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“Show me the money!” Those iconic words from the 1996 film, Jerry Maguire, may have been once uttered to prove client-agent commitment, but they also serve as a reminder that products should continually prove value to earn your business. Cloud machine monitoring software, which utilizes Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors to collect real-time data from your equipment on the shop floor, is no different.

The Value of Machine Monitoring

For manufacturers with a variety of aging and newer machines that span manual as well as advanced, 5-axis machining, such a software solution can be a valuable tool to help optimize operations and increase your return on investment (ROI) – particularly as workforce challenges remain pervasive and inflationary pressures weigh on your bottom line. Here are five ways that machine monitoring software can show you the money:

  1. Identify inefficiencies. With the help of a robust machine monitoring solution, you can identify inefficiencies in your production processes to make improvements and cut costs. One manufacturer knew that operators deployed overrides, but wasn’t aware of how long they were slowing down the machines as a result. Through the tracking of feed rates and overrides within a configurable dashboard in Scytec DataXchange, teams uncovered that machines were operating at 50% of normal speed for an extended period of time, well beyond the time that it should have taken to complete the part. Color coding and messaging added to the dashboard, as well as e-mail and text notifications, alerted key personnel when a slowdown occurred past five minutes to address the issue as it was occurring, thereby preventing unnecessary waste. By monitoring machine performance, communicating key data points and analyzing data, you can identify bottlenecks, downtime and other issues, like lengthy overrides, that are slowing down your operations.
  2. Predictive maintenance (PdM). You can also identify when maintenance is needed before a breakdown occurs through constant machine monitoring. The tracking of vibration analysis, hours run, oil analysis, thermal imaging and other data inputs can help you determine patterns in machine performance to, ultimately, avoid costly repairs and downtime, while also prolonging the lifespan of your equipment.
  3. Increase productivity. The visibility gained from machine monitoring software can assist with optimizing your production processes and increasing productivity. You can detect more efficient settings and processes to further reduce cycle times, increase output and maximize your Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).
  4. Quality control. Machine monitoring software can also help you to improve the quality of your parts. The continuous capture of equipment execution can present real-time warnings as deviations occur to immediately correct the quality issue before the part moves onto the next operation.
  5. Energy efficiency. As shops continue to seek greener opportunities, equipment monitoring solutions serve to decrease energy costs. High-offending machines and energy usage trends can be pinpointed to implement energy-saving measures and reduce utility bills.

While there’s a number of ways to earn ROI from machine monitoring software, it’s important to have a clear understanding of your goals and exactly how machine monitoring can enable your teams to achieve them. It’s just as important to have the right manufacturing integrator, infrastructure and tools in place to collect and analyze the data, and to have a plan to address how your operations will apply the insights gleaned from monitoring – so your software solution can keep on showing you the money.

As manufacturers continue to seek alternatives to overcome the labor shortage, automation remains at the core of corporate strategy. Automation priorities can take the form of cobot programming, networking CNC machines for NC program transfers and machine monitoring to capture and improve upon Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), among others.

Machine monitoring can be a particularly attractive priority due to its low investment options, both in terms of pricing and connectivity, as well as rate of return. But, with so many choices available today, how do you decide what is the best machine monitoring solution for your manufacturing operations? You’ve come to the right place. As one of the leading manufacturing integrators in North America, Shop Floor Automations has over 24 years of experience in sourcing, installing and supporting shop floor technologies to keep your production lines moving optimally.

Three stacks of blocks: the shortest stack says "Cost", the middle stack says "Price", and the tallest stack says "Value". A person in the background is holding the "Value" block with two fingers.

After reading this blog posting, you’ll have a better sense of the significant differences between solutions and how to weigh those differences against your own key criteria to properly compare machine monitoring software.

Vetting Equipment Monitoring Software for Your Manufacturing Operations

In essence, machine monitoring software helps your manufacturing company to increase efficiency, productivity and profitability by automatically tracking the data your shop floor equipment produces when it’s running – and especially when it’s not. Not all machine monitoring is created equal, however. The list below shares some common distinctions related to equipment monitoring software and questions that should be a part of your vetting process as you compare machine monitoring software solutions.

  1. How can your software support legacy and manual machines? Modern equipment often comes equipped with “plug and play” connectivity, which can make the equipment monitoring installation a relatively simple process. Manual machines, like saws and grinders, and older CNC equipment, however, tends to lack these capabilities. Some machine monitoring solutions are not able to natively support this type of equipment at all. Other systems can but require extensive hardware and consulting to get the machine online. Even so, issues may prevail well after initial installation. These issues can necessitate further technical troubleshooting to consume valuable time and effort, and potentially delay your company’s ability to realize a favorable Return on Investment (ROI). By identifying the machine monitoring software that cannot support all of your existing equipment upfront, you lessen the likelihood of purchasing “shelfware,” that is, software that goes unused, a reference to the age when software came packaged in disks and was stored on physical shelves in offices.
  2. What are my licensing options? Software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription models are ubiquitous these days, but that doesn’t mean they’re a fit for every manufacturing environment. An ideal machine monitoring system should offer transparent options – whether you need an on-premise deployment, multi-term pricing, various combinations of flexible user levels or user license scalability to accommodate demand peaks and valleys – to suit your unique needs. Most of all, your ongoing satisfaction should be guaranteed. If the machine monitoring solution isn’t meeting your requirements, you should have the freedom to end your usage within a 30-day period.
  3. Who connects, installs and supports my equipment monitoring solution? Your manufacturing operations can be complex; the implementation and support of your monitoring software shouldn’t be. The process of connecting equipment, particularly legacy or manual equipment, can take effort, time and personnel to initially set up – especially if the responsible parties lack expertise. There are also ongoing adjustments necessary, such as new equipment connections, the troubleshooting of any issues that arise, integration assistance and tweaks to processes to take advantage of software feature enhancements, that warrant the need for a manufacturing integrator to minimize disruption and keep your equipment data flowing.
A machinist stands tall in his machine shop after a hard day of work.

The process of connecting equipment, particularly legacy or manual equipment, can take effort, time and personnel to initially set up – especially if the responsible parties lack expertise. An experienced manufacturing integrator that can source, implement and support a scalable machine monitoring solution can serve as an effective resource to set up new equipment connections, troubleshoot issues that may arise and help integrate machine data with ERP, for example.

For these three reasons and more, you should see that a comparison of machine monitoring software ought to go well beyond functionality assessments. Both your equipment monitoring solution and manufacturing integrator should be able to adapt to the many changes your organization will undergo in the months and years to come – and be an essential part of that change. Learn more about how Shop Floor Automations is the entrusted integrator for manufacturers with 5 to 75-plus pieces of equipment by contacting a representative today.