Leveraging Data Collection Software to Boost Factory Effectiveness

Meagan Douglas
Tue, Feb 3, 2015

A recent Supply Chain Digest article suggested that the overall equipment effectiveness metric is still relevant in today's factories. The metric works not only for individual machines but for entire factories.  However, in order to get this data, a new methodology has been proposed that has four different points of data: efficiency, utilization, productivity and reliability. In order to collect the relevant information about these issues, a company will have to invest in a data collection system. It can be as simple as barcode scanning software, and it works by gathering together information by scanning tags as they move past on a conveyer belt. This is a much more efficient system than using a pen and paper on a clipboard. Workers can only collect data at a human pace, while machines work very quickly and without making human errors.

Manufacturing should be done intelligently, and by working smarter instead of harder, companies can save money and boost their efficiency. Ultimately, this will become a major technological issue, as the companies that can use the so-called Internet of Things to compile data will be at a much greater advantage than those that still rely upon more simplistic data capturing techniques.

A Metric that Works
The measurements used to determine the effectiveness of a factory have changed in the past years. Gone are the days when most operations were done manually. The current generation of robotics is such that most things are now done by machines. Thus, the metrics used must be updated to reflect a machine's effectiveness at operating in a largely independent context. In other to boost the extent of the operations at a factory, companies should change the way they look at their metrics in order to focus on machines and their ability to work smoothly and without mistakes. In order to compile the information, it is necessary to know how many products a machine can manufacture in a set amount of time. Calculating this requires the use of another machine, such as an automatic data capturing system. It would be impossible to figure out how many things a machine can make in an hour by counting using a human being. Machines can work much faster than a human can count, and the employee might be better used elsewhere in the factory.

Smart Manufacturing
According to Environmental Leader, smart manufacturing is the new way that factories will operate in the future. This means using OEE to analyze how well a factory is doing, as explained above, and it also means expanding OEE to the entire factory, something that can only be done with a heavy amount of data to look at. Essentially a smart factory uses the tools brought about by big data in order to figure out the best way to run an efficient factory.  This can be as involved as a company wants it to be - ranging from an entire revamping of where machines are placed to simply buying new and more effective hardware, or replacing items that break down frequently.

Growing a Factory with the Internet of Things
In the future, factories will expand beyond big data and actually work together by communicating on the Internet of Things. When a particular machine is broken down, then software will automatically delegate additional work to a functioning tool. This will happen smoothly and quickly. The only way to bring this into a factory is to use automated data collection because no other method of collecting so much information can work if someone is still relying on very basic tools for gathering data. To advance into the next generation of manufacturing, managers need to begin adapting to current technologies right now.

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