Machine Monitoring and Analytics as a Path to Smart Manufacturing

machine monitoring and analytics dashboard

Dashboards can convey status of each machine at a glance. This shows machine status, progress of job actual vs. planned, and output per time period. Screen shot courtesy Machine Metrics.

“Where are you on the journey to Smart Manufacturing?” Can be an uncomfortable question for many mid-size and small companies. New technology such as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), connected machines, highly automated operations, and Internet everywhere can be daunting prospects. However for machine shops, there is a stepping stone that can begin to pave the path: machine monitoring and analytics.

Before a plant can expect to move into advanced technologies and full fledged “Smart” mode, it will need to have a few things in place:

  • fundamental clarity on today’s situation
  • ability to pull data from machines through their controls or other data interfaces
  • visibility for supervisors and operators into equipment status
  • a system to prioritize where attention is spent at any given moment

This is easier to say than to do. Most industrial machining and metal-forming facilities have a mix of newer equipment and old. Some of the old equipment does not have strong capabilities for getting data out.

Even with all new machines, understanding the status in a plant with many machines can be a challenge. Beyond machine status, it’s not always obvious where the “hot spots” that need attention lie at a given time. Understanding performance in real time with measures such as utilization, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and actual vs. planned progress per job can transform performance.

Implementing machine monitoring and analytics software can help gain all of that. Of course, then the company must follow through. To use the information to manage wisely, people will need to change how they work and their expectations of what is possible. Change management can be challenging. Yet often when people get visibility they have been craving, it creates momentum and excitement that can carry the change into new habits and practices.

A number of solution providers offer machine monitoring and analytics. Major controls and plant software providers such as Rockwell, Schneider, GE and others offer these types of solutions. The machine distributors may offer software too. Some of the key independent players are:

  • System Insights with its widely-used Vimana machine monitoring and predictive analytics
  • MEMEX with its popular Merlin family of products for machine connection and MES
  • Factivity has machine monitoring in its MES software suite
  • Propulsion Software with its mix of ERP and plant solutions
  • Machine Metrics with its cloud-based offering focused on supporting lean with intuitive monitoring and analytics.

There are many factors to consider when deciding what solutions might fit your environment. Here are just a few:

Scope. If you have ERP that works, then a more focused machine monitoring or perhaps an MES solution that allows plantwide coordination – but if you have challenges integrating across applications, perhaps ERP that includes MES and machine monitoring is for you.

Smart & IoT. If the path to Smart Manufacturing is onĀ  your mind, consider whether you want a traditional on-premises solution or whether a cloud-based or SaaS solution such as Machine Metrics or Propulsion would provide you the learning and IoT foundation you need to feel confident.

Report vs. Predict. The power of predictive analytics is often crucial to continuous improvement also. Some of the monitoring is mostly just that, with basic backward-looking reporting. System Insights has worked to deliver predictive analytics based on its machine monitoring.

Do you know what your machines are doing and what it means? Machine monitoring and analytics may be your next logical step.

If you are considering new investments, make sure they take you on the path to a strong future. The future is smart, connected, and internet-enabled.

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