Digital technologies provide an abundance of data that can help companies improve their production, but this wealth of information can also cause data overload, making it difficult to make decisions. Improved visual tools are making it much simpler for enterprises to understand trends and take the actions needed to improve efficiency and reduce downtime.
The Need for Better Data Control
As companies build up their automated controls, they often generate large volumes of digital data. However, this data is often as much a source of confusion as an aid to improving efficiency. The challenge has prompted many equipment, software and service suppliers to focus on creating tools that help users leverage voluminous amounts of data to improve operational efficiency.
When data is easy to understand, it provides information that can help automation experts recognize trends and also make adjustments before defective products are made. This information can also form the basis for predictive analysis that foretells equipment failures, letting operators shut down equipment so repairs can be made before failures cause unplanned downtime.
This data collection can also help equipment manufacturers improve the quality and usability of their machines. Information on usage patterns and component wear can be analyzed to improve next-generation hardware. Designers can see how components degrade as they age, then determine how those parts can be improved. Similarly, when design teams can see how equipment is operated in the field, they can tweak designs to improve efficiency and make life easier for operators. Factors related to safety can also be enhanced when developers can see how equipment is used on a daily basis.
Making Analysis Easier
There are many more ways to use all the available data. When users want to predict failures, they will often turn to data logging files that let them track components over time. When users pore over data that preceded failures on one type of machine, they can pinpoint trends that occur shortly before problems arise.
Mitsubishi makes it simple for users to gain these types of insights. MC Works tools use drag-and-drop concepts, so there’s no programming involved. Users can detail the types of information they want to examine, then see how this information looks on a chart or graph. When users see a trend that piques their interest, they can click on those parameters and see further details.
Visual tools also make it easy for operators to set alerts that warn them when parameters are going out of limits. These alerts help maintenance people take corrective action before more serious problems arise. Predictive intervention can often be established by watching one or two critical components.
For example, the system may send an alert to maintenance when the software spots a sensor that begins operating at 10 hours per week instead of 20 hours. Similarly, if a pressure threshold drops below a certain value, the system can automatically generate an e-mail alerting someone who is responsible for making adjustments.
Modern visualization tools bring capabilities that extend beyond the factory floor. Software suites, such as Mitsubishi Electric Automation’s MC Works, give managers insight regardless of location Remote access makes it possible for workers to use tablets, smart phones and laptops to see real-time data and make changes wherever they are, whether at home, a remote meeting or another worksite.
This ability to manage equipment 24/7 from nearly anywhere around the globe can have a dramatic impact on productivity. In facilities that don’t run nonstop, maintenance can be scheduled during off hours, giving managers a chance to troubleshoot and test performance without impacting performance.
Additionally, authorized personnel can quickly build reports, perform downtime analysis and create process reports, to name just a few common tasks. Another powerful benefit is that managers can easily set parameters to see when machine guidelines are being overlooked. For example, if a machine is running above its desired performance levels, alerts including texts or e-mails can be sent to the responsible parties.
Leveraging Connectivity--While Keeping a Rein on Data
These benefits expand when companies enhance their digital technologies with connectivity. Joining the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) makes it even simpler for executives and managers to examine operations, letting them use one common dashboard to look at their operations. Using a single human machine interface reduces confusion and shortens the learning curve compared agaist older systems, where various programs would typically present separate appearances. With IIoT, one end-user can monitor and adjust equipment at many sites around the globe while also better understanding enterprise-wide inventory levels.
Typically, computing services for IIoT are provided by cloud service providers. Operations that have strong information technology departments can set up their own cloud platforms, letting them keep a tighter rein on data.