3 Ways IIOT Sensors Improve Manufacturing Safety (Part 2)

Welcome back to the second half of our two-part series on what IIoT sensors can do for your manufacturing business, processes and overall safety for both machines and technicians. Last time we talked about how the sensors can alert you when machinery, valves, and components need maintenance by detecting a combination of wear, leaks and corrosion before the issue causes damage to further components. Next, we’ll cover how these little WiFi-enabled sensors can show you how efficiently your manufacturing process is running from component to component and as a whole.

3. Performance Analytics

A manufacturing process or component can only be lab-tested so many times before it’s put on the market and/or into regular use. These lab tests are vital, but they are not the same as the rigors of constant everyday use. With sensors and analytic software constantly monitoring the actual moment-to-moment efficiency and performance of your equipment, you have the opportunity to learn, optimize and watch for slow-downs in real time. With detailed performance analytics, you may be able to identify potential future issues simply by watching the patterns of current performance. From bottleneck points to parts that rattle more than regulation suggests, real-time analytics will help you catch problems before they occur.

If your company isn’t already incorporating industrial internet of things methods into your manufacturing process, now is a great time to start considering it. Whether you make cars, install wind turbines or run chemical plants, internal sensors will help you see and understand exactly what is going on even more accurately than regular human inspections. While many of the big names like Siemens, Caterpillar and Boeing are already on the ball, smaller companies have just as much to gain from streamlining their maintenance and monitoring procedures to create a safer, more efficient and easier to optimize manufacturing environment.

3 Ways IIoT Sensors Improve Manufacturing Safety (Part 1)

When most people talk about the Internet of Things, they think of the commercial, and often quite silly, integration of sensors and wireless messages on devices that don’t need them. From ‘smart fridges’ that keep a digital grocery list to the doggy fitness trackers, there are all sorts of essentially useless ‘smart’ devices. In the industrial arena, however, the increased use of sensors and status messages is anything but useless. When the temperature, resonance and integrity of every piece of your manufacturing machinery matters, the more sensors and automated monitoring, the better! This is the true application of the Internet of Things technology, one that end users would never guess and rarely see. Here are 3 of the top ways that adding IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) capabilities to your manufacturing process can make your process safer, more efficient, and prevent costly repairs by detecting potential issues early on.

1. Wear and Tear

Industrial machines are in constant motion and use. Even those rated for optimum safety still need to be regularly inspected and replaced when they have fallen below acceptable conditions. While these intervals can often be estimated, the true time between necessary part replacements can vary based on ambient conditions around the machine (temperature, humidity, and wind if outside), and the exact moment of replacement can be difficult to determine. Sensors allow you not only to catch fast deterioration early before it causes problems but can also save money by confirming that parts are still good at the beginning of their estimated replacement window, allowing you to get every day of good work from them possible before replacement.

2. Leaks and Corrosion

Many manufacturing processes involve the use of potentially corrosive materials, and a single leak can cause catastrophic damage to the surrounding parts. When you integrate leak and corrosion sensors into your equipment, you can cut the damage off almost before it has a chance to begin. Perhaps a single piece or cluster may need replacement, but the entire process isn’t sacrificed to the corruption of one particular component. The key is to know where to place your sensors. Corrosion is most likely to be caused by exposure to moisture or dangerous chemicals used the manufacturing process. Rather than frequent personal checks of these areas for signs of damage, a sensor can get you faster, more accurate information on where and when leaks or corrosion occur so you can take care of the issue before it becomes an issue at all.

Having remotely accessible sensors on your manufacturing equipment, no matter what you are producing, is an incredibly valuable technical upgrade to your IT and production infrastructure. Join us next time for the second half of this two-part series where we’ll talk about performance analytics and integrating IIoT devices into your system!

IT in Manufacturing: 5 Benefits of ERP

The origins of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), a software system designed to meet a company’s needs by merging its operational processes in a single application, can be traced back to the 1960s when software engineers identified a need for companies to centralize their computing systems, which mainly involved automating their inventory management and control systems.

By the 1970s, the tech world gave birth to what would become ERP’s predecessor and prototype, Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRP). A decade later, MRP became MRPII. Then in the 1990s MRPII evolved into ERP. Since manufacturing is ERP’s earliest beneficiary, the two are a natural fit. Manufacturing ERP software has also been used by other industries like transportation and automotive. Here are five ways ERP benefits manufacturing.

Streamlined Processes

An IDC Manufacturing Insights survey reported that 71 percent of manufacturers expect an escalation in market complexity, while 61 percent think it will lead to a jump in operational complexity. Manufacturing ERP systems seek to address the problems that come with an increasingly complex workplace by streamlining operations, improving functions like production, data entry and order fulfillment.

Cost Control

ERP software helps reduce operational and administrative costs using one source of real-time data. Knowing and understanding a company’s Key Performance Indicators, along with other pertinent information, is crucial to boosting manufacturing growth. Manufacturers with ERP solutions can proactively manage operations and prevent delays and disruptions.

Increased Flexibility

ERP systems also benefit the manufacturing industry because of their flexibility, their ability to adapt to a company’s individual needs. In fact, since manufacturing operations constantly evolve, ERP has a feature that allows for seamless adaptability.

Maintaining an Edge Over the Competition

Manufacturers often find themselves caught in a tug-of-war between two conflicting options: investing in an ERP system, which could require a major investment, and doing nothing while their competitors take advantage of the opportunity to improve their operations and remain at the front of the pack.

Inventory Reduction

Companies often call any excess inventory “safety stock“. Too much of it can lead to wasteful practices in such areas as warehouse employees, excessive paperwork, non-verbal communication, actual inventory counts and storage.

IT in Manufacturing: Industry 4.0

Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology have grown up side by side. Modern manufacturing equipment has been on a collision course with standard IT for decades as more computerization is added to the machine tools used in manufacturing. With the emergence of convergence between the technologies, the manufacturing sector is beginning to become more reliant on the same skills that have traditionally been used in IT. Along with the skill set of hardware technological support and programming support, IT leaders going forward will need to understand the operational mindset of the managers they interact with.

Metrics

Industry 4.0, an initiative that began in Germany in 2011, sometimes called Manufacturing 4.0, represents the convergence of activities. Manufacturing activities have always been metric centric. How many widgets can be made by a piece of equipment in a given time with what rate for rejected pieces is used to calculate the effective throughput of a given device. This calculation is added to the BOM (Bill of Material) and employed in planning calculations within MRP.

In the past, this information was manually determined and entered into the BOM. The Internet of Things (IOT) has created the means to provide this information electronically, allowing for better measurements and quicker reactions to variations than ever before.

Quality metrics based on the throughput and yield are also impacted by the ability to communicate this data in real-time. Sensors being built into systems that perform the SPC (Statistical Process Control) activity provide up to the minute data for analysis.

Production Line

Reporting

Still, this is only the beginning of the ways in which the data can be used. Data from these two areas can be used to create analytical studies for finance departments to better understand the depreciation and efficient use of capital investments. Engineers can design better more efficient processes and sales, forecasting and customer service departments can get more insightful information to provide customers better delivery dates, and inventory level information.

Operational leaders who are looking into or actively implementing robotic manufacturing depend heavily on interconnected systems with automated reporting to reduce cost and improve throughput in the manufacturing environment. Smart factories that practice Lean Manufacturing take advantage of the analytical reporting generated by the interconnected operations technology to shift labor and operational staff to areas to maximize their production staff and increase capacity.

Security

The adoption of IOT has resulted in more wired and wireless factory shopfloor connected devices, remote access, programming, and set-up operations. Manufacturing machines with embedded operating systems, usually have a “lite” version of the operating system with a limited capacity to configure and execute sophisticated commands. This lower technological threshold has resulted in security breaches which, if part of a fully connected network, lead major systems to be compromised. While it is IT Security’s responsibility to address these vulnerabilities, IT must also ensure that manufacturing can still continue to run on a 24X7 basis. This applies in particular as robotic devices replace manually administered equipment.

Production Support

As the manufacturing moves into the digital world, IT will increasingly be called upon to support production equipment at the same level that it supports end users. The data from this equipment will make its way to senior managers who make decisions on customer pricing, continuing existing relationships with suppliers and customers, the fate of manufacturing facilities and product lines. Our service delivery for software and infrastructure support as well as user education and assistance will need to encompass all levels within the organization from shop floor and assembly line staff to the C-suite.

IT in Manufacturing: Are You Making Good Use of Your Data?

Recently, The Manufacturer came out with an article on what it means for the manufacturing industry to embrace the digital revolution.

One of the key points is that success depends in large part on how you make use of the data you collect. The article mentions a report showing that roughly 99% of business data gets disregarded or tossed out before any analysis can be performed.

IT in manufacturing should involve helping your company make optimal use of data.

The following are some of the benefits:

  • Important feedback on how your machinery and computer systems are operating – whether or not they’re:
    • Efficient and productive
    • Performing consistently within desired parameters
    • Free from signs of impending malfunctions or unauthorized activity
  • Insights into how you can streamline various operations and processes:
    • Saving you money
    • Connecting different parts of your company seamlessly
    • Reaching your customers in a timely and effective way
  • A stronger basis on which to plan for the future, including:
    • Anticipating what you’ll need down the road
    • Embracing new developments in technology

When it comes to making good use of your data, consider the following:

  • The data you need to collect vs. what you can allow yourself to discard
  • How to collect the data accurately
  • Where to store the data securely and how to keep it organized and well-managed
  • The programs to use for analyzing the data, presenting it comprehensibly, and extracting important insights from it

Data is the foundation on which your manufacturing enterprise rests. Letting it slip by without any meaningful analyses puts you at a disadvantage relative to competitors and causes you to miss out on opportunities to refine your operations and further your business objectives.

Manufacturing