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FreePoint Returns to Microsoft’s Vox ISM Event

FreePoint is excited and honored to be taking part in another online 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. Microsoft & VOX ISM have assembled the top 10 Manufacturing Apps in one place. All products are industry leaders & certified by Microsoft.  ShiftWorx PlusThis iteration of the conference will be an online experience with sessions and virtual vendor booths. FreePoint’s Director of Sales and Partnerships, Alan MacKinnon will be demonstrating How to Drive Efficiency, Meaningful Insight, and Financial Performance Through Integrating Real Time Machine Data and Business Systems, in addition to displaying our non-invasive machine monitoring software and hardware solutions.

According to Vox ISM, there are 4 reasons you should be attending the 2020 BMAC conference:

  1. You are looking for new ideas, trends and applications to help support your growing manufacturing company
  2. Your business has changed since COVID, but your ERP system hasn’t. You now need mobile access, better security, better reporting, and a system that can keep up with continuous improvements
  3. You are looking to invest in automation to reduce costs and labor in Finance, Manufacturing, Quality or Supply Chain departments
  4. You want to learn how to get funding and grants to accelerate the adoption of new technology

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

 

FreePoint Founder Outlines Why Industry 4.0 is Not as Scary or Costly as You Might Think

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

Paul Hogendoorn – FreePoint Founder

FreePoint Founder and Chair, Paul Hogendoorn has featured in CIO Application magazine’s Vendor Viewpoint and Manufacturing issue of their most recent publication with his most recent article “Why Industry 4.0 Is Not As Scary or Costly as You Might Think”

In this featured article, Paul outlines:

  1. While industry 4.0 represents the future of manufacturing, you can (and should) get started today and how to begin
  2. How it’s possible to connect to any machine – regardless of age and function.
  3. How to establish your baseline and drive production capacity improvements of up to 50+%

Throughout this article, Paul stresses why getting started today is important. Accounting for the new challenges COVID-19 has created, understanding when your machines are driving value-added work along with remote monitoring and reshoring supply chains; industry 4.0 is the catalyst to help you emerge from this pandemic ahead.

Manufacturers can do more to ensure their success by taking a systematic approach to industry 4.0 and digitization in their shop. By properly combining people and technology, manufacturers will be much better positioned to take full advantage of their industry 4.0 technologies and drive future growth. Industry 4.0 isn’t just the future state of manufacturing, it’s available and driving meaningful improvement in large and small manufacturing environments now. FreePoint makes this technology accessible today, to any manufacturer.

Read the full article here.

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.

 

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn

Kanban & Lean Manufacturing: Are They Relevant Today: Part 2

In Part 1 of our blog series, we defined Lean manufacturing and Kanban’s association. Today, we take a look at Toyota, the company that pioneered the concept and we answer whether Lean and Kanban are still relevant.

PUSH and PULL Manufacturing

The main focus of JIT is to pull production through the process as the customer actually takes what they want. The ideal flow being a single part manufactured as required; although this is not always possible with many processes without significant redesign or investment. This is very different from what most companies have traditionally done.

Traditionally production processes are scheduled, raw materials ordered and then manufactured to create stock based on a forecast of what the customer is expected to order. This is push production and is driven very much by the materials being fed into the start of the process and all processes being controlled through a schedule or MRP. This typically produces products in large quantities or batches and ties up a huge amount of your capital in stock and Work in Progress (WIP).

Pull production however works in reverse, when a customer takes a product from the end of your production process a signal is then sent back down the line to trigger the production of the next part. Just as a supermarket will fill the empty shelf each preceding process in the flow will request the parts that it needs from its preceding process. This process is controlled through the use of a Kanban.

push and pull manufacturing freepoint technologies

from https://www.industryweek.com/cloud-computing/push-vs-pull-manufacturing-kanban-pull-system-right-your-company

Kanban at Toyota

Cards of the Kanban methodology are used throughout the Toyota plants to keep inventory management lean — no cluttered warehouses, and workshops with sufficient access to parts.

Imagine that your workshop installs Toyota RAV4 doors and there is a pack of 10 doors in a bin near your workspace to be installed one after another, onto new cars. When there are only 5 doors in the pack, you know that it is time to order new doors. But you don’t have to do anything. An inventory replenishment manager, who we’ll call “Mary” whose job it is to check inventory levels of all bins in your shop area, notices that there are only 5 doors remaining in your bin. This is a “signal” that lets Mary know to replenish your RAV4 doors bin. Now, you have the peace of mind that new doors will be manufactured by the time you have used the remaining 5 doors. By the time you are installing the last door, another pack of 10 doors arrives. The result: Doors are only ordered when needed.

Toyota Woodstock, Ontario Plant.

This is how the Kanban system works all over Toyota production floors. There are no warehouses with spare parts laying around for weeks or months. All the employees work upon requests and manufacture only the necessary amount of parts. If orders increase or decrease, production is modified accordingly. The main idea of Kanban methodology cards is to scale down the amount of work-in-progress (WIP). Use only what is needed.

The Problems With Kanban

Kanban systems are excellent for consistent production levels of consistent parts, but can be challenging when inconsistency is the rule. Such inconsistency can mean heavier than normal demand caused by a large order or an unusual rush of many orders for specific parts. A Kanban system cannot typically see heavy demand coming down the pipe, thus causing out-of-stock conditions. Even with companies that use Lean manufacturing techniques, a Kanban system typically requires a constant, complex reassessment of Kanban stocking levels for components because of inconsistency, seasonality and other factors.

“Inventory buffers are also useful when uncertainty is high and disruptions in the transportation network are frequent.”

For the sake of quality, inventory levels are driven to as close to zero as possible in the Kanban system. However, sometimes inventory buffers are needed to guard against not only poor quality items from suppliers but also poor quality from internal processes. Inventory buffers are also useful when uncertainty is high and disruptions in the transportation network are frequent.

Even though lean processes are still at the heart of most manufacturing operations worldwide and are increasingly important in other industry sectors, including distribution and financial services today, it pays to ask the questions, “Is lean still relevant?” and “How does a lean enterprise also embrace investment in new technologies like 3D printing and the Internet of Things?”

Fred Thomas writes in, It’s Time for a Lean Manufacturing Makeover, “While the concept and best practices of the Lean production system remain intact, the implementation on the plant floor faces a major facelift. That’s simply because the entire manufacturing dynamic has transformed to include new technology, new global competition, new government regulations, and a hyper-connected world of intelligent devices and social networks that enable seamless communication between companies and their customers.”

Thomas argues that in order for manufacturers to remain agile, Lean methodologies must adapt and change, otherwise organizations will remain stuck in the 1950s and competitors will vault ahead.

Lean-Here to Stay

So, are Lean and Kanban still relevant? In a word, yes.

Kanban is just one of the methods a manufacturer can utilize to create a lean facility operation. It is, however, a step towards the right direction and a step worth taking. Lean has proven to be a very powerful tool for improving manufacturing performance: higher throughput, lower costs, faster response and increased agility. Lean can be applied to direct production, supporting services, administrative and engineering activities, and just about anything else.

Lean is a singular focus on improvement, and making the most of all resources—from materials, equipment, and technology to the skills and experience of employees. Kanban has branched out of the manufacturing world and has been used as another method for applying agility to an organization. It’s commonly used for customer service teams, business teams and even in people’s personal lives to manage their small business or home life.

lean manufacturing freepoint technologies

Lean manufacturing has a proven track record in improving manufacturing performance.

Lean Manufacturing is as relevant today as it was nearly 70 years ago. And Continuous Improvement is achievable through the repetition of these principles. Lean Manufacturing even impacts Six Sigma, as Lean Six Sigma has evolved into an approach taken to reduce waste, improve efficiency and drive profitability. Worldwide, companies today are looking to their supply chains to find cost savings. Those cost savings can be found by negotiating purchase prices with suppliers, but they can also be found in process optimization. If through the Lean process of waste reduction, you can drive manufacturing cycle times down or reduce scrap — you’re saving your company money beyond the basic cost of goods reduction.

Today’s manufacturers need to be up-to-date on practices like Lean Manufacturing, IIoT, Predictive Maintenance, Machine Learning and so much more. Have questions? We have answers. Contact us today.

 

Kanban & Lean Manufacturing: Are They Relevant Today: Part 1

While there is no such thing as “the perfect production system”, Kanban is an uncomplicated yet effective system for creating products.

What is Kanban and Lean?

The word “Kanban” is of Japanese origin and literally translates to “signal card.” Its literal meaning is that of a flag or sign, when you see that flag you know that it is time to manufacture the next part. Kanbans can take many forms, but in most production facilities, they will use Kanban cards or bins to control the process.

Kanban is a visual manufacturing production scheduling system for lean manufacturing and just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing. As part of a pull system, it controls what is produced, in what quantity, and when. The goal of Kanban is to identify potential bottlenecks in your process and fix them so work can flow through it cost-effectively at an optimal speed or throughput. With Kanban, you only produce what the customer is asking for and nothing more. It is a system of signals that are used through the value stream to pull product from customer demand back to raw materials. A Kanban system ideally controls the entire value chain from the supplier to the end consumer. In this way, it helps avoid supply disruption and overstocking of goods at various stages of the manufacturing process.

Lean manufacturing or lean production involves the minimization of waste within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity. So Kanban is a method of lean manufacturing. 83% of teams practicing Lean use Kanban to visualize and actively manage their work.

The Origins of Kanban

In the past, shopkeepers had to retrieve each customer’s items

Interestingly, Lean Manufacturing and the Kanban concept all have their origins starting with the American grocery store chain, Piggly Wiggly in Memphis Tennessee, back in the 1940s.

If you were to travel back in time to the early 1900’s, you would see products stacked on high wall-shelves behind the main counter. Products were retrieved for you buy a man standing behind the counter who was known as the “store clerk.” Women, who did all of the shopping, would bring in their grocery lists, and the Clerk would gather and assemble all of their items.

But it was Piggly Wiggly, the first true self-service grocery store, that changed the way people shopped for food. Instead of putting the burden on the shopkeeper to retrieve each customer’s items, the customers were given the opportunity to peruse the aisles and pick out whichever goods they wished.

The Piggly Wiggly at 79 Jefferson Avenue, in Memphis Tennessee opened the first supermarket, changing the grocery retail business forever

And the shopkeepers’ new responsibilities? Instead of dealing with each individual customer’s needs, they now monitored the shelves, restocking items when the “signal card” or the signal—an empty shelf—appeared. Once they saw the signal, they’d simply go to the storeroom to refill the shelf. It’s basically still the same method you see in grocery stores today. Where they might have had a few hundred items in the 1930’s, your average supermarket these days keeps over 42,000 items in stock. Each item has a place. When one is removed and its barcode scanned, an electronic record is kept, inventory levels monitored, and items are reordered and restocked based on a maximum amount of space available. So if a shelf holds ten gallons of milk, you stock to the maximum quantity stockable.

From Tennessee Grocery Stores to Japanese Factory Floors

Kanban and lean manufacturing freepoint technologies

Taiichi Ohno, Industrial Engineer, and Father of the Toyota Production System

During the 1950’s, Toyota engineers and executives paid a visit to Dearborn, Michigan to Ford’s River Rouge Factory. At the time Ford and GM were the largest automakers in the world and Toyota was not even a blip on the radar. After the visit, Toyota concluded that while Ford was massive in size and impressive, Toyota didn’t have the resources to match Ford’s production. So Toyota sought out another manufacturing method.

Just-in-Time (JIT) was implemented and designed at Toyota by Taiichi Ohno who took over 15 years to perfect their system. During the 1970’s many western visitors would bring back Kanban cards and want to implement the systems within their own manufacturing facilities, often with little real understanding of how they worked. It was not until the 1980’s that Kanban control really started to be understood in the West. In American supermarkets like the Piggly Wiggly, that Toyota managers discovered a different set of tools to govern their manufacturing processes: tight control over inventory quantities and storage space, and a better way to get service to the end-user (the milk rack). This was the origin of the material pull system. When you wander into any modern grocery store today, you are seeing the Kanban system in action.

When implementing factory floor solutions, choose a technology partner who understands lean manufacturing and knows how to enhance your technology solutions. At FreePoint Technologies, our team will ensure your plant has everything it needs to meet your demands and more. Contact us to learn more today.

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Join us in Part 2 of this blog series where we answer the question, “Are Lean Manufacturing and Kanban still relevant?”

How Trillium Metal Stampings is Using ShiftWorx Plus

We recently had the chance to sit down with Sarah Tebbutt, the Plant Manager at Trillium Metal Stampings in Kitchener Ontario, Canada and discuss how ShiftWorx can benefit manufacturers in the metal stamping, weld assembly, and electro/mechanical assembly industries through eliminating paper processes and gaining transparency in the data for machine operators.

Over their 30 years in business, Trillium Metal Stampings has supplied the automotive, appliance, construction, electrical, healthcare, locomotive and material handling industries with high-quality parts.

When we met Sarah at a GTA networking event hosted by EMC,  the team at Trillium Metal Stampings was looking to roll out their current ERP system to the plant floor but the licensing costs and the technical barriers didn’t make it the best option.  After seeing the capabilities of ShiftWorx Plus and speaking with our representative, she knew that the information shared through ShiftWorx was exactly what they wanted their operators to see.

Listen to more of what Sarah’s goals are for Trillium and implementing machine monitoring within the organization.

ShiftWorx Plus allows you to maintain your operations from a distance by logging and reporting on metrics ranging from job, operator and scrap, to parts, SKUs and more. You can also create custom, role-specific dashboards for your managers and supervisors; so everybody stays in the know, even from home. To find out how ShiftWorx Plus can help your shop drive improvement and help guide data driven decisions, book your demo today.

Observations of Manufacturing During the Pandemic

Data can reveal some interesting trends, and this is certainly true in manufacturing, where the aggregated data from approximately 100 factories equipped with FreePoint’s ShiftWorx system reveal some very interesting things over the course of the response to the pandemic. 

The first thing we saw was fairly obvious. We saw total “value adding activity” (productive activity) drop 43% from March 9th to April 5th, with the steepest decline between March 23rd and March 30th.

The second thing we saw was that it was not a unilateral 43% decrease across all manufacturers. Some manufacturers shut down, some slowed downs significantly, but many were able to continue through the period without any indication of a slow down. This too is understandable.

The third thing we noticed was very interesting, and something that will certainly cause some contemplation.

Machine Data

Pre-Covid

Machine data

Post-Covid

 

Notice the difference?

Of the companies we saw that were maintaining their overall productive activity, we often saw improvements in the productivity of the day shift, consistent levels in the afternoon shift, and a reduction or elimination of production activity on the weekends. Total productive activity, or “value adding activity” as we measure it, was the same for the whole week, with less or no time scheduled on the weekends.

This required some further digging.

Chart with pre-covid highlighted

Pre-Covid

Chart with two week period highlighted

Post-Covid

Pre-covid, we have often noticed that afternoon shifts in these companies regularly run more consistently day to day than the day shifts. In discussions with management and operators, the most common explanation offered is “simple, management’s not here on the afternoon shift”; there’s less interruptions, less schedule changes, less scheduled maintenance. In short, the work that needs to be done is scheduled for them to do, and then they are left to do it. The other suggestion offered is that different types of people are going to gravitate to the different shifts; those that like to be left alone to their work will gravitate towards the afternoon (or night shift), and those that require a more dynamic work experience (more things to do, more interaction with other people) prefer the day shift. The result though is the same – there’s more distraction and opportunity for disruptive activity on the day shift.

During the crisis respond period however, those distractions were reduced or eliminated. There were no visitors allowed in the plants, be they customers, suppliers, contractors or salespeople. Administration, sales and support staff, and many managers were asked to work at home, and they did. Problems that needed to be solved on the floor were solved by the people on the floor, which makes sense because companies best able to cope with trying times such as these are the companies with the best people.manufacturing machine connections

But, the requirement to work more outside of the plant presented an opportunity not wasted on many managers. After a short time of anxious adjustment (perhaps adrenaline withdrawal), when it became clear they could manage remotely and the sky wouldn’t fall without them there 50+ hours per week, they started to set their attention on larger thoughts and planning. Every good manager has a list of things they wished they had the time to really focus on, and now they have that time.

Strong manufacturers are going to come out of this stronger. I’m convinced the accelerated adoption of technology will be part of that (remote machine monitoring and paperless workflows), but its still a company’s people that make them strong, and will make them stronger yet. The benefit of removing distraction from the plant floor and letting good people focus on their job showed up in our data right away. The benefit of giving good managers the time needed to really concentrate and focus a bit more on the list of things they’ve always wanted to get around to will take a little longer to show up in the data, but I’m sure it will. Strong, resilient companies are built by strong, resilient people.

The data doesn’t lie!

FreePoint Technologies CEO Paul Hogendoorn
Paul Hogendoorn
Founder and Chairman
FreePoint Technologies Inc.

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.