The Manufacturer's Guide to Machine Connectivity

In today’s highly competitive manufacturing landscape, staying ahead of the curve requires more than just efficient production processes. Manufacturers need to embrace digital transformation and leverage cutting-edge technologies to optimize their operations. One key aspect of this transformation is the seamless connectivity of machines in the factory and the implementation of robust production monitoring systems. In this article, we will delve into the importance of machine connectivity and explore how production monitoring can revolutionize your manufacturing processes.

The Power of Machine Connectivity

Disparate data, unconnected systems, and lack of visibility are the biggest drivers for machine connectivity. Most manufacturers are unable to get reliable usable data from their shop floor equipment. Today’s manufacturing equipment produces thousands of data points every millisecond, all of which tell a story of what happened, what’s happening, and what’s going to happen next. Unfortunately, this data is not being captured or analysed to drive business decisions, increase value and improve efficiencies and margins, because historically it has been far too difficult to do so. With thousands of different types of machines of varying ages, connectivity seemed out of reach.

This lack of data often leads to massive inefficiencies that affect every element of a company’s operations including an inability to drive process improvements, reduce down time, justify capital expenditure, lower energy consumption, improve margins and identify unexpected machine failures.

What is machine connectivity?

Machine connectivity refers to the ability of different machines and systems within a factory to communicate with each other. This connectivity enables real-time data exchange, facilitating enhanced visibility and control over the entire production process.

Key benefits of machine connectivity

  1. Improved Efficiency: Connected machines enable the automation of data collection, reducing manual errors and streamlining processes. This leads to increased operational efficiency and productivity.
  2. Enhanced Decision-Making: The value of real-time data should not be underestimated, when machines are digitally connected this provides valuable insights for decision-makers. This enables proactive problem-solving, better resource allocation, and optimized production planning.
  3. Predictive Maintenance: Machine connectivity enables easy monitoring of vital parameters and performance metrics in real-time. By analysing this data, manufacturers can predict maintenance requirements and schedule repairs or replacements before costly breakdowns occur. And more importantly, schedule downtime for repairs in a schedule that suits production schedules.
  4. Supply Chain Integration: Machine connectivity fosters seamless integration with suppliers, partners, and customers, enabling better coordination, efficient order management, and reduced lead times.
  5. Reduce energy consumption. Idling machines consume energy. Real-time visibility and analysis enables manufacturers to optimise production and reduce energy costs.

With limited connectivity many manufacturers attempt the onerous process of manual collection of production data. This is both time consuming and prone to inefficiencies and inaccuracies. Data is also always historical as manual collection is not in real-time, resulting in manufacturers being reactive.

“Immediate ROI and dedicated customer support. The support desk at Intouch was praised for being efficient and helpful in resolving any issues”.

Source: Petford Group Case Study

So why are manufacturers unconnected?

Although manufacturers understand the value of making data-driven decisions the industry is understandably plagued by connectivity challenges due to the wide array of equipment, systems, and processes involved. With such and extensive range of equipment types, machine makes, and control methods, this can cause confusion on the best connectivity methods to pursue. Often what seems like a simple ‘plug and play’ solution requires considerable investment and capability. But help is at hand.

Data variety

With so many different types of equipment — Lathes, Mills, Plastic Injection Moulding, Stamping, Laser Cutters, Robotics – the list is endless, acquiring data from those systems can be diverse and challenging. Once collected the data needs to be normalised for it to provide the actionable insights that lead to the benefits mentioned earlier.

Integrating legacy systems is complex and time consuming. Understanding the data within the manufacturing process is essential to making coherent analysis, upon which to take action.

Data volume

Manufacturing equipment is very complex. A machine is a large system of components that work in coordination resulting in hundreds of distinct data points that change constantly. In order to extract value from this information data must be analysed at multiple levels.

Implementing Production Monitoring to connect your shop floor

Production monitoring complements machine connectivity by enabling manufacturers to monitor and analyse the data generated by connected machines. This comprehensive oversight empowers manufacturers to identify bottlenecks, track key performance indicators (KPIs), and make data-driven improvements.

Here are some steps to implement effective production monitoring:

  1. Define Objectives: Identify the specific production metrics you want to monitor, such as cycle time, downtime, quality indicators, or OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency). Set clear goals to drive your monitoring efforts.
  2. Select the Right Tools: Choose a production monitoring system that aligns with your objectives and integrates smoothly with your existing machinery and software infrastructure. Consider factors like ease of use, scalability, real-time reporting capabilities, and compatibility with emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT). And consider future proofing. As your business grows and changes, you add more machines, so your choice needs to connect easily with a machine that’s not yet on your factory floor.
  3. Collect Relevant Data: Connect machines and sensors to gather accurate and real-time data. This may involve integrating machine control systems, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), IoT devices or simple sensors. Ensure that the data collected is standardized, consistent, and accessible for analysis.
  4. Data Analysis and Visualization: Leverage data analytics to analyse the collected data and generate actionable insights. Use visual dashboards to present the information in a clear and easily understandable format, enabling quick decision-making.
  5. Continuous Improvement: Act upon the insights gained from production monitoring to optimize your manufacturing processes and improve your OEE. Identify areas for improvement, implement corrective actions, and monitor the impact of these changes over time. Continuous improvement programs will result in all the benefits mentioned earlier.

What's holding you back?

Machine connectivity and production monitoring are vital components of modern manufacturing, offering significant advantages in terms of efficiency, decision-making, maintenance, and supply chain integration. By harnessing the power of connectivity and utilizing effective monitoring systems, manufacturers can unlock new levels of operational excellence, cost savings, and competitiveness (competitive advantage). Embrace the digital revolution, adopt these technologies, and propel your factory towards a smarter and more productive future. And improve your bottom line!

Would you like to learn more?

If you’d like to learn more about how machine connectivity might benefit your business, talk to one of our experts:

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How it works

Getting started with Intouch is as easy as 1, 2, 3

1. Book a demo

Let us show you what we can do. Jump on a demo call and our friendly team will take you through the Intouch system and answer any questions you might have.

2. Enjoy a free trial

Don’t just take our word for it! We’ll lend you our technology for a 60-day free trial so you can see exactly how it can benefit the everyday operation of your business.

3. Receive ongoing support

It doesn’t end there. If you decide Intouch is the right production monitoring system for you, we’ll work with you to help you take control and make significant improvements in OEE.