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    For most of its history, modern manufacturing has been reactive.  By looking back at past performance over a range of issues such as production rates, defects, maintenance costs and a host of other performance metrics, managers have historically tried to predict the next step.  And regardless as to whether those predictions were right or wrong, that backward-looking and reactive footing meant losses in the form of inefficiency for all those areas.

    Even given basic equipment automation available in most manufacturing equipment in the last twenty years, production departments still had to gather, enter and pass on critical information to be combined with other inputs arriving throughout the factory.  And that loss of time resulted in higher cost.  

    Until the arrival of Industry 4.0 and technologies such as the Industrial Internet of Things, little could be done to reduce the length of the manual data chain to allow better decision making throughout the operation.  Now, with IIoT and the concept of the connected factory, real-time monitoring has arrived. And with it, companies can capture that value and move from a reactive to a proactive state.

    As one of the key benefits of the arrival of the connected factory, real-time monitoring has many benefits:

    • Connected Machinery – Today’s IIoT platforms are flexible and allow companies to drive decision making based on the data acquired.  That data capture is made possible through the ability to connect machines regardless of age throughout the facility.  Edge devices, sensors and software adaptors “level the playing field” to allow capture of data for production equipment of different vintage. 

      These systems utilize intuitive and customizable dashboards at the point of operation to allow operators and technicians the ability to act in real-time as situations dictate.  And this visualization empowers staff and can lead to increases in uptime by 20% or more. This visualization also enables operators to add notes, and other key data that then become part of the real-time data available to those who need it most.
    • Quality on the Go – If production data has historically experienced a lag due to manual data, then quality initiatives have suffered even longer chains.  With siloed data that often utilizes specialized software apart from the production system, quality departments within manufacturing have traditionally been forced into “damage control” rather than quality control.  The same real time monitoring that drives production decisions is benefiting quality decisions as well.
      With AI and machine learning, many machines can perform autonomous or semi-autonomous functions to identify and correct run-related issues before they occur.  And when intervention is required, having real-time data that is unsiloed and understandable by all can allow for more rapid response that reduces waste and improves uptime.
    • Conditions Based Monitoring – With real-time data capture and advanced analytics, conditions-based monitoring – or predictive maintenance – is a reality.  Combined with visualizations at key operator and technical points, predictive notifications enable operations to develop predictive maintenance programs.  Studies have shown that predictive maintenance can improve productivity by as much as 25%.  

      Other benefits to maintenance from real-time monitoring include alerts to technicians for unexpected repairs as well as upcoming repairs.  Deep analytics working in conjunction with production can monitor upcoming changeovers to notify maintenance of the optimal time to make scheduled repairs.  These platforms also have extensive reporting tools to help decision-makers plan, reducing equipment failures and prolonging equipment life and improving OEE.
    • Keeping Track of Vendors -  The benefits of connectivity and real-time monitoring are not only vertical.  With full deployment, they can be horizontal across the supply chain as well. With today’s far-flung and lengthy supply chains, the ability to monitor delivery and part failure notifications in real-time can mean the difference between a missed delivery or an increased seconds rate due to part quality. 
    • Taking the High View -  One of the key values made possible with IIoT is the realization of a single version of truth with standardized data.  This eliminates the silos traditionally encountered between different functional areas. Because data is standardized and available to all within the system, most IIoT software can be connected to existing ERP systems and can also integrate with API applications for those with extensive app-based field service systems.  Combined with real-time monitoring of the shop floor enables companies to bring real-time monitoring and decision making to the enterprise level and gives high level management and critical areas such as finance, the ability to act upon available data faster and with more precision for the entire business. 

    Today’s IIoT systems can offer a huge leap forward in production efficiency and reduced costs.  And real-time monitoring is central to this capability. By combining AI, machine learning, deep analytics and a host of well-designed edge devices, sensors and software adaptors, these software platforms help move production from reactive to predictive to improve OEE, increase productivity and lower cost.

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