Even in 2018, the average plant manager is still plagued by time-intensive activities that prevent them from focusing on the big picture. Some of the most common pain points plant managers are currently experiencing include:
- Too many meetings
- Unclear production losses
- Lack of real-time visibility into daily operations
- Unpredictable job orders
- Competing priorities
Nonetheless, advances in IIoT – Industrial Internet of Things, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence are positioned to make their lives a lot easier. Today we’re going to dive into some of the specific improvements that technologies will deliver for the modern plant manager.
1. AUTOMATICALLY PRIORITIZE YOUR TASKS WITH WORK ACTION PLANS
It’s inevitable—things pile up. As a plant manager, it’s hard to manage everything at once, especially between daily operations, malfunctioning machinery, and shifting labor policies. The “first” priority is constantly changing!
Well imagine if your activities were prioritized for you—that’s what automated work action plans deliver. By collecting granular data from all your manufacturing processes and identifying the specific actions that are causing downtimes and slow cycle times, automated systems will help you identify which problems are costing you the most money. Better yet, rather than looking at current losses, intelligent systems will account for the long-term impact of persistent issues. This will ensure you don’t underestimate the cost of unaddressed problems on the plant floor.
These systems will also be smart enough to assign tasks to the relevant individuals and teams automatically. Thanks to automatic data collection and monitoring, the system would also be able to identify when issues are resolved. This would save you and others time by eliminating the need to constantly your progress towards resolution.
- Easily prioritize what’s important
- Address issues faster
- Delegate tasks automatically
2. IDENTIFY DOWNTIME REASONS WITH INTEGRATED SMART VIDEO
A machine goes down—who is to blame? Operators say it’s maintenance, maintenance says it’s quality, and quality says it’s operators. In order to avoid this he-said-she-said dilemma in the future, a plant manager can turn to integrated smart video feeds to take them back to the moment in question.
Video feeds aren’t anything new, so what do we mean by ‘integrated’? Well, imagine a time stamp was assigned to your video feed every time a machine went down. From there, you would simply point and click the issue in question and review the footage. This is actually possible by connecting your manufacturing processes to a unified network. Data from new and old machines can be collected in real-time thanks to advances in sensor and PLC technology. From there, a software platform would allow you to bridge the gap between the video feed and the real-time manufacturing data.
Beyond just addressing the cause of an issue, integrated smart video feeds can be a great tool for optimizing processes and training your employees. If you identify patterns in downtimes and slow cycles, the video will allow you to carefully study the behavior and movement of your crew, which could help you determine how to improve workflows and efficiency in your process. With respect to training, it’s easier to explain things visually so showing where improvements can be made using video is much more effective than just telling.
- Quickly identify the source of downtime and inefficiency
- Observe and discover better processes
- Train employees more effectively
3. GENERATE AN EFFICIENT JOB SCHEDULE USING A.I.
Scheduling can be one of the most tedious and stressful tasks for a plant manager. Your factory’s savings and efficiency is riding on your ability to order and prioritize your operations in the most efficient way possible. There are some tools out there to help with scheduling, but anomalies still occur that no software can account for.
Thankfully, as artificial intelligence and machine learning come to the fore, it will become easier and easier to account for randomness in the job scheduling process. The A.I. would be a top expert in job sequencing since it would be able to account for thousands of factors simultaneously, which is a task beyond human capability. Much like how Google can predict the right webpage when we make a search, job scheduling will be able to predict random events based on past behaviors and patterns and would ensure that your operations run smoothly while minimizing cost.
Job scheduling solutions in the future will be constantly learning as you use them. The A.I. component will experiment with different input scenarios to give you the best possible outcome. For example, a process may be more efficient with three operators, but cheaper with just two operators. Furthermore, the more efficient process may not need the increased efficiency due to a bottleneck further down the chain. As a result, spending more to achieve better efficiency would not matter to the outcome. Now ask yourself: are you prepared to make these types of judgments at scale? I think we’d rather leave it to the computers!
- Get the most out of your equipment
- Save time and money
- Manage job resources more efficiently
4. MANAGE YOUR OPERATIONS FROM ANYWHERE
You can’t be everywhere at once. Machines break down, processes slow, and production falls behind schedule. Keeping track of everything on your plant floor and making decisions on the fly is tough when operations are spread across large facilities and multiple locations. Now imagine if you could see your entire operation right in the palm of your hand. This is what cloud-based factory analytics will do for the plant manager of the future.
Plant managers can always be in the loop no matter where they are thanks to software that notifies them when issues arise. Get mobile notifications sent straight to your phone to inform you of any significant downtimes, slowed production, and even late starts.
Better yet, systems are getting smarter. Not only will you know if a machine goes down, but you’ll know exactly why it occurred. Better yet, soon predictive maintenance systems will allow you to address machine breakdown issues before they arise. This information will make it easier for you to delegate tasks—but what if you could leave that to the system as well?
Imagine you could assign escalation paths to your machines. This would mean that a machine could inform the right employees at the right time when any number of issues arise. This would allow your maintenance team to become highly autonomous, and thus highly efficient.
At the end of the day, this technology is all about giving plant managers peace of mind. A plant manager can address whenever and wherever they are, and they’ll save money thanks to the increased inefficiency.
- Delegate tasks straight away
- Decrease downtimes
- Never lose sight of your operation
THE FUTURE IS NOW
Although we’re talking about the future, many of these capabilities are available to plant managers right now. Thanks to robust data analytics platforms, managing your plant floor, and addressing any issues that arise is easier than ever.
With more time in your schedule, you’ll be able to focus on what matters most to your organization. Technology will allow us to leap into the future to make the best use of our limited time and resources. We’ll work smarter and make better decisions with a wealth of knowledge and experience at our fingertips.