In this age of digital information it is prudent to utilize the data that is generated by machinery to monitor fabricating and manufacturing processes in real-time and then analyze the collected data to determine opportunities for improvement.
In order to stay profitable and consistent in the manufacturing environment, real-time measures and continuous improvements are necessary. Real time data enables automated machines and software systems to automatically make decisions based on satisfying a set of conditions. This can only be achieved through the inter-connectivity of machines and their ability to communicate data in real-time. This is considered the basis of today’s Industry 4.0.
If you are a fabricator you understand the value of measuring a process and the continuous improvement of that process. Each company inevitably develops their own unique processes and must continue to improve them over time. Why is process improvement so important? Because a company’s unique “process” is one of the key competitive differentiators that each company has and must continuously improve upon to remain profitable and viable. An efficient process helps to keep a fabrication company and its products profitable. Process improvements cannot exist without measurements. Continuous improvement of a process requires accurate information and data, both to validate and to further enhance the process.
There are two types of measures that companies can incorporate, batch and real-time. Batch measuring is when you start the measure at the beginning of the process and then finish the measure when that process is completed. The problem with batch measuring is that it does not provide the ability to make measurements to a process in real-time. You must wait until the entire process is completed to determine the final actual production time of that process. If there would be a degradation of performance during the process and it is not identified and corrected, then this would result in a higher than expected cost due to the longer processing time.
Real-time measures are based on real-time data communicated by production machines and centrally collected for analysis. Standard measures can be compared against actual measures to determine if the process is on track or not. Problems can be identified and corrections can be made immediately in real-time before that process is completed.
Another benefit of real-time data communications is the ability of automated systems to make decisions based on satisfying a set of conditions. When an ERP system releases an order to a production management system the system can organize and schedule the order based on due dates and combine them with other orders of the same materials in order to maximize material utilization. Automatic nesting software will then create the nests based on the accumulated orders and can automatically release the nests to the machines based on achieving a minimum material utilization value. Once the machines receive the nests, automated material storage and handling systems are directed to retrieve the correct materials for each nest. Subsequently, as the machine completes the cutting process, the material handling system will automatically unload the cut parts and can even sort them. All of this can be achieved with automated systems and the benefits of their inter-connectivity.
Real-time data and the inter-connectivity of machines with web enabled devices such as web cameras, tablets and smart phones enables managers to monitor systems in real-time regardless of their locations. The inter-connectivity of machines enables automated systems to make decisions based on the prior process having achieved its objective. In these “real-time” capabilities are just some of the benefits of Industry 4.0, based on the inter-connectivity of machines and their ability to communicate data in real-time.
By Frank Arteaga, Head of Product Marketing, NAFTA Region
Bystronic Inc., Elgin, IL – Voice.email@example.com