4 Ways Machine Monitoring Automated Alarms Can Aid Your Shop Floor

A machinist doing maintenance on a machine as recommended by automated alerts in machine monitoring software.

From Streamlining Machine Tooling Changeovers to Reducing Equipment Downtime, Machine Monitoring Automation Can Have Major Impacts on Your Plant Operations

The process of receiving instantaneous equipment alarms and reason codes doesn’t have to be a manual or cumbersome process; learn how to easily funnel this machine data to operators and technicians to initiate improvements to your uptime and productivity.

Who knew robots could be lazy? The truth is, they can – IF you don’t take steps to minimize their downtime. Automating your shop floor is like any other form of automation: the goal is to keep your production functioning properly in order to meet or exceed customer expectations, especially in today’s challenging economic climate.

Your equipment is generating valuable data as it operates, sits idle or shuts down. That’s where alarms and reason codes come in. The sooner you can catch and take action on this data, the sooner your teams can pinpoint issues, understand and predict trends and reduce obstacles to achieve greater productivity and efficiency across your operations.

However, “Do…alarms really change people’s behavior and drive us to a corrective or preventive understanding of the problem or are your key resources just going through the motions?” Author Scott Walton presents this valid concern in Production Machining magazine – but if you don’t have an effective machine monitoring solution in place to affect change, you probably already know the answer.

In this article, we’re going to cycle through four different ways in which your operators and technicians can not only gain better visibility of equipment issues – but become better enabled to take action in an automated and precise manner for measurable gains.

A close up of a smartphone in someone's hand while on the shop floor. The phone is running a machine monitoring app.

#1: Machine Monitoring of Tooling

One valuable aspect of machine monitoring software is its ability to track equipment tooling. When the remaining life of a tool drops below a specified threshold, your tooling department may be notified of the tooling degradation to prepare for the tooling change or order new tooling. You may want to establish a secondary threshold to prompt the actual tooling change operation or to inform the shift supervisor, as another example. These prompts may occur as a supplement to a dashboard, which may be accessed via mobile, tablet or shop floor monitors, that will indicate the life status of the tooling to your teams. This level of visibility takes the guesswork out of tooling operations, conserving valuable labor and time.

#2: Facilitating Lights-Out Operation 

Whether you’re planning to engage in lights-out machining in the new year, or have begun the process to transition a few pieces of equipment, machine monitoring software can be critical to this initiative. The unexpected stoppage of a machine, for instance, can initiate a text message to the operator with a particular reason code.  Such as PWR (Power Failure) or HOLD (job is on hold pending further instructions) and an alert for immediate human intervention. Or by combining a machine monitoring solution with automating part count tracking, in which machine monitoring is reporting the completion of the number of parts in a shift, an operator may receive a text once the job is close to completion. This functionality allows a shift to truly run autonomously with one worker on-call, thus freeing the operator to perform other value-added tasks to improve labor productivity.

#3: Workplace Safety Impacts

Machining volatile materials, such as titanium, have inherent fire risks. While production machinery typically has fire suppression systems, the disconnect occurs in who receives communications regarding the start of these systems and when receiving those communications – and how. Operators, supervisors, plant managers or risk management/EHS officers, and others need a variety of means by which they receive an instant notification as these life-threatening situations happen on the floor. Using DataXchange equipment monitoring, you can add both text and e-mail notifications to notify the team(s) responsible for responding to the fire and those involved with crisis communications procedures.

#4: Smarter Reading Monitoring

A machinist assesses the status and progress of a machine by using machine monitoring software, which can alert employees of an issue well before it becomes a costly problem.

A smart factory approach with a machine monitoring system can allow you to notify your teams before a particular temperature – or pressure or other reading – is reached to avoid scrapping and better control production rates.

If your facilities include autoclaves or ovens with temperature monitoring, there’s an even smarter way to manage the resulting data of these units. Temperature that goes above or below a set threshold for too long, as an example, can cause part waste – which is an expensive outcome in terms of both time and material. A smart factory approach with a machine monitoring system can allow you to notify your teams before reaching a particular temperature to avoid scrapping and better control production rates. You can take your smart temperature monitoring even further by applying the same approach to pressure, coolant, humidity, and other readings that a sensor would capture.

Translating Alarms into Action

By taking advantage of the alarms, reason codes, and other valuable data your equipment outputs with each production run in an automated and visible fashion, your teams can be better armed to optimize tooling processes, facilitate lights-out operations, reduce or eliminate workplace safety impacts and carry out smarter equipment readings management.

Let Shop Floor Automations help you fulfill your automation vision with machine monitoring software and machine monitoring hardware. Simply contact one of our manufacturing integration specialists today to get the information you need to turn your machinery data into insights that can make a difference in your plant operations.