How do you grow into the factory of the future with your current equipment?

This article was originally written for

The Factory of the Future web site:

by Robert Kravontka a.k.a The Maintenance Geek

You have been blessed with some great orders, so right now you need to increase production with the equipment you have.

The new equipment dealers tell you to buy their equipment and finance it.

They say new equipment has the ability to talk to each other and tell you when maintenance is required, then generate reports.

We believe your maintenance people can help get your old equipment running more productively into the future with the proper use of sensors for preventive and predictive maintenance. This can be accomplished by using The Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT, to send a text when an event occurs.

These sensors will reduce breakdowns so your production automatically increases.  You also can develop the ability to run some of your equipment un-manned during off shifts. This happens when, sensors text you, or your maintenance people if your equipment runs out of material or stops early in the shift, you can make a decision to send someone in, or go in yourself to restart the equipment.

Sensors can look for amperage, voltage, presence/distance, hours, cycles, and a host of other conditions.

The giant manufacturers are starting to do this on a large scale. Smaller manufacturers need to start because the benefits are well worth the effort.

You can upgrade your existing equipment without spending a lot of money.

Sensor technology costs are continuing to drop all the time, typically requiring around $250.00 worth of equipment per unit.

Start with your most critical 3 or 4 machines:

Set up an hour meter, so you know when the equipment is actually running, you can receive a text message when it stops, even off shifts. A total hour figure will also tell you when it is time to schedule some preventive maintenance, instead of using less effective calendar-based scheduling.

Next put on a cycle counter so you can be alerted when milestone production numbers are achieved, thus stopping from overrunning a job to get to the end of the shift. This number can also be useful for maintenance to use condition-based service verses reactive maintenance or waiting until your equipment breaks down completely and expensively.

These sensors can be especially helpful for stamping operations and molding operations. Tools for these operations are typically dumb stand-alone units. A cycle counter can text your tool maker when a tool reaches time to sharpen, so they can generate a work order for the tool room.  This helps level the work load in the tool room, reduce unnecessary inspection time, and increase wrench time. This is better than the alternative of waiting for a shutdown period to sharpen all the tools, which only allows repair of your high priority tools, with the balance getting a cursory look.

When the tool is changed the setup, person hits the reset button on the sensor and starts counting cycles for the next tool. A laptop can change the counter total if required. The tool room can determine if the total cycles are to short or too long, then mark it on the tool. The same thing holds true for injection molding tools. For your maintenance department and tool room it is equivalent to doing pm’s while the equipment is running. This system can eliminate manual tick sheets which are often inaccurate.

A next step can be to put on a sensor to measure the amperage load of this critical equipment, this tells you if the load starts to climb, so you can begin to troubleshoot the actual cause.  If you can plan your maintenance instead of reacting to breakdowns, you can reduce maintenance costs and improve equipment output, at the same time.

By logging your amperage draw on a 24-hour basis you may find ways to reduce your energy bill by determining your equipment is still drawing substantial power even when it is not producing any parts. This action can pay for the entire sensor program.

These cell phone messaging sensors can communicate via wifi in the shop, if available and secure, or by sim card cell service, or FM radio to a receiver in the office tied to the internet. Because messages are sent as soon as an event occurs, you get immediate feedback on your equipment condition. These sensors can be a simple as micro switches, magnetic or hall effect sensors, clamp on amp meters, temperature, presence and vibration sensors.

Buy tracking some simple properties on your critical equipment you can increase production, reduce maintenance costs and cut your energy bills.

The goal is to automate your critical dumb assets by the use of sensors to track whatever will give you the data you need to be proactive and predictive with your maintenance dollars.

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Robert Kravontka

(203) 510 – 8375

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