Mobile solutions in manufacturing – supporting ergonomic machine operation
23 January 2018
Gone are the days where an engineer would monitor one machine – or even a small number of machines. Today, maintenance and service technicians are constantly on the move, monitoring multiple machines and, potentially, multiple facilities.
Traditionally, it would have been impossible to monitor the performance of equipment without positioning a technician beside every machine in a plant. However, modern automation software makes it possible to visualise machine performance and gain an oversight of the entire factory floor.
That said, today’s production engineers want to monitor their machine performance at all times — inside and outside of the factory walls.
Using mobile monitoring solutions, every machine can be tracked and monitored and the relevant maintenance team, or individual technician, can have constant access to data, regardless of where they are located. The ability to remotely monitor machine performance can identify opportunities to improve efficiencies and production. However, it is also vital for technicians and engineers to be able to react quickly to unexpected issues and minimise any unplanned downtime if a machine were to break down or show any signs of failure.
Maintaining awareness of how a machine is performing and also its health is important to modern day manufacturing plants that want to improve their efficiency and drive down costs. Meeting production deadlines and being more efficient in production ensures customer satisfaction. Using mobile solutions that constantly monitor machinery against your production schedule and key performance indicators, manufacturing teams will be aware of progress and potential production delays will be highlighted in real time.
This production insight also widens the operational awareness across teams and departments. For instance, quality control teams are often detached from manufacturing operations and are only made aware of production issues at the end of the process. By enabling key members of this team to gain mobile access to production data, all departments will be kept up-to-date from the start, resulting in less waste and more control.
Unexpected downtime can cost millions in lost revenue. In fact, for the automotive industry, a break in production is estimated to cost $22,000 per minute. It is impossible to prevent all incidences of unexpected downtime. However, by opening up mobile monitoring solutions, with real-time production data, to the entire team, the time it takes to identify performance issues and fix the problem, is reduced.
Lean manufacturing and predictive maintenance
The software can remotely monitor the essential elements of the value stream and feed this data directly to the mobile of an engineer. The system can then provide alerts should any part of the facility show signs of effecting the overall equipment effectiveness. An example of this would be by predicting the required maintenance of production equipment: this way, unplanned downtime can be avoided.
COPA-DATA’s zenon, for example, provides emergency alerts that are sent by text message or email, ensuring that the right information gets to the right person, as soon as possible. Hierarchical alerts also mean that if an alert is sent out and not responded to using the required code, the alert is escalated to the next person defined in the communication chain. This way, issues cannot go unnoticed.
Remote monitoring and alert systems are only the beginning of what we should expect from the future of a SMART factory with respects to monitoring and management. Streamlining communication between teams, individuals and even between machines and maintenance technicians is proving essential to supporting machine ergonomics and ultimately, efficient factory operations.
Technicians no longer need to be positioned directly beside their designated machine to understand exactly how their machinery is performing. Using mobile solutions, maintenance teams will never be left in the dark.
Lee Sullivan, regional manager at industrial software specialist COPA-DATA UK. See www.copadata.com.