UNLOCKING THE EDGE

Any industry. Any system. Any process.

Bringing decisions to the factory floor

Isn’t it time decisions were made in real-time, rather than waiting for the weekly management meeting or for your superior to gather, analyse and disclose data findings? We think so.

If you’re in manufacturing, you’ll know that a lack of real-time visibility into machines, assets, and factory operations can be extremely limiting. Ready to unlock the true potential of your business? We thought you might be.

If your systems are smart, you’ve taken the first step. You’ve overlaid IoT technology over your existing infrastructure (call us, we’ll explain how) and have data feeding into a central dashboard. What comes next? Glad you asked.

In the manufacturing world, being able to gradually tweak and optimise your production line is the key to maintaining your competitive edge. It can be streamlined and fine-tuned to cut costs or improve production quality. The more structured and simple, the better, but that just makes it easier to manage and control. What really makes a difference is knowing what your systems’ strengths and weaknesses are, and that only comes from having clear insight and self-knowledge.

But how, under the pressure of trying to get more from your daily operations, is a company meant to get this self-knowledge? Further, how could a leader get this information into the hands of the people who would be able to take action quickly, without it needing to be handed down hierarchically.

Are we on the cusp of a shift?

In unpacking marketing for modern times, McKinsey notes that modern manufacturing has “exacerbated product and demand complexity”. Traditional woes that come with needing to do more with less remain, amplified by consumers demanding ever-greater quality at no extra cost and compliance and regulatory scrutiny. Standards rise, production costs rise, but best not raise those sales prices, businesses.

As more companies gain valuable insights by implementing IoT technology, the question shifts towards how you use it. More importantly, how you empower every member of your organisation to use the technology on hand to start looking at the bigger picture. The interconnected, interoperable ecosystem and how their work, their processes ripple through it.

A light in the dark

Not only is an IoT-enabled manufacturing environment able to easily show the black holes in production and productivity – the areas losing money without any obvious reasons why, but allows employees to quickly be able to see the results of their efforts.

Step things up in one area of the plant and there’s bound to be an effect down the line – that’s not news. The difference? Now it’s not only measurable, but the results are able to be visualised instantly and acted upon without intervention from operations or the plucky support engineer. A smart production process is key to giving precise insight into the performance of not only machines, but humans, too.

What’s considered smart, you ask? Non-discretional decision making that drives dynamic recalibration back into the system underpinned by AI and machine learning. What better way could there be to measure performance, drive incentives and really knuckle down into that bottom line?

Of course, as with any change, there’s a human psychology to look at, too. Not only does a smarter environment equip the people manning the day to day operations of a manufacturing business with the insight they need when they need it, but guesswork is removed. Instead of spending time wondering where the problem areas are, an interconnected environment helps employees contribute to the best of their ability.

If goals are clear, insights provided in real-time and machine learning is implemented to drive production forward; if your IoT.nxt technology is monitoring threshold breaches and anomalies and driving intelligence right to the edge, you’re helping your people contribute to the very best of their ability.

More importantly, if the ’system’ is capable of delivering self-rectification and adjustment to operations, reducing friction and waste, organisations will find the most value. Manufacturing is being redefined and, whilst PLC and SCADA have done and will continue to do a great job in the past in automating plants, most of the data has resided in a siloed MES system.

IoT is the evolution of this as it brings all the aspects of the enterprise into play up and downstream. Considering that manufacturing is not just about ‘making stuff’, when IoT is deployed as a horizontal service across an enterprise, there are multiple moving parts that affect the ability to produce optimally. Yes, the machines play a role but equally important is the raw materials and availability of these. As important are also the logistics and the fleet movement in and out of the plant delivering the raw materials and the finished products, availability of manufactured product and visibility of the manufacturing process through the supply chain, as well as the people their availability and productivity.

The advent of 3D printing is augmenting this world further. So, with all this potential data from multiple systems and devices, the greater requirement is having the ability to not only present and abstract the data but in near real time parse the data thorough AI and machine learning algorithms to be able to consistently and accurately tweak actions and assets back into the ecosystem.

The key to this disruption is being able to run operations as close to the actual ‘plan’ as possible and have non-discretional decision making dynamically driving optimal performance.

Beyond the factory floor

The benefits of an IoT-enabled, smart production ecosystem don’t stop with just the empowerment of the workforce getting their hands dirty. Part of the joy that comes with having an interconnected business and data insights available on demand comes from the demolition of internal siloes, too.

Operations need to drive the “KPIs or threshold parameters” to monitor. Once identified, data can be pooled into a central repository, analysed in real-time and fed into various other areas of the business. More importantly, with IoT, data becomes distributed between the edge and the cloud and we can have different data sets and inputs influencing decision making on the floor.  Combining machine vision and sensor data and sequencing that with your PLC and SCADA brings new insights and capability to the manufacturing plant and the produced items regarding quality control and machine optimisation.

Sales and marketing teams can work with realistic, real-time production outputs. Accounting and finance teams can work with more accurate supply level measurements and usage, tied in with commodity prices and consumer demand to manage cash flow. Management gets a clearer picture of the entire value chain, and employees on the floor are in the loop, too.

There’s no more ‘no one told me’, or ‘I’ll have to sort it out tomorrow’. But perhaps the biggest benefit to employee psyches? Knowing how the company is performing and keeping the production process top of mind for every link in the chain.

Case in point

Our client was reporting a loss of approximately R1million a month due to non-compliance with cooking processes. Incorrect process selection and, subsequently, recipes, was being replicated across 10 cooking ovens and no-one could figure out how to solve the problem.

We installed our Raptor device and integrated the PLC to reflect the correct alarms for the process. The constructed operations centre now allows operators to intervene once an incorrect procedure has been followed. The workflow is captured with an evidence bag, captured in compliance with regulatory requirements.

The best part – by deploying the solution in-line with production schedules, we were able to overlay our solution with no disruption to production.

Making insight into your production line not only available, but useful for your entire supply chain – isn’t that the dream?

Stop dreaming, start dialling. It’s a pipe-dream no more!

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