You have been using your shop floor control system for a while and have enjoyed the benefits of production tracking software. But the truth is: the more you have, the more you want. Many of our clients asked the same question: what’s next? Shall we connect machines to a manufacturing system to track production even further? Unfortunately, for 99% of small companies, it is not a good idea. Let us explain why.
1. Usually, most companies have a diverse infrastructure, which results in significant difficulties with adapting their hardware.
Even when there are many state-of-the-art machines in your workshop, they probably don’t come from the same producer and weren’t’ bought at the same time. So what is specific to a small business: new equipment purchased once the company develops, in random order, some of it being second hand, etc.
Therefore, it is challenging to adjust transmitters to the same data collection standard, as different producers use various systems (including Bluetooth technology, wifi, and cable). At times a specialist company has to be hired to get things working, which doesn’t come cheap.
2. This kind of system breeds technical problems, which misses the point, as the solution should be failure-proof.
The best example is a wifi situation at a particular production hall. Getting a simple wi-fi Internet connection is often challenging to set up a computer with Prodio and register production. We talk about the most specific things, such as using a browser and logging into your online account to use manufacturing control software. It’s’ not just the case of the signal or poor reception. Other factors include electromagnetic interference generated by CNC machines, power surges, moving forklifts, breaks in power supply, machine restarts, etc. Imagine that you have plugged your CNC machines with different transmitters with various signals in these circumstances, using wifi/Bluetooth to send data to a base station. Then take into account the number of interference and changing factors discussed above. Nobody wants to use cables to connect things or send data (it would mean many tangled wires on the shop floor).
The base station has to collect data in the INTEGRAL way (it is enough when it fails to receive only one signal about the operation’s start/end and things go awry). It would mean that all data has to be re-sent from this application to MES /other shop floor control systems.
3. Many typically manual processes are usually the most important but can’t be included in such a manufacturing control system.
Years of experience working with different companies and our clients’ stories show that manufacturing control software / MES such as Prodio is the most impressive when operations aren’t’ fully automated. Whether we talk about manual glueing of cardboard boxes, carpentry jobs, milling machine operators, or manufacturing engineers is not important. It is typical for small manufacturing companies they don’t have long automated assembly lines but relatively flexible solutions, making them competitive. When the machines enable easy connection to different readers or transmitters, it usually means that they are automated, sophisticated and self-sustainable devices. Efficiency tracking in a system makes no sense, as these machines work all the time, regardless of their operator (often one person who checks a few devices). Therefore it doesn’t matter how productively the operators work because the machine’s efficiency is known for creating production technology.
The question is whether it is worth investing large amounts if still won’t’ be able to measure the time of manual operations, simple numerical machine tools and a whole bunch of activities where it is not possible to connect a reader measuring their efficiency when all you want is better control and improvement.
4. It would be hard to avoid clicking in your MES/production management and manufacturing control system.
Another motivation to connect machines to the manufacturing control system is that employees won’t have to click anything on the computer at the production hall. However, you still want to know what is happening and how productive people are. So to avoid all this clicking, you need to have this information in the machines, and it would still require using an MES or ERP system (in large manufacturing companies, this is how it’s’ organised, that on the global level, it is clear what each machine is doing).
To sum things up:
Of course, it is up to you – it is not impossible. It’s just a case of time and money. The question is whether this investment would be worth your stress and financial input.
It takes less than 1 hour to implement manufacturing control software such as Prodio, which costs 97 dollars per month. However, the software pays off from day one because it makes you ten times as much money, if not more, improving your manufacturing company’s overall profitability and giving you back free time and peace of mind.
Once you decide to connect machines to the Internet, the calculation might not be that simple. The investment may take years to pay off, and in the worst-case scenario – it will never pay off because sooner you will give up on the whole experiment.
Why would you give up? Because the system should work failure-proof and trustworthy. The number of variables and possible problems connecting machines to the network, data transfer, etc., could make it fallible. Consequently, people would stop trusting the system or use different control methods, such as paper notebooks. After all, this is not the result you desire to achieve.
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