Engineering Magazine November 2019
The first step to becoming a data driven manufacturing organisation is understanding the equipment on the factory floor says Paul Haimes, VP Europe Technical Sales at PTC.
If you look at a company-wide view of what digital transformation delivers, it is the ability to understand which of your factories are performing as expected, which ones have room for improvements, and which needs some investment and effort to reach the standard you expect as a manufacturer.
With the introduction of Industry 4.0, manufacturers now have the ability to shine a light into those areas that they haven’t been able to see – the ‘dark’ areas of a factory where it isn’t 100 percent clear whether the machinery is functioning to full capacity and without issue.
By having a deep understanding of how the equipment on the factory floor is performing, companies are able to ensure that they are getting the maximum output. Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is the way in which a manufacturer looks at efficiency plant performance; it identifies the percentage of manufacturing time that is truly productive. But, OEE is not new, companies have had the knowledge of a factory floor for decades, but many are still using a paper-based system – at least in some areas or facilities. We regularly see operators spending up to 30 minutes of every shift transferring information from paper into an electronic format, this then travels from one spreadsheet to another until it reaches the engineer responsible – not only is this a timeconsuming process, it also has the potential to introduce errors – meaning the OEE dashboards are potentially displaying incorrect information.
Take the scenario of a factory running around the clock, with three shifts per day, six days a week – the total time devoted to filling out a spreadsheet would equate to a full working day per week – time spent on nothing more than this one tedious task. Calculate that by the number of operators and the number of total shifts to realize the staggering costs lost on operating time.
The good news is that OEE, through Industry 4.0 technologies such as PTC’s ThingWorx Industrial IoT platform, can be automated. The automated process alone can save cost and restore lost time. PTC’s and Rockwell Automation have created a solution that allows companies to streamline the convergence of digital, physical and human elements – all of which are key to helping customers digitally transform their business models and factories. The solution, Factory Talk Innovation Suite, powered by the ThingWorx platform, enables manufacturers to consolidate and connect (information technology) IT with (operational technology) OT from existing factory equipment and systems, providing a fully comprehensive approach to operational intelligence. It gives manufacturers the ability to collect the right data, which is then pulled together in an easy to understand, custom dashboard designed for the needs of the operator. What’s important here is that the data appears seamlessly, in real-time for easy monitoring and a comprehensive overview for the operator.
Once the factory managers and operators have the automated overview of what is happening on the factory floor, he or she can start to shine light on the dark, inefficient areas and, more importantly, understand in real-time exactly what is going on. And, by using augmented reality (AR), such as PTC’s Vuforia AR Enterprise Suite, operators don’t have to remain positioned in front of the dashboard. With AR, a tablet or glasses can be used to view the equipment directly to make determinations on the spot. Once manufacturers have this visibility, they can use AR to advance to predictive and remote maintenance, where further significant cost savings and uptime will be realized.