You’ve canceled meetings, you have people working from home, and sickness and absence rates are higher than usual due to Covid-19: tough times indeed, especially for anyone running a manufacturing business. Customers are understanding but finished parts and products must still ship, especially if needed for essential medical equipment. These challenges will stretch any manufacturer, but those with machine monitoring systems in place will be better positioned to cope.

Machine Monitoring Basics

Many manufacturers use OEE to monitor machine performance and identify ways of raising utilization. Accurate OEE numbers depend on getting good data about how machines are being used throughout the day, which is where machine monitoring comes in.

Machine monitoring entails each machine reporting current status in real time. This can include whether the machine was turned on, time when it’s in cut, part counts and even the actual speeds and feeds used. Enhancements include reporting when it’s undergoing changeover, when it’s down for repair and even if it’s waiting for material or an operator.

By capturing and analyzing this data it’s possible to build up a picture of how well the machine, or machines if the system is rolled-out across a shop, are performing. However, if numbers are solely entered manually, both resolution and accuracy may be suspect.

The latest machine monitoring systems useIndustry 4.0 technology to stream status data back to a central point. This could be on-premises although many manufacturers prefer cloud systems for their superior storage and analytics capabilities.

Benefits Realized in These Difficult Times

“Social distancing” makes things difficult for manufacturers. People are working from home and there are fewer people out on the factory floor to run production equipment. Maximizing output demands laser-sharp focus on capacity constraints and that takes accurate real-time data on bottleneck machine status.

Here’s how machine monitoring helps.

Remote Access to Data

With a modern machine monitoring system in place there is no need to walk the floor the see what’s happening. All the status information needed is available through a laptop or mobile device running the monitoring application. Engineers, buyers, even the Maintenance and Production Managers can see what they need from their home office. Being out of the office no longer means being out of touch!

Dashboard Views into Machine Utilization

Spreadsheets and databases capture and store data. They can even do some rudimentary processing, but getting it presented in a useful format takes a lot of time and effort. Worse still, information needs change rapidly in a short-staffed factory and there’s never enough time to write and debug new macros.

A configurable dashboard solves this problem. Each user formats the data and display they need to help them do their job better. Pie charts, bar charts, pareto analyses, whatever format helps, a dashboard displays the information that is needed, when it’s needed.

Accurate and Real-Time Data

Highly granular, real-time data is essential when you’re focused on maximizing bottleneck utilization. Finding that the machine has been idle for 30 minutes is half an hour of lost time. Yes, it will show up in OEE results, but you can’t get that time back.

A real-time dashboard shows when machine status changes, at the moment it changes. Even when working remotely, it’s possible, thanks to how the dashboard is configured, to get an alert and initiate action immediately. That means more throughput and increased overhead dilution, without being physically present to watch what is happening.

Improved Communication

When the machine monitoring system uses consistent data to present information on dashboards, all team members have access to the same numbers. That makes it a lot easier to discuss plans and agree on actions, even when you are not all in the conference room together.

Machine Monitoring Benefits in Focus

Running a manufacturing operation has never been easy, but COVID-19 has made it even harder. Reduced staffing and people working from home highlight how a powerful machine monitoring system can help. Accurate, real-time data supports effective communication and rapid decision-making, which lets managers maximize utilization of what resources they have available. These are challenging times, but technology is available to make things easier.