Manufacturing Tomorrow


Shop Floor Optics: Identifying Downtime Causes and Equipment Faults to Improve Uptime

Jul 30, 2018
By: Jake R. Rohrer

Identifying Downtime Causes and Equipment Faults to Improve Uptime

The scene is all too familiar to many manufacturers and plant managers: a machine goes down and half a dozen line workers and repair techs peer into various cavities in an attempt to pinpoint the problem. Is something jammed? A short circuit? Is it overheated? Maybe it’s just operator error. Meanwhile, precious time is being lost and production has screeched to a halt.

Resolving these types of scenarios as quickly as possible and reducing issue resolution time — the moment an error is recognized until it’s rectified — is a key to maintaining profitability. Improving uptime in the modern age requires leveraging the latest IIoT software to help workers identify downtime patterns and equipment faults to proactively address them in the future.

We’ll take a look at how using Job Shop Floor Optics technology to capture machine data in real-time and improve several key performance indicators (KPIs).

How Visibility Improves Issue Resolution Time

One of the most effective ways to improve resolution time is making sure everyone is on the same page. Displaying metrics from machines on a web-based dashboard in multiple locations throughout the plant helps ensure that machine performance is properly monitored. These metrics can be displayed on monitors, tablets, and smartphones. Mobile accessibility is a key factor in increasing visibility.

The setup of the dashboards is a critical component of its effectiveness. Keeping it simple and straightforward with color coding allows workers to know the status of a machine at a glance. The top tab in the example shown below contains the machine’s name, status, and the amount of time in the given status.

Green = Active

Yellow = Setup

Blue = Idle

Red = Error

How Visibility Improves Issue Resolution Time

Colors change dynamically as information from the machine is pulled and transmitted to the cloud and instantly displayed on the dashboard interface. If a machine is idle and an operator starts it up again, the dashboard indicator will turn green. If a section turns red, service technicians will not only instantly know the machine isn’t functioning properly, they’ll also know what’s causing it and get an exact diagnosis to aid in solving the root issue immediately.

With Shop Floor Optics, gone are the days when an operator discovers a problem, tries to self-diagnose, then goes to the manager who dispatches a repair person to start the investigative work of trying to figure out what’s wrong. Meanwhile, hours may go by before the issue is resolved. In addition, when the length of downtime is visible to all viewers on a dashboard, it creates a sense of urgency for the team and resolution time is significantly reduced.

Five critical production KPIs from Shop Floor Optics include the following:

1. Production Cost Per Unit

When a piece of equipment is down due to operator error or a breakdown, there are numerous costs (labor, overhead etc.) that continue to accrue. In addition, production volume is stagnant; therefore, the cost of producing one unit continues to increase until the equipment is able to resume. This KPI is a core metric of operational efficiency and an indicator of overall production performance.

2. Labor Per Unit

Labor is a fixed cost, and workers are paid regardless of whether they’re operating at full capacity or waiting for a machine to get back up and running. When an operator isn’t producing goods, his or her cost per unit produced will skyrocket. Getting operators back to work as quickly as possible to produce parts is critical.

3. Production Capacity

Using Shop Floor Optics, a plant can realize previously inaccessible capacity.  Reducing machine issue resolution times lends itself to more time spent in production, and therefore, higher unit output. Shop Floor Optics allows a company to unlock additional capacity without an expensive investment in machinery or space.

4. Work in Progress (WIP)

Each process and function within a manufacturing facility is symbiotic — if one step is disrupted or delayed, it can have a domino effect throughout the plant. If you have machines constantly going down for long periods of time, it disrupts the flow of product and can create bottlenecks and constraints. Partially finished goods can pile up as they await further processing. Reducing machine downtime reduces the time it takes to get each operation back up and running in sync.

5. Revenue

For a company pursuing growth, Shop Floor Optics provides several departments with new opportunity to contribute to the bottom line. Capacity gained through reduced resolution time enables the Sales and Marketing teams to push product at a level previously unfeasible. Production can keep up with surging demand because of improved production and labor efficiency, reduced WIP and communication gains through real-time production data.

Shop Floor Optics empowers individuals in multiple departments and drives operational efficiency, all at a low cost of investment.  When an equipment issue arises, don’t settle for the current state of a drawn-out resolution; empower your labor force to swiftly alleviate problems.

Want to Learn More?

The IIoT experts at Wipfli would be happy to talk through its functionality and how it can be used in your unique application with a free demo. If your company makes the choice to implement, Wipfli consultants will assist in installation and teach users the interface while providing coaching on its expansive functionality. Request a demonstration today to see the potential for your organization.


Jake R. Rohrer
Senior Consultant
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