Making smart technology work for you

Posted on 16 Aug 2022 by Joe Bush
Partner Content

With budgets squeezed from every angle, and pressure to achieve ever greater efficiencies, how can manufacturers get a clear picture of the productivity gaps across their factory that will enable them to embrace digitalisation?

As manufacturing businesses face the triple pressures of rising energy costs, supply chain challenges, and a widespread skills gap across the sector, every efficiency gain counts – large or small.

The sector is no stranger to evolution. From the first moving assembly line to the arrival of Industry 4.0, the shop floor has become a more complex world and manufacturers have had to adapt equipment, teams, systems, and processes to maintain the smooth running of production lines and achieve maximum efficiencies.

Tackling current manufacturing industry challenges

Remaining competitive in the face of extreme challenges is no mean feat.

In recent years, the sector has faced a major recruitment issue as young people take up careers in other industries. Many have turned their back on what are seen as ‘traditional’ industries to pursue careers in the technology sector, not realising the role tech plays in creating world-class manufacturing facilities.

The industry certainly has a job to do to show a tech-hungry talent pool the opportunities a career in manufacturing affords and, on a micro level, individual manufacturing businesses that are embracing Industry 4.0 and communicating it to the outside world stand a much better chance of attracting the talent they need.

The double whammy of COVID and Brexit has also created significant supply chain issues for many manufacturing businesses that have seen some products become near impossible to get hold of, alongside huge price rises and extended delivery timescales – all of which have a direct impact on the bottom line.

Add to this the unprecedented energy price hikes facing the sector, and most manufacturers are really feeling the pinch. This perfect storm means that efficiency and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) are even more firmly in the spotlight.

All hail Industry 4.0

The advent of Industry 4.0 promised incredible benefits. The truth is that these lofty promises have not materialised for a lot of manufacturers, for several reasons. Firstly, there are many differing views on what Industry 4.0 is. Secondly, the digital revolution – like the industrial revolutions that preceded it – is complex. And thirdly, digitalisation comes with a price tag.

FourJaw believe that one of the first steps on this journey is for businesses to look at the resources they already have at their disposal – both equipment and human resources – and ask themselves whether those resources are being used in the most efficient ways.

We often see systems operating in silos on the factory floor when information could be gathered and analysed more holistically and shared much more widely. Where information is collected, it is often done in time- and resource-consuming ways. Many manufacturers are relying on people to gather information, when in fact data can be collected using cost-effective technology, which means the skills in your team can be deployed far more effectively and efficiently in other areas.

Reducing the time people spend on low-skilled tasks frees up resources and enables the right people to do the work that best suits their skillsets. It also frees up managers to be more proactive. Gathering the right data in the most cost-efficient way is key. Without it, gaps and inefficiencies are not always obvious. With accurate, real-time data as the starting point, managers can quickly see those gaps, and put processes in place that will drive production efficiencies and invaluable cost savings.

Collecting the right shop floor data

Most of the manufacturing businesses we speak to estimate machine utilisation at between 50% and 60%. However, after implementing ‘plug and play’ manufacturing analytics software, the data shows that actual utilisation rates are, on average, between 20% and 30%.

For a lot of businesses, the first instinct is to invest in new equipment to help increase efficiency. In many cases, with the right information at their fingertips, those businesses can significantly improve Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) without having to invest in new kit, simply by tapping into the capacity in their existing machinery.

This potential often remains untapped as many manufacturers don’t realise that this type of ‘plug and play’ monitoring exists, or how quick, easy, and cost-effective it is to implement across an entire manufacturing facility, giving them a holistic view and enabling them to address productivity across the site, rather than focusing in one specific pain point.

Gaining a clear understanding of the whole production picture helps to ensure that all resources – machinery, staff skills, energy, and time – are used efficiently and cost-effectively. Industry 4.0 is complex, but machine monitoring needn’t be, and gaining a picture of how your site is performing is a vital first step in achieving those all-important efficiency gains.

Read more about what Industry 4.0 is, and what it looks like for your business, by downloading FourJaw’s free ‘No Bull Industry 4.0’ guide

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