is yes.

As the global supply of computing power and storage capacity continues to grow rapidly, the cost to access these resources continues to drop. The same is true for IIoT technologies. Sensory devices and the technology needed to interpret them have become more compact and affordable in recent years. Because of these advancements, we can monitor more than just machines, but the manual processes of factory workers as well.

Cyber physical systems freepoint technologies

By leveraging different sensors, you can create cyber-physical systems to monitor tasks ranging from welding and brazing to painting and sanding. These sensors include:

  1. Electrical Current Sensors
  2. Switch/Button Recognition Sensors
  3. Pressure Plate Sensors

Electrical Current Sensors

FreePoint Technologies Electrical Symbol

One of the easiest manual processes to monitor are those which produce an electrical current. For example, if you are performing a task involving a MIG Welder, an electrical current will pass through the tool whenever it is in use. By installing an electrical current sensor, you can monitor the use of the welder and its efficiency based on the amount of time the tool spent having an electrical current run through it. If there is no current running through the tool, that would be considered downtime. Obviously, the more time the tool spends with current running through it, the more value-added time it contributes.

Switch/Button Recognition Sensors

Another straight-forward means of monitoring a manual process is with switch/button recognition sensors. When using a tool that is button or switch activated, a switch recognition sensor will be able to determine when a switch has been flipped on or off. Like electrical current sensors, by tracking whether the switch/button is on or off – you can identify when a machine is experiencing uptime or downtime. Using downtime narration, you can attribute reasons to justify downtime, some of which may be preventable moving forward.

Pressure Plate SensorsFreePoint Technologies Pressure Plate Sensor

Pressure plates are useful to monitor any piece of equipment that exerts pressure—like a drill press. Using this in tandem with an electrical current sensor will give you valuable insight into the efficiency of certain manual processes. In addition, using a pressure plate sensor alongside an electrical current sensor allows you to tell when a machine is running, as well as performing a value-adding task. In the case of a drill press, the value-adding task would be drilling. Just because electricity is running through the machine does not mean the machine is being productive. With both sensors, you will be able to more accurately assess your processes productivity.

With our IIoT software, FreePoint can connect any machine on your shop floor and start collecting data within 24 hours. You can literally monitor any machine with an electrical current. The oldest machine we are currently monitoring is from 1914! Reach out today and let us walk you through how to monitor your manual processes!

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.

Blueberries, Blockchains & Manufacturing Blockchain Made Simple: Part 2

In our last blog in this 2-part series on blockchains, we defined and illustrated blockchain in manufacturing and its rising notoriety. In this final segment, we dive deeper into its benefits and ROI.

Oversight and Accountability

Gary Brooks, Chief Marketing Officer of global manufacturing and supply chain technology company Syncron, in an interview with ZDNet said blockchain is of particular interest to the manufacturing industry due to its benefits regarding verification and transparency.

manufacturing supply chains and logistics

Supply chains in manufacturing are both critical and complex.

“Manufacturers’ supply chains are sophisticated, complex organizations with a number of nuances that can make transparency and accountability challenging — especially when it comes to the logistics of building and shipping new equipment and service parts,” Brooks said. “This is particularly true as manufacturers shift from a transactional, break-fix model of after-sale service — where a service part is replaced after it has already failed — to a subscription-based model that focuses on maximizing product uptime.”

“In this case, manufacturers leverage IoT and predictive analytics in their service parts supply chain to proactively repair equipment before it ever breaks down,” the executive added. “Blockchain can provide an increased level of visibility into this process, as it would allow an entire global service supply chain to see when and where parts are moving to ensure the repair is made just in time.”

As data held within a blockchain is decentralized and shared across nodes, the technology can be used to create and maintain a shared and continually reconciled database.

“With a blockchain solution, manufacturers now have a living dossier of activity logs and more”

For example, a hospital that implants an artificial cardiac pacemaker into a patient which happens to contain faulty parts resulting in injury to a patient can use the blockchain to trace the manufacturer of the faulty parts more efficiently, confining and correcting the issue.

“With a blockchain solution, manufacturers now have a living dossier of activity logs and more so they can keep tabs on the flow of goods between companies,” Brooks said. “This provides an extra level of transparency and control — and will enable large manufacturers to compete and win against the competition.”

When Chipotle had an E. coli outbreak in 2015, the food chain had serious trouble tracing the source of the bacteria through suppliers. As finding the source was incredibly difficult, Chipotle was unable to immediately stop the spread of contamination. Blockchain could have more rapidly contained and alleviated the trouble.

According to Brooks, blockchain could hold the key for similar issues to be resolved and eradicated quickly.

“For manufacturers specifically, blockchain could help mitigate similar risks,” the executive noted. “Multiple parts and pieces comprise large pieces of equipment, and with networks and suppliers around the world, blockchain provides a way to see every part in the supply chain in real-time — and identify problems before they become widespread.”

Blockchain ROI

Blockchain, just as in any new and developing technology endeavor, comes with a cost. Manufacturers will need to have their IT teams research the technology to both determine if the investment provides an adequate return and to gain the knowledge to deploy it successfully.

man in factory lathe chuck coolant nozzles safety glasses freepoint technologies

Manufacturing has always been at the forefront of technological adoption.

Under consideration will be whether to overhaul existing infrastructure and legacy systems. Manufacturers will have to consider modernizing existing IT process and the long related upgrade cycles that accompany new technology.

Then there is the nescience factor that accompanies any new technology. According to a Price Waterhouse survey, 45% of respondents cited lack of trust as a hurdle to blockchain adoption.

Many traditionalistic manufacturing CEOs, many of whom are set in their ways, are wary of new technology like blockchain and what the innovation can bring to the table that legacy systems cannot.

All things being equal, blockchain is an emerging and very important idea that CEOs or their predecessors will likely embrace, and is redefining the way companies do business. Manufacturers that adopt developing technology and business practices will tend to move beyond their competitors and will be the winners.

FreePoint Technologies has been helping manufacturers optimize machine performance, gain greater visibility of production, increase capacity and streamline operations with unprecedented precision. See how we can impact your industrial manufacturing.

FreePoint Founder Hits the Trifecta in Manufacturing Automation Magazine

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

Paul Hogendoorn – FreePoint Founder

FreePoint Founder and Chair, Paul Hogendoorn has featured in Manufacturing Automation Magazine’s October issue with his article titled “Hitting the Trifecta”. In his article, Paul outlines a simple three-step approach that will enable manufacturers to take full advantage of IIoT and industry 4.0 technologies:

  1. Establish Empirical Baseline Metrics
  2. Engage Your People in the Process of Improvement
  3. Connect Your Data to Your People in Real-Time

By properly implementing these steps, manufacturers can typically expect to see anywhere from 45-79% increases in capacity and/or productivity. With such a significant opportunity for ROI, Paul strongly encourages manufacturers to not only leverage new and emerging technologies on the shop floor, but to engage with their operators – making them part of the continuous improvement process.

Throughout his article, Paul stresses the importance of the order in which these steps are performed – likening the approach to horse-racing wagers:

“If you had the knowledge of which horses to bet on and which order to bet on them, would you?”

Manufacturers can do more to ensure their success by taking a systematic approach to industry 4.0 and digitization in their shop. By focusing on just one of the three points Paul discusses in his article, manufacturers may limit the success of their digitization efforts. But by properly combining people and technology, manufacturers will be much better positioned to take full advantage of their industry 4.0 technologies.

Don’t struggle to get the most out of your IIoT solution. Make sure you are leveraging both your people and your technology in order to ensure the highest levels of success in your organization.

Learn more about how you can hit the manufacturing trifecta by reading Paul’s full article here.

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn