Plant & Works Engineering
Five steps to zero downtime: Downtime is money
Published:  09 February, 2018

Lee Sullivan, regional manager for industrial automation software company, COPA-DATA UK, explains his five steps towards zero downtime.

Few things can damage the financial stability of a manufacturing facility more than unexpected downtime. Unplanned downtime may be beyond the control of a manufacturer – caused by infrastructure failures, human error or even natural catastrophes. However, there are ways to reduce the risk.

Data for business decisions

Collecting and archiving company-wide production data is hugely beneficial, and can be difficult to obtain, but industrial automation software can reduce this headache using advanced communication technology. Today, 68% of manufacturers are investing in data analytics. The most intelligent automation software is built around usability, but effective applications will also provide graphical visualisation of production data and generate customised statistical reports.

To truly reap the benefits of big data, it is vital that manufacturers can consume this data in a clear and insightful way. One example would be to use the data to establish where production bottles-necks are, analyse the requirements and justify the solution. Then, the chance of securing project funds is much higher.

Increasing automation

According to the Annual Manufacturing Report 2017 by Hennik Research, two-thirds of UK manufacturers have made investments in automation in the past twelve months. However, once the investment has been confirmed, the installation of automation into production needs to run smoothly.

Smart automation software ensures that users can learn new installations quickly. Automated machinery can dramatically increase effectiveness by speeding up production time and reducing the potential for human error, therefore increasing overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

Real-time monitoring

Investments in automation have generated a significant increase in the deployment of automation software on the factory floor. Traditionally, SCADA applications were simply a way to acquire data from machinery. However, modern automation software applications can provide much more intelligent insight.

Predictive analytics and preventative maintenance

Predictive analytics technology can review production data to assess whether the machinery being monitored is on an obvious or immediate downward slide to failure. Naturally, this information can be massively valuable for manufacturers when attempting to avoid unexpected breakdowns.

Pattern recognition can also decode the relationships between certain types of events and machine failures. For example, if a component fails after being used for a specific product run, the pattern recognition can identify the stresses that are unique to that run that could have caused the failure.

Instant cloud insights

Cloud storage has been hailed as the obvious solution for the ever-growing expanse of production data generated from automated manufacturing. However, for manufacturers with more than one production facility, the cloud can do much more.

Traditionally, automation software was set up locally and the data acquired from this software was embedded into the existing IT infrastructure. However, moving SCADA data to the cloud enables a company-wide analysis of data and even benchmarking of sites.

Providing a meaningful evaluation of the state of a manufacturing facility is only possible when its production figures are available in a complete manner. Using a software application with cloud integration allows facilities managers to track this data on a global scale, regardless of their location or the geographical distribution of their facilities.

On average, manufacturers suffer with 30% or more downtime during their scheduled production time and for some sectors and this production downtime can rack up excessive costs. It’s estimated that downtime can cost £17,000 per minute and £1.03 million per hour in some industry sectors. Manufacturers are always looking for ways to reduce this risk and as the sector continues to embrace smart technology, the steps to zero downtime are becoming clearer.