In the manufacturing industry, efficiency is key to staying competitive and profitable. One way to improve efficiency is through data visibility. By having access to real-time visibility of the operational data throughout the manufacturing process, companies can identify bottlenecks, monitor production lines, and make data-driven decisions. In this article, we’ll explore how data visibility can help manufacturing companies improve their efficiency and ultimately their bottom line.

Without measurement, it is impossible to optimize the manufacturing process

The world of Industry 4.0 has completely changed the approach to data. The once complicated process of preparing, sending, and archiving information has now become something amazingly simple and does not require specialist knowledge, tools, and time. Finally, we have the necessary data available at our fingertips! So… why doesn’t the average manufacturing company still use this fact to improve its manufacturing efficiency?

Challenges of manufacturing companies

The main challenge faced by organizations today is how to effectively find themselves in this maze of information, perform effective data management and extract critical information from the endless stream of data. An excessive amount of chaotic information can in extreme situations lead to the same situation, as its complete lack – we are not able to make decisions efficiently and quickly. And isn’t that what it is all about? Isn’t our goal today to react, correct, and modify our actions in real time, considering all the key factors?

Only such actions will allow us to increase our equipment effectiveness and process performance to levels previously unreachable. To achieve this, data itself is not enough (we already have it already!). We need the essence of this accurate data – relevant, key information, kept in a certain context and extracted from data silos. Available to perform data analytics. This is the famous concept of so-called big data. And the resulting real-time data visibility.

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How can data visibility improve efficiency?

Of course, well-prepared and processed data itself will not increase efficiency. However, it will be a great tool, sometimes also a guide that will help us and show us where our efficiency can be improved. Especially if it will be real-time data related to manufacturing processes and equipment performance.

1) Real-time monitoring improves operational efficiency

Operator_monitoring_in_real_time_production_to_improve_operational_efficiency

With data visibility, manufacturing companies can track their manufacturing operations in real time. They can monitor production lines, inventory levels, and other key performance indicators (KPIs) such as overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) to identify issues as they arise and improve operations. This allows them to take corrective action immediately, minimizing unplanned downtime and reducing waste.

What’s more, having such a system (e.g., OEE Advisor) that automatically gathers data from the shop floor as well as disparate systems helps to reduce manual processes related to collecting this data, which leads to lower human error and further cost savings. Such data, available on demand not only provide increased visibility but also allows the formulation of actionable insights that improve processes and increase plant performance. This is the crucial aspect of such a real-time production visibility system, which very often is overlooked.

2) Let the data lead your actions in the most optimal direction

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Thanks to the ability to analyze data from all your devices and, of course, what is crucial here, the ability to unify this information, you will be able to easily assess which of your machines or production lines require immediate intervention, and a deeper analysis of why the effectiveness of these assets deviates from the norm.

Data visibility can help manufacturers predict when maintenance is needed for their machines and equipment (so-called predictive maintenance), decreasing maintenance costs. By analyzing real-time data from sensors and other sources, manufacturers can identify patterns and anomalies that indicate potential problems. This allows them to react quickly and plan ahead to avoid unplanned downtime.

Using the collected data, you can precisely analyze when, why, and how long such unplanned downtimes lasted. What are the situations when the quality or the quantity of the product produced, is inconsistent with expectations?

We are not just talking purely about production data here. Check how your efficiency is affected by factors such as shifts or team change or even the type of product produced. Maybe that’s where the problem lies. Perhaps training of your staff is needed?

Maybe a specific range of products is too much of a challenge for your machine park? Do your employees have a problem with the correct changeover of machines that must be performed too often due to a poorly optimized production plan? The answer to these questions will surely be found in the data. But will you find this information in your data today?

3) Identifying problems in production processes

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Good insight into the data is what will allow you to assess whether the changes and innovations you propose (aimed at eliminating problems and improving your manufacturing efficiency) meet their assumptions. What’s more, thanks to the continuous measurement of effectiveness, you will be able to quickly assess whether you have chosen the right direction of changes, whether the speed of these changes is acceptable to you, and most importantly, whether the costs incurred for these innovations will pay off in the time you set.

Find bottlenecks that your customers feel

Are you sure that your real bottleneck is in fact the production line with the lowest overall equipment effectiveness? Can a production line with the highest OEE be your bottleneck?

Of course, both cases can be true. Why? Because looking at your problem more broadly, having at your disposal not only production data but also orders and lead times, you will be able to assess (or the algorithm and advanced analytics will do it for you) where your true production capacity gaps to meet the expectations of your customers are.

This is a great indicator that will show you where you should invest your money. Production performance of the line is great and yet the line is still a bottleneck. Having analyzed data, you may find out that it’s time to think about buying a second one or finding a way to increase the productivity of the current one. Again, the answers to these questions are in your data – there’s all the critical information you need to move your business forward at a higher speed and achieve real business results.

4) Inventory management

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With data visibility, manufacturers can track inventory levels and usage patterns. This enables them to optimize their inventory levels, ensuring they have enough materials and supplies on hand without overstocking. By reducing excess inventory, manufacturers can free up space and capital, improving their bottom line.

What’s more, involving your warehouse, supply chain, and other company data – you may perform data analytics related to assessing the market demands (so-called demand forecasting).

Such a solution can provide knowledge that many manufacturers lack – that allows not only to improve operations, but also reduce costs or help to overcome supply chain issues.

5) Quality control

Employee_watches_product_to_prevent_quality_problems_with_products

Real-time visibility allows manufacturers to monitor the quality of their products throughout the production process. They can track and analyze data from sensors and other sources to identify potential quality issues early on.

This enables them to take corrective action before defective products are produced, reducing waste and improving customer satisfaction. This also can have a meaningful impact on sustainability through reduced carbon footprint and – of course – reduced operational costs.

6) Supply chain management

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With data visibility, manufacturers can track their suppliers’ performance and monitor their supply chain in real time. This enables them to identify bottlenecks and other issues and take corrective action quickly, such as looking for alternative sources of raw materials or components. By optimizing their supply chain, manufacturers can improve delivery times and reduce costs, improving their competitiveness in the market.

A great example of such a system can be found in many verticals, for example in the automotive industry, where coordination of the supply chain and distribution centers is of the utmost importance. With thousands of variable factors and parties involved, it is impossible for humans to put the order in this chaos. But algorithms and advanced analytics have time. They can help to find and suggest the most optimal way to solve supply chain problems, optimizing them and reducing bottlenecks.

7) Efficiency is also energy and utilities

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But data visibility relates not only to the production processes and equipment efficiency improvements. It can also focus on the factors that make the manufacturing businesses more sustainable – and allow for reducing costs at the shop floor at the same time: data collection and real-time visibility of energy (utilities) consumption and their cost.

Until recently, many manufacturers ignored or overlooked utilities and their costs in planning and optimizing operational efficiency. However, recently it has become an important element that needs to be measured and analyzed. Without an effective solution that makes their consumption visible in the context of production (such as the Energy Advisor), it is not possible to maintain the pace of change and ensure competitiveness today.

Conclusion

1. Data visibility is crucial to improving efficiency in manufacturing, and today one of the biggest challenges is how to effectively manage and extract critical information from an endless stream of data.

2. With real-time data visibility, you can analyze your production process and identify bottlenecks, and most importantly, make data-driven decisions immediately, minimizing unplanned downtime and reducing waste.

3. Data visibility can help you predict when maintenance and repair of machinery and equipment are needed, helping you reduce maintenance costs and avoid unplanned downtime.

4. Energy and utilities are areas where data visibility can help deliver further benefits and move closer to sustainability goals.

5. Data and the ability to effectively analyze and utilize it can greatly help organizations improve their operational efficiency, leading to increased competitiveness, sustainability, and profitability.

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and big data it provides is today one of our biggest strengths. It opens new great possibilities and affects the whole value chain. Allow you to save, optimize, reduce, and accelerate.  It is so important to ensure the quality of data collection and visibility of the production floor data.

At Transition Technologies PSC, we have been helping our clients take this path for several years now. We can also help you with your data, to ensure that you are getting the most from it. Turn your ordinary data into actionable data today.

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