This is installment #3 in Spiroflow’s 4-part blog series: “Making Manufacturing Shifts: Adapting During COVID-19 & Beyond.” In this blog, we look at the current requirements for social distancing and how remote site management via equipment monitoring software and IIoT technology can assist in facilitating this critical pandemic restriction.
Shift #3: Remote site management via equipment monitoring software and IIoT technology
Today, we look at the provision of remote monitoring and how Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology is being rapidly adopted by manufacturers during COVID-19 to maintain productivity from a safe distance and embrace off site equipment management.
Let’s take a look at the current situation with regards to the global pandemic and its effect on businesses.
Global catastrophes tend to bring everything into focus, and are often the catalysts for adopting change. Much like 9/11 proved to the world that terrorism doesn’t just happen in distant lands, and the 2008 economic crisis showed that even the richest amongst us weren’t invincible, COVID-19 is once again making us think twice – but this time, we’re wary of each other and concerned for our health and well-being.
As it has made its way across the globe, the pandemic has left a permanent scar on the infrastructure and commercial heart of most countries. Those still in lockdown in some capacity or another are busy preparing themselves for the post COVID-19 era, a setting that may be characterised by a deep recession with social distancing restrictions that look to become the ‘new normal’. This has resulted in us embracing technology more than ever and has made us look at interaction in a different way. For example, instead of asking “can we meet in person?” we might soon be asking “can we do this online?”.
In our previous blog (#2), we talked briefly about the use of remote monitoring to enable management and other operational leaders who would not otherwise feel safe coming on site to continue to be productive from a physical distance. Let’s take a minute to dive a bit deeper.
IIoT refers to interconnected sensors, instruments, and other devices networked together with computers’ industrial applications, including manufacturing and energy management. This connectivity allows for data collection, exchange, and analysis, potentially facilitating improvements in productivity and efficiency as well as other economic benefits. Relevant data could include machine runtime hours, safety infractions, pinpointing production bottlenecks, motors operating at higher amps, vibration, temperature, unusual spikes or issues on site that may cause failure, i.e. critical issues which normally would require on-site human intervention.
By utilising IIoT technology, Spiroflow has created a system that helps our customers to better connect to and act in response to their data. The initiative is called ‘Spiroflow Active Monitoring’, or SAM for short. Designed for monitoring the current range of Spiroflow process equipment (but can easily include non-Spiroflow systems), SAM uses sensor-based technology to remotely deliver key performance related, safety and operational benefits.
SAM is built into the standard electrical panel on Spiroflow’s machinery by an in-house team of skilled electrical engineers and connected remotely via 4G/5G or Wi-fi. By monitoring equipment performance, the system can remotely provide the customer with a custom dashboard of graphs showing amalgamated data from all available sensors. And depending on a customer’s specifications, the data will show live trends based on pre-set variables. All data collected will be stored online and will be subject to high levels of security. There is no need for engineers to visit a customer’s premises to leverage SAM, thereby eliminating the risk of COVID-19 infection.
Remote monitoring offers an extensive software package for fault finding and analysis of the system components, detecting and documenting potential safety hazards, understanding overall system health, and gaining visibility into equipment status and machine efficiency, from anywhere in the world from a multitude of devices. The system comes with all the necessary tools for configuration and administration, which are included as standard.
Where previously an engineer would be called to rectify a fault, SAM will first clarify the problem via the internet, intranet, or mobile data and quickly analyse faults that can be isolated in extensive nets, with the causes being specified. This allows for quick and precise remedial measures to be implemented remotely, meaning that reaction times are considerably reduced and costs for internal and external staff can be optimised. Additionally if the requirements of a system change, these can be discussed with us, and any software changes can be also done completely remotely by us.
Here are some real-life examples of SAM being used by manufacturers.
We have had manufacturers leveraging SAM for over a year now, including ourselves where we set up all our test equipment, and to practice what we preach we have our full plant on SAM to monitor everything from our electricity and compressor usage to CO2 levels in every office.
Using a custom dashboard, key individuals could remotely monitor the data from anywhere in the world and compare each manufacturing process performance against the other. The move also provided global streamlining of their manufacturing costs as bottlenecks could be pinpointed and overall efficiencies improved.
Another major improvement included the reduction of downtime with planned, predicted maintenance. All manufacturers are aware that at the very core of making high profits is an accurate, high quality and reliable production. If a machine stops working in the middle of a shift and there are no critical spare parts on site, this can result in costly delays. By using remote monitoring technology, sensors are continually reporting data back to the right people and can notify them before critical failure.
Often in manufacturing, if the correct action is not taken at the right time it can be detrimental to production and result in a disproportionate loss of profits over a planned maintenance. With 82% of asset failures occurring randomly, Spiroflow’s SAM in this case, will indicate how and when the failure occurred and will learn from this event, enabling it to predict future events more accurately. Furthermore, with knowing the optimal time to replace wearable parts, production can plan for the correct amount of spares stock to be held, ensuring no overstock, but having the right amount available for predictive maintenance. Given the current COVID-19 restrictions, being able to accurately hold sufficient spares represents a major benefit to any operation.
This example is pre-pandemic clearly, but the main takeaways are the ability to track data remotely without involving engineers on-site, which more than satisfies COVID-19 social distancing restrictions and the positive impacts on production, with limited downtime and critical failures becoming obsolete. The custom SAM dashboard created for the customer could be accessed by anyone they choose via phone, pda or laptop anywhere in the world.
If your equipment is several years old, can SAM be retrofitted?
Yes. SAM can be retrofitted to either existing Spiroflow machinery, or alternative machines from another manufacturer.
Please get in touch to find out how remote monitoring can make your business more efficient, post-COVID-19 OR as another mechanism that helps us embrace technological change.
Stay tuned for Part 4 in our “Making Manufacturing Shifts” Series, the modification of packaging lines for small packaging capabilities.