How to choose manufacturing technologies that benefit your production quality and save your bottom line.
With the breakneck pace of technological change, today’s manufacturers are presented daily with new opportunities to improve their operational efficiency. As promising as many of these technologies are, they leave many businesses facing a difficult question: Which of these new Industrial 4.0 technologies are the most necessary for improving their bottom line, and how Eagle’s SmartTRAC IIOT can help?
In choosing a new technology, manufacturers should consider the cost of implementing the technology, the expected savings in asset efficiency, and the most pressing inefficiencies in their own organizational processes which require the most urgent attention.
Some new technologies are relatively easy to implement and might be considered low-hanging fruit. Others demand a more thorough examination of business processes to incorporate effectively. To understand which technologies are most pressing, businesses should first look at ways their current assets are being handled inefficiently.
Factors that hinder asset efficiency:
- Inefficient automated workflows.
- Unplanned downtime.
- Production defects.
- Employee training challenges.
- Failures in supply chain efficiency.
Manufacturers have varying challenges and needs. Some may have little downtime, but a high rate of production defects. Other challenges may lead to compounding problems, such as poor employee training leading to downstream supply chain delays. Here’s how new manufacturing technologies address each problem.
1. Simulated workflows and 3D printed prototypes that demonstrate proof of concept.
Improving asset efficiency begins with the design of the assets themselves. When you invest in a new piece of industrial automation equipment, you should expect that the design of that system has been tested and optimized to be as economical as possible in its manufacturing processes.
At Eagle, we have found the best way to accomplish this goal is through process simulation during the automation design stage. We use simulation technology to model how our assembly lines fit together, and through this process are able to identify ways in which robots may be positioned or programmed to be more efficient.
We combine our simulations with 3D printed prototypes, which can be quickly produced and used to model complex assemblies.
2. Equipment monitoring that assists predictive maintenance.
Even a perfectly optimized assembly line needs to be maintained to be kept in peak condition. Without preventative care, manufacturers run the risk of equipment breaking down during peak operating times. On the other hand, monitoring equipment performance allows manufacturers to schedule this work during downtime when the equipment is not in use.
Advanced production monitoring software such as Eagle’s SmartTrac software can help manufacturers stay ahead of maintenance by tracking which routine tasks need to be performed, and alerting operators to any unusual readings from the factory floor.
3. Error-proof processes and advanced testing that enable early defect detection.
A fast automation process that produces a lot of flaws is false efficiency. Improving production quality can reduce manufacturing waste and cut down on time that might otherwise be spent in correcting those errors.
The most efficient way to limit manufacturing errors is to prevent them from happening in the first place. The most ideal solution is to design assembly processes that eliminate the possibility of making a mistake. However, if mistakes are made, the faster they are detected the better. If an error is made in the first step of a twelve-step assembly process, it should be removed from the production stream before step two.
At Eagle, we use advanced testing technology to validate production at key points in the assembly process. This helps manufacturers detect errors early, while also assisting them in pinpointing the source of an error using Eagle’s SmartTrac software so that it can be remedied quickly.
4. Augmented reality to assist production operators and reduce errors.
While many manufacturing tasks can be automated, some must still be performed by hand with automated assistance. Assembly workers and equipment operators can work very efficiently, but they are still prone to make mistakes. Training processes can help workers be more aware of potential assembly errors, but they can’t mitigate the effects of fatigue or distraction at the end of a long shift.
However, augmented reality can go a long way toward assisting human operators as they assemble products. It can overlay their field of vision with assembly instructions, reminding them of next steps and safety measures, and use visual tracking technology to alert the assembly worker of an error. This technology which is part of Eagle’ SmartTrac Suite can save manufacturers costs while also reducing mental exhaustion for workers.
5. Full production tracking to identify, correct, and mitigate supply chain challenges.
Delays in a supply chain can slow businesses down and create far-reaching logistical headaches. Improving efficiency in the manufacturing process can improve the entire supply chain, but component tracking can also give manufacturers early notice of any slowdowns so that they can take steps to correct their process along the way.
At Eagle, we incorporate big data tracking into our automated systems so that manufacturers can follow each part through every step of the assembly process. The production data they collect can then be applied elsewhere in their supply chain to ensure operations run smoothly.
Manufacturers who are quick to adapt new generation of industry technology will lead the way in asset efficiency.
Improving asset efficiency should be a primary concern for every manufacturer. While many businesses focus on improving their bottom line by attracting new customers, there are as many gains to be made by searching for ways to use current assets more effectively. And the more a business improves its manufacturing efficiency, the healthy their profit margins will be, and the more competitive they can be on the market.
For decades, Eagle has led the way in factory automation by rigorously searching for ways to improve asset efficiency for our clients, as well as for ourselves. When the newest generation of industrial technology began to show promise, we were some of the first to incorporate it into our own automated solutions. As a result, we are now industry leaders in incorporating Industrial 4.0 technology into our projects, and we offer expert advice to our customers about which technologies they need to improve their processes.
If you would like to learn more about how we can implement these solutions for your business, contact us today.
Brandon Fuller | b.fuller@EagleTechnologies.com
Eagle Technologies, headquarters in Bridgman, MI