As more and more manufacturers grapple with rising energy costs and skilled labor shortages off the back of an already turbulent couple of years, the need for companies to drive efficiencies across their production operations has never been greater. Here, Damien Marc, CEO of JPB Système and its subsidiary, KeyProd, takes a closer look at how manufacturers can achieve this amid other challenges.
By Damien Marc, CEO of JPB Système
One of the few things that everyone seems to agree on is that just about everything has changed in the last two years. Manufacturers are recovering from nothing less than a seismic shift in their supply chains, their finances, and their business environments. Disruptions to virtually every aspect of their operations have put them under new pressures that couldn’t have been imagined five years ago.
Currently, manufacturers are grappling with a number of challenges, among them energy costs, skilled labor shortages, raw material costs, lengthy delivery times, and legacy contracts that can no longer be fulfilled profitably, if at all. Indeed, when it comes to energy costs, such is the extreme situation in some countries where manufacturers believe this is a genuine threat to survival. In the UK, this is underscored by research from manufacturing organization MakeUK which, following a recent survey of manufacturers, found that almost six in ten believe that increased energy costs are now business threatening.
Fortunately, the continued advance of Industry 4.0 has seen the development of new efficiency-enhancing solutions that can deliver different levels of information to decision-makers anywhere in the world. These new solutions leverage existing digitalization in production environments and network individual machines to connect, track and measure all elements of a company’s manufacturing processes and production levels with the ultimate aim of improving overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).
The information displayed on a single dashboard can not only provide a snapshot of overall production but of any machine at any facility. That information can be used by operators, floor supervisors, and managers to make immediate remedial adjustments, or inform a long-term, efficient and profitable manufacturing strategy.
Modules using WiFi connectivity installed on machinery as plug-and-play solutions combine with existing manufacturing execution and enterprise resource planning systems (MES and ERP) and, using the data gathered, create an accurate picture of performance and productivity that can be read and managed from any location.
Production problems at the machine level can be detected – and even anticipated – and action is taken to avoid machine downtime and delayed delivery. With such systems – including our own offering, KeyProd, manufacturers can seamlessly and remotely monitor their production assets regardless of their age using IoT and an accompanying web app. This allows a better understanding of the issues and enables manufacturers to easily address and resolve them.
Early users of our system report a 10% improvement in OEE, with a corresponding increase in productivity and a reduction in energy costs. Rates of savings like these will also deliver an extremely rapid ROI on the investment in efficiency-enhancing technologies – in some cases, measured in weeks and months, not years.
Using these smart, efficiency-enhancing technologies strategically, planned shutdowns for maintenance or upgrades can be scheduled and work reassigned to machines working at optimal levels to deliver the highest level of productivity.
Manufacturers are at a crossroads where decisions will determine survival. Increasing throughput and decreasing production downtime is paramount for any manufacturing business – even more so amid the spiraling energy costs that many companies continue to face. Embracing the concepts of Industry 4.0 networking technologies can be a powerful tool to ensure that at least every opportunity is taken to drive efficiencies elsewhere across the production floor.