Quick insight into machine downtime with IIoT

  • 09/11/2023

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?

How often is a machine down compared to its expected operational time? It is an important question if you want to know your company's so-called Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). That OEE, in turn, is the most important measure of productivity. If you want to improve your OEE, you need insight into how those machine downtimes occur and how often they happen.

Only, not all downtime is the same.

Stops and microstops

The clearest example of a machine shutdown is when there is a (visible) machine failure. Think of a motor that stalls or a ball bearing that is damaged due to wear. Downtime then manifests itself in the time the machine is not running after the defect, the time needed to repair or replace components, and the time needed for any later scheduled overhaul or maintenance. Of course, a thorough problem analysis is always appropriate. You need to know which component(s) caused the downtime, so you may be able to prevent another downtime.

However, not all machine downtimes are so obvious. Very often they are microstops: short and frequent interruptions to a machine cycle that can often be quickly resolved by an operator. Often microstops involve only a few seconds. They can have a variety of causes. Sometimes they are caused by the machine itself, such as when a PLC briefly stops a heated motor until it cools down.

But very often microstops are the result of human error. This can be a configuration error, for example, a threshold value set incorrectly. It can also be the result of an error in judgment, an operator who is distracted, or materials not loaded correctly on the production line.

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 set off some alarm bells for many manufacturing leaders. Because, isn't IIoT primarily a business for big companies? One that costs handsomely? No and no. IIoT sensors have been on the market for a while now and, as is often the case with mature technology, hardware prices have come down considerably in recent years. And even software-wise, you can get started quickly with basic IoT functions at a relatively low price.

A sensible option, for example, 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 promise is that you can get the first insights after only 90 days. This way, you get return on investment from your IIoT project very quickly.

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

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