Metrics Matter on the Plant Floor

0Manufacturing companies employ a variety of information systems to allow employees to do their jobs.

But how easy is it for key roles to access critical production data? Each worker is focused on the metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) for his or her individual function. For example, machine operators monitor throughput and cycle time to keep machines running continuously. Meanwhile, the maintenance team monitors machine performance and tries to predict and prevent downtime. Upstairs, plant managers keep their attention focused on profitability and utilization.

Because it’s largely siloed, this role-based information traditionally hasn’t been accessible to monitor the health of overall plant operations. Even when data is shared among different factory departments, it’s often done the old-fashioned way: distributed by hand on spreadsheets that contain manually keyed information. Not only does this pull people away from the tasks at hand, it also introduces human error into the process.

Progressive businesses are discovering the value of harvesting data from the factory floor to respond to key performance challenges that influence important decisions at the highest levels. Metrics matter. Data that’s been left dormant and isolated in disparate controllers, HMIs and other plant-floor systems can provide vital information about overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), system uptime, energy use and other KPIs.

“Manufacturing Intelligence” is the strategy for turning automation and control system-level data into insightful information that’s visible and useful to people at every level of the organization. Effective manufacturing intelligence software applications seamlessly share related data from maintenance, quality and automation systems in a single, coherent environment.

Out-of-the-box functionality
Today’s manufacturers can take advantage of new software solutions that are easily configured and installed out-of-the-box. These tools can access, aggregate and correlate information, and present it as dashboards, reports and charts via standard browsers like Internet Explorer or through Microsoft Excel.

By leveraging industry standards and a unified production model (UPM), applications such as FactoryTalk VantagePoint from Rockwell Automation can provide a cohesive view of seemingly disparate manufacturing data and give context for relationships among equipment, product, materials and people.

The UPM organizes various manufacturing and enterprise data using commonly referenced terms, like “equipment,” “batches” or “manufacturing lots.” It can automatically issue alerts to those who need to know about exception conditions, missed targets and plan deviations.

The power of the UPM is that it is federated, meaning that the data always remains at its original source, coming directly from the controller. Reports, KPIs and dashboards always benefit from the most up-to-date information. Leaving the original data intact also helps maintain one version of the truth.

Role-based reporting
Manufacturing intelligence software applications aggregate information into the appropriate business context and deliver it in relevant, role-based reports, dashboards and KPIs to users, supervisors and management using a simple web browser. For example:

• Equipment operators are able to study cycle times and scrap rate right at the machine.
• Engineering and maintenance managers can view efficiency data from areas of the operation to conduct root cause analysis and equipment availability.
• Quality managers can easily check selected work cells and further drill down into events and details, enabling them to see how their quality levels, such as first pass yield and first pass quality, are tracking.
• Plant managers and operational vice presidents can view plantwide data and metrics for individual areas, such as yield.
• And senior executives can continually evaluate real-time production information to monitor KPIs and link them to financial performance.

Extensive security features, which are mandatory for a system that can connect to so many different data sources, allow users to protect any item in the UPM and specify exactly who is allowed to read, write, access or change any of the data coming in from different sources.

One world-leading agricultural chemical manufacturer is already reaping the benefits of manufacturing intelligence. The company wanted to enable employees across a new production facility to use a single point of access for information to help them to maintain cost efficiency, and streamline track-and-trace capability to ensure compliance with strict regulations.

The company implemented a manufacturing intelligence software strategy that provides visibility into the chemical production process by correlating performance metrics with manufacturing information. Decision-makers across the enterprise can now see diverse views and new relationships within a Web browser. The reporting and analysis tools, operator interfaces, and management dashboards deliver contextual, localized, role-based information to help management measure performance across the facility. Since the implementation, the company increased production 166 percent over its previous facility, all while decreasing labor needs.

For more information, visit the Manufacturing Intelligence site.

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