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How The Internet Can Improve Your Plant Operations

Eric Hagopian
October 31, 2016

 

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Sometimes it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees.

In manufacturing, that forest is the internet.

If you haven’t started leveraging the internet’s tremendous potential to streamline and improve your plant’s operations, pull up a chair and take a look at a couple of strategies some of your competitors are likely embracing.  

Think about how the internet has impacted your everyday life.

From doing banking transactions, to researching and booking vacations, to having a face-to-face visit with a family member, the internet has transformed the way we live.

Make no mistake. This isn’t lost on your competitors - many of whom have identified several ways they can use the internet to improve their plant operations.

They’ve already started leveraging the internet to streamline processes, slash costs, increase production and improve customer service.

And they’re tapping into two key advantages the internet offers.

The first is the ability to put information at the fingertips of shift supervisors and maintenance personnel via smartphones and tablets so that it can be analyzed and acted upon. 

Relatively inexpensive and fast to deploy, these internet-enabled tools can have an immediate impact on improving machine maintenance and reducing downtime.

Why? Because they make the invisible...visible.

Suppose a machine on a shop floor in a North Carolina plant breaks down. Without timely access to information that could reveal why it malfunctioned, it could be days before the problem is diagnosed - especially if the manufacturer is out of the country.

Fast forward to the internet.

A maintenance foreman can use a smartphone to video the problem area and email it to the manufacturer. The result? An immediate diagnosis that gets production back up and running in short order instead of having it grind to a halt for two days.  

And the benefits of being able to access information via the internet aren’t limited to troubleshooting.

Maybe you’re thinking of adding a new, expensive machine to your shop floor but you want to be sure your maintenance team can support it.

Before the internet, the only option would have been to do some preliminary research, pack your team off to wherever to see the equipment in person and hope that the cost of trip was wisely invested.

Today, you can take a lot of the guesswork out of key buying initiatives. The internet gives you a front row seat via online webinar - a presentation that every key member of your team can view on their mobile device - regardless of where they are.

The best part? Using the internet to gain considerable operational and maintenance benefits is virtually cost-free.

There’s no internal software to implement. And there’s no IT support or training required.  

The second way manufacturing companies are using the internet to change the way they do business involves the Internet of Things (IoT).

Simply put, the IoT gives you the ability to connect any device with an on/off switch to the Internet - and each other.

Think shop room floor.

Imagine being able to create a manufacturing environment where communication and control of your machines is part of an intelligent network - one where manual tracking is significantly is replaced by automated data collection.

“Smart” machines and systems replace humans as the main source for information regarding plant operation.

Constant monitoring - along with easy access to information - gives your team the ability to be proactive and eliminate many of the costly mistakes due to human error.

Potential problems can be spotted and dealt with - before they escalate.

Imagine the impact that minimizing unexpected machine breakdowns and costly downtime would have on your operations - and your employees?

The internet – and the Industrial Internet of Things – is here to stay. Many of your competitors are finding ways to use it to their advantage.

Maybe it’s time to take a look and see what all the chatter is about.

Ready to get connected?

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