What we learned at IMTS 2018

FREEDOM™ demonstrated its growing, connected IIoT Smart Manufacturing Platform at IMTS 2018. More than 2,500 manufacturers brought their latest and greatest technologies to Chicago, Illinois. It was a record-breaking year for registrations, square feet of exhibit space, exhibiting companies, and booths.

Our Freedom team showcased at the Smart Manufacturing Hub which provided us an opportunity to educate the IMTS crowd while making connections with the greatest thinkers and doers in the manufacturing space. As we were meeting with individuals in the industry, there was a buzz around getting more from their plant, utilizing new technologies to connect their machines and other assets to analyze information for improvements in production and cost control. Our discussions included benefits of these technologies, home-grown technology vs. outsourcing, connecting legacy machines for monitoring, and how companies perceive machine monitoring solutions in the IIoT era.

Benefits of Utilizing Technology to Connect Plant Assets
Building Technology vs. Outsourcing
Legacy Machines
Machine Monitoring Solutions
Freedom software presentation

 


Benefits of Utilizing Technology to Connect Plant Assets

Many of our discussions were about the results of connecting these machines and other assets. Most of the people we spoke with told us their business is growing fast and they needed to uncover unused capacity in their operation to meet increasing customer demand. Some were interested in the ability of their maintenance department to gain insights into machine health information to minimize unexpected machine downtime. Others were interested in understanding their asset performance from a financial perspective for an ROA view.

All of these topics and more are addressed by connecting and monitoring these assets. Once connected, the resulting analytics from monitoring becomes an easy and accurate way to measure just how the machines and the plant are performing. You get a picture of the performance of the assets for up-time, downtime, Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), and the contributing factors for improvements. This technology lets you quickly identify problems and take corrective actions.

 

Building Technology vs. Outsourcing

Some of the manufacturing companies we spoke with had implemented home-grown machine monitoring systems in their shop floor while others are outsourcing to a partner who is experienced in working and implementing these systems on a variety of machines and controllers. Companies looking to convert to a commercial software were interested in hearing about scalability, implementation timeframe, and functionality.

If you’re implementing home-grown solutions and your company is growing, you’ll need to dedicate initial resources to the creation of the solution. Then you’ll need to invest more time and money in managing and upgrading the machine monitoring system. If you’re working with a partner like Freedom, you gain the benefit of working with a company with a deep understanding of machines, manufacturing operations, and IT. In addition to our analytics platform, we provide the needed software machine interface adapters and hosting appliances to meet the needs of any of your assets. This ensures a quick and cost-effective deployment that is continuously upgraded for additional functionality.

 

Legacy Machines

Just about every plant that we go into has older machines that may be 30+ years old, so it was no surprise that connecting to older equipment was a big topic. IMTS attendees would tell us they have a mixture of newer machines and controllers in addition to older legacy machines they are not ready to replace. Those legacy machines do not have modern controllers, and sometimes the data can be difficult to obtain. Using the FREEDOM™ platform and our additional appliances, we successfully retrieve the data and convert it into the MTConnect protocol. This results in rich data sets in a consistent format which can then be used to integrate with all other machine data to provide valuable machine health and production information that can be displayed and acted upon.

Also, many expressed the desire to connect other assets beyond their robotics or CNC machines. They had manual operations such as welding or composite layup, painting booths to monitor, old pneumatic presses or even ancient industrial ovens. Utilizing various sensors, Freedom can be connected to those processes and assets regardless of brand or age. The entire plant can then use the same system to extract valuable information that would otherwise not be considered.

 

Machine Monitoring Solutions

Smaller manufacturers are just getting their feet wet with data analytics for their shop floor. They’re stuck with the question “How much resources do we need and how do we start?” They expect it would take substantial investment and would impact production during deployment. That is not true. During deployment, the Freedom platform does not upset your operation, and the implementation takes days, not weeks or months. Companies can choose to start off monitoring just a few assets then expand to more when they are ready. The financial payback we have seen can be had in as little as three months. This provides a company with the ability to get started and quickly gain the benefits as they scale up the implementation.

On the other hand, larger manufacturers are starting to monitor the ever-increasing number of assets in their facilities. Many discussions with them were around moving the Freedom data into their enterprise systems for scheduling, MES, maintenance systems, and financial information. We heard these companies discussing taking the information from the Freedom edge devices and starting to move that into larger data lakes for other analysis.

We had a lot of great discussions with many types of representatives at IMTS in Chicago. We’ll tell you what we told them: there are many benefits to recognize that help your operation improve by using this technology. The companies that have already started with us have seen gains of 20% and more in production improvements and ROI in a little as three months.

For those companies who have not started yet, now is the time. It’s a quick installation, proven, affordable, with a substantial ROI. You should consider your resources and scope of the project with the end in mind. You can always scale your project with connecting more assets, but it’s essential to get started to realize the gains in efficiency you will receive from using this technology.

 

 

Freedom Software Presentation

If you have questions about what we heard at IMTS contact us at 513.719.1600.