Be Driven by Data and Decrease Downtime

Being “driven by data” is simply the act of making decisions based on real data instead of guessing or basing them on theoretical outcomes. Why one should do that, especially in manufacturing operations, is obvious. How it is done is not always so clear.

Here is how you can use a sensor, indicator light, and RFID to provide feedback that drives overall quality and efficiency.


Machine Condition Monitoring

You’ve heard the saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, broken machines cause downtime. What if there was a way to know when a machine is getting ready to fail, and you could fix it before it caused downtime? You can do that now!

The two main types of data measured in manufacturing applications are temperature and vibration. A sudden or gradual increase in either of these is typically an indicator that something is going wrong. Just having access to that data won’t stop the machine from failing, though. Combined with an indicator light and RFID, the sensor can provide real-time feedback to the operator, and the event can be documented on the RFID tag. The machine can then be adjusted or repaired during a planned maintenance period.

Managing Quality – A machine on its way to failure can produce parts that don’t meet quality standards. Fixing the problem before it affects production prevents scrap and rework and ensures the customer is getting a product with the quality they expect.

Managing Efficiency– Unplanned downtime costs thousands of dollars per minute in some industries. The time and resources required to deal with a failed machine far exceed the cost of the entire system designed to produce an early warning, provide indication, and document the event.

Quality and efficiency are the difference makers in manufacturing. That is, whoever makes the highest quality products most efficiently usually has the most profitable and sustainable business. Again, why is obvious, but how is the challenge. Hopefully, you can use the above data to make higher quality products more efficiently.


More to come! Here are the data-driven topics I will cover in my next blogs:

  • Part inspection and data collection for work in process
  • Using data to manage molds, dies, and machine tools

Following Policy Adds Efficiencies, Removes Uncertainties

Policy. It is a word some dread.

But company policies are written for a reason. They are written to keep organizations running smooth and provide clarity to employees at all levels regarding specific topics. When policies are followed, organizations use time and resources more efficiently, create transparency, and reduce waste. From a previous entry, we learned there are eight different types of wastes (DOWNTIME) and policies will undoubtedly reduce the W of waiting and E of excessive processing. Instead of juggling with an issue, policies are the resource that quickly make an open case closed.

When companies are consistent with executing policies, each individual employee knows what they can expect, waste is kept to a minimum, and value-add activities are kept at the forefront.

When existing policies are neglected, the opposite is true. Topics become drawn out, meetings are held to discuss the topic, opinions are shared, and a decision may or may not be made for days, weeks, or even months. All of this rolls up into non-value-add activities, which could be easily avoided if the existing policy was simply followed.

Unfortunately, policies sometimes receive a bad rap because they aren’t followed 100% of the time. It’s imperative to not confuse having a policy with policy enforcement. Some companies choose to avoid the black and white and operate a grey area. Imagine if your company policy was to pay employees every two weeks, but that was not always followed. If there was some grey area,  you might get paid every three weeks some of the time. If the timing of your pay was negatively affected by failing to execute said policy, you wouldn’t be too happy. Why then are we okay when other policies are neglected? That, friends, can be a challenging question when it shouldn’t be. What’s policy is policy. To quote former U.S. President Harry S. Truman, “The buck stops here.” The same should hold true regarding policy.

To keep things running lean, smooth, and disturbance free, the next time you are faced with an unusual value-add challenge ask yourself if there is a current policy available to help overcome the obstacle. If there is, great! You have your answer and should execute the policy accordingly. If there is not a current policy, the second question becomes whether the customer (internal or external) is directly affected by this value-add challenge. If so, you know you need to begin working with a cross functional team to help establish a policy on this matter. This should go through the proper approval process for formal policy consideration and adoption. If the customer is not affected by your challenge, then it is not value-add related and effort should be redirected to what the customer is ultimately paying for — your product or service.

Increase Efficiencies and Add Value with Data

Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are very popular terms these days.  But they are more than just buzzwords; incorporating these concepts into your facility adds instant value.

Industry 4.0 and IIoT provide you with much needed data. Having information easily available regarding how well your machines are performing allows for process improvements and increased efficiencies. The need for increased efficiency is driving the industry to improve manufacturing processes, reduce downtime, increase productivity and eliminate waste.  Increased efficiency is necessary to stay competitive in today’s manufacturing market.  With technology continuing to advance and be more economical, it is more feasible than ever to implement increased efficiencies in the industry.

Industry 4.0 and IIoT are the technology concepts of smart manufacturing or the smart factory.  IIoT is at the core of this as it provides access to data directly from devices on the factory floor. By implementing a controls architecture with IO-Link and predictive maintenance practices through condition monitoring parameters from the devices on the machine, Industry 4.0 and IIoT is occurring.

Condition monitoring is the process of monitoring the condition of a machine through parameters.  In other words, monitoring a parameter that gives the condition of the machine or a device on the machine such as vibration, temperature, pressure, rate, humidity etc. in order to identify a significant change in condition, which indicates the possible development of a fault.  Condition monitoring is the primary aspect of predictive maintenance.

IO-Link is a point-to-point communication for devices which allows for diagnostics information without interfering with the process data. There are hundreds of IO-Link smart devices, which provide condition monitoring parameters for the health of the device and the health of the machine.  By utilizing capabilities of IO-Link for diagnostics the ability to gather large amounts of data directly from devices on the factory floor gives you more control over the machines efficiency.  Smart factory concepts are available today with IO-Link as the backbone of the smart machine and smart factory.

Dive into big data with confidence knowing you can gather the information you need with the smart factory concepts available today.

The Machine Builder’s Guide to Improving Machine Turns

controlpanelEfficiency! Efficiency ! and Efficiency!  Every day, in the industrial environments we are all focused on improving efficiencies in our plants, to be able to do things better, easier, and faster, to get more done with as little efforts as possible. Manufacturers focus their efforts to improve their production processes while machine builders are challenged to produce more machines with limited resources. Sometimes, we focus so much on the human and machine capabilities factors through process improvement initiatives such as six-sigma, KANBAN, and other methods, that we tend to overlook some easier ways that can add tremendous value to our endeavors.

“Machine turns” or “turns” is a powerful measure of productivity for the machine builders to measure their efficiency. This determines, with given resources, how many machines they can produce per year in the same space.

Recently, collecting thoughts from industry experts, reviewing various case studies, and based on personal experiences, we compiled a white paper that reveals on how distributed modular controls architecture can boost productivity in system integration and machine build processes. For over few decades, an automated system is accompanied by a huge controls cabinet hosting processors, power-supplies and terminations of hundreds, if not thousands of wires. Building this cabinet, troubleshooting it and maintaining it is laborious activity that costs money and time all across the life cycle of the system.

Distributed modular controls architecture eliminates lot of these activities, provides tools for ease of troubleshooting and ensures a scalable architecture. Most importantly, it saves valuable labor time per machine. Thus, improving the machine turns on the floor.

Balluff recently released a white paper with practical examples that identifies how machine builders and integrators can significantly impact their operations with the choice of controls architecture. The paper also provides guidance on determining the magnitude of impact you can expect, and offers recommendations on how to go-about making the change.

Request your copy here or visit for more information.