Quick insight into machine downtime with IIoT

  • 05/02/2024

Machine downtime can have a huge impact on your overall productivity. Yet production managers don't always have a clear view of why and how often a machine fails. How do you get started if you want to measure such a thing?

Determining the frequency of machine downtime relative to its expected operational time is a crucial inquiry for assessing your company’s Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). OEE serves as the paramount metric for productivity. To enhance OEE, gaining insights into the occurrence and frequency of machine downtimes is essential.

Only, not all downtime is the same.

Stops and microstops

The most evident form of machine shutdown occurs when a visible machine failure occurs. Consider scenarios like a stalled motor or a ball bearing damaged due to wear. Downtime materializes as the period during which the machine is not operational following the defect, the time required for component repair or replacement, and any subsequent scheduled maintenance or overhaul. A comprehensive problem analysis is essential in such cases. Understanding which component(s) caused the downtime enables proactive measures to prevent recurrence.

However, not all machine downtimes are equally conspicuous. Frequently, they manifest as microstops—brief and frequent interruptions in the machine cycle, often resolvable swiftly by an operator. These microstops typically last only a few seconds and can stem from various causes. Sometimes, they result from machine-related factors, such as a programmable logic controller (PLC) briefly halting a heated motor until it cools down.

Human error also plays a significant role in microstops. Configuration errors, misjudgments, distracted operators, or improperly loaded materials on the production line can all contribute to these interruptions.

Hidden impact

The problem is that these microstops are often not measured. Therefore, the impact of such short but frequent stops is often underestimated. Especially over the long term, and especially in high-volume companies, microstops can have a major impact on productivity and revenue.

Microstops are not easily measured in a manual way. In other words, you need an automatic measurement system that will chart your downtime. Fortunately, there are systems on the market that can help you monitor different types of downtime, including microstops, and visualize them in a clear way.

How to implement IIoT?

PLCs often already convey important information about the nature of downtime (time, duration, cycle, location of fault). Even older machines without PLCs can be modified with sensors to capture such information. The PLC on the machine then typically passes that information on to a communications platform, which is the bridge between machine control and the digital world, and then to an IIoT platform, such as PTC Thingworx, which provides easy management of all the data and information flows that your machines provide.

From then on, things get interesting. An IIoT platform gives you clear dashboards with all the necessary information about the performance and any downtime of your machines. Moreover, you can set alarms when downtime lurks around the corner, for example, when certain parameters are exceeded. This collected information allows you to optimize or intervene more quickly where necessary. Perhaps your downtimes occur mainly in the production of one particular product? Or at a specific step in the process?

Actionable insights after 90 days

The term ‘IIoT’ may raise concerns for many manufacturing leaders. After all, isn’t IIoT primarily associated with large corporations? And doesn’t it come with hefty costs? The answer to both questions is no. IIoT sensors have been available in the market for some time, and as is typical with mature technology, hardware prices have significantly decreased in recent years. Moreover, from a software perspective, you can swiftly begin implementing basic IoT functions at a relatively affordable price.

A sensible option is 9A Connected Factory & Insights, a quick-start IIoT platform that enables companies to optimize their production equipment based on data. With this platform from 9altitudes, you'll get the first insights into your machines in a short period of time, which you can use to improve your production efficiency. Our commitment is that within a mere 90 days, you will gain initial insights. This rapid turnaround ensures a swift return on investment for your IIoT project.

Interested in a demo of 9A Connected Factory & Insights? Let us know.

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