Before investing in new technology, consider its holistic value.

Industry 4.0 Factory

Predictive maintenance — to catch equipment breakdowns before they appear and reduce downtime — is becoming a priority for manufacturers. As evidence of this, Balluff was recently asked by a Melbourne manufacturer to deliver a solution that proactively manages maintenance on press tools.

Predictive maintenance was achieved by recording how many cycles each individual tool has made and recording the data on an RFID tag which stays with the tool. This means that as tools are changed in and out of the press, the usage data stays with the tool, is always available and can be presented in a format that is easy to read by the IT department without the requirement to fully integrate the system into the machine PLC controller.

Following the implementation and the successful conclusion of the project, we decided to take note of these learnings by writing a case study from the perspective of the production team who sponsored the project and got some great feedback. We also took the unusual step of repeating the case study for collaborative group Open IIoT. Balluff is a member of the Open IIoT Group whose purpose is to break through the jargon and consider practical benefits of Industry 4.0 implementation.

This time rather than the production/maintenance perspective, we wrote the case study from the perspective of the IT department which was responsible for the integration of data.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that taking a different perspective on the same project resulted in a unique overview of the benefits for different departments. It highlighted increased value to the installation with faster return on investment.

This got me thinking about how often we stop to consider the benefits of projects from different stakeholders to truly understand the value both as a customer and a supplier. Even the simplest of automation solutions can be viewed from different perspectives.

For example, if something very simple like an unreliable sensor is replaced with one that is better suited to the application, we would obviously consider the cost of hardware and integration, but what is the real value to the maintenance engineer who will be called out to fix a problem with the old sensor? What is the value to the production supervisor who sees lost production every time that the machine stops? What is the value to the logistics department who are waiting on production to complete their deliveries and so on and so on until you’ve considered the total holistic value of the solution across all verticals.

I think that if we can consider all of these perspectives for such a simple example, it is easy to see how considering this on a larger scale automation project could deliver benefits. Truly understanding the value of a project makes the investment decision easier. In my opinion it is our responsibility as suppliers and as customers to consider the investment holistically and to make that extra effort to understand the outcomes for different stakeholders.

*As an Industry 4.0 and digitisation advocate, Jim has extensive knowledge in networking, RFID, identification products, object detection sensors, ultrasonic sensors, systems and training. Jim is focused on generating data from sensors and RFID, while analysing and automating the value that can be delivered from that data. He is especially interested in IO-link connectivity to help automate format changes. Jim has worked for Balluff since 1997, both in Australia and abroad.

Jim Wallace

National Sales Manager – Balluff

This article was originally published on Process Technology. Check it out Here