Machine Monitoring in Manufacturing: A Complete Guide

Machine monitoring software helps manufacturers maximise output, productivity and efficiency. A production monitoring system also helps manufacturers identify bottlenecks and other issues on their shop floor.

A production monitoring system is critical to the success of a manufacturer. If you don’t have a machine monitoring solution at this point, you may be falling behind.

This guide provides you with everything you need to know to understand machine monitoring, and to assess different manufacturing production monitoring solutions.

This guide will help you to understand: 

What is Machine Monitoring, and what is a Machine Monitoring System? 

At the most basic level, machine monitoring is the tracking and analysis of manufacturing machine’s activity. The purpose of production monitoring is to provide manufacturers with a clear and timely understanding of the efficiency and mechanical state of the  machine. The system is made up of a set of software and hardware tools that allows for the monitoring of several machines simultaneously. Reporting on the machines is typically provided within a centralised monitoring software platform. 

 

What is the Purpose of Machine Monitoring? 

The purpose of machine monitoring is to provide manufacturers with the information they need to make data-informed decisions to increase production efficiency and optimise resource use across their operations.  

What are the Different Types of Machine Monitoring Systems? 

Machine monitoring can mean different things to different people. There are several approaches, each offering different types of insights. 

At a high level, these are the most common types of production monitoring systems: 

  • Equipment Status Monitoring 
  • Performance Monitoring 
  • Condition Monitoring 
  • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) 
  • Computer Numerical Control (CNC) 
  • Energy Management Systems 

What is Equipment Status Monitoring? 

Equipment Status Monitoring provides the most fundamental form of machine monitoring. This includes on and off status and the length of time within each state. As with all production monitoring solutions, Equipment Status Monitoring involves the integration of sensors for each machine, and a central monitoring interface. 

What is Performance Monitoring? 

Performance Monitoring is a step up from Equipment Status Monitoring. In Performance Monitoring, machines are assessed in more detail to provide greater insights to the user. These could be insights covering uptime, downtime, cycle lengths, activity on shifts as well as job efficiency. As with Equipment Status Monitoring, and all forms of production monitoring, Performance Monitoring involves the integration of sensors for each machine, and a central monitoring interface. 

What is Condition Monitoring? 

In a Condition monitoring system, machines are monitored at a deeper level; monitoring machine aspects such as vibrations, RPM, electrical currents, temperatures, pressures, or viscosity. A condition monitoring system generally detects changes in the condition of any of these aspects and provides an alert when a change is detected. Conditions monitoring can thus be an integral part of preventive maintenance. 

What is Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) Monitoring? 

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) monitoring systems provide data and insights that help manufacturers measure how well a manufacturing operation is running compared to its full potential. It is represented as a percentage of actual useful production / potential production. This helps manufacturers measure the effectiveness of their entire operation, or of different cells or processes thereof, and to make corrections to improve overall production efficiency. Read more about OEE in our blog post here:

What is OEE, why do manufacturers need to measure it, and how is it calculated?

OEE monitoring involves the integration of sensors providing feedback on all machines’ production rates. OEE systems establish benchmarks for each machine, cell, or process, and for the overall operation. An OEE system then monitors the production rates of the different machines, cells, processes or operation, and provides insights as to the current efficiency levels versus optimal levels. Some OEE systems also provide insights into how manufacturers can achieve higher levels of output and efficiency. 

What is CNC (Computer Numerical Control)? 

Computer Numerical Control (CNC) is not a form of production monitoring. However, as many CNC systems also provide machine monitoring, it’s worth exploring here. 

Computer Numerical Control describes a system wherein the operation of a machine or tool is controlled by a computer. A computer interface allows for the preprogramming of different elements of a tool’s movement or control processes, such as depth, speed, size or temperature levels. With CNC, a machine or tool can then be used to automatically produce according to the preset controls. 

CNC systems may also provide feedback typically seen in machine monitoring systems, such as conditions, performance or OEE insights. 

What is an Energy Management System (EMS)? 

An Energy Management System is a specific type of machine monitoring, that provides insights about the energy usage of machines, cells, processes or operations.  

Energy Management Systems (EMS) allow manufacturers to measure, analyse & sometimes control the consumption of energy throughout their operations. As energy is often one of the most expensive and volatile cost inputs for manufacturing systems, monitoring systems have been developed to specifically focus on it.  

For more, see the Complete Guide to Energy Management Systems

Technician using a machine monitoring system

 

The Benefits of Machine Monitoring 

Why would a manufacturer want a machine monitoring system? Production monitoring systems help manufacturers achieve greater rates of production output, efficiency and profitability.  

What are the benefits of machine monitoring? 

  • Increased Utilisation of Machines 
  • Downtime Reduction 
  • Identification of Bottlenecks 
  • Optimisation of Operator Productivity 
  • Workforce Optimisation 
  • Quality Metrics 
  • Predictive Maintenance 

Benefits of Machine Monitoring – Increased Utilisation of Machines 

Machine monitoring can help you improve utilisation of all machines across your shop floor. This is done through an analysis of utilisation trends at a machine, production workflow, and factory level.  

Such analysis involves tracking and understanding how machine utilisation rates change over time and change with different processes and practices on the shop floor This could include hourly, shift, daily, weekly, monthly or even seasonal patterns in machine usage. From this, you can identify and reinforce processes creating above-target outcomes, and root cause and rectify processes creating below-target outcomes. 

Understanding utilisation trends can also help you forecast and plan more profitable production rates. Through trend analysis, you can plan for peak periods, allowing the organisation to allocate resources, schedule maintenance, and manage workforces more profitably. 

An often-overlooked benefit is the ability to then benchmark against industry standards and peer organisations to understand where your performance sits. 

Benefits of Machine Monitoring – Downtime Reduction 

All manufacturing operations seek to minimise downtime. Downtime reduction is one of the prime benefits of machine monitoring. Production monitoring systems can help you to minimise downtime by giving you a clear reason as to where your downtime is occurring, enabling you to root cause and rectify. 

A few examples would be: 

  • Unplanned breakdowns – becoming aware of a disproportionate number of unplanned breakdowns on a key machine within the production workflow, and taking targetted action with the maintenance team 
  • Changeovers – highlighting excessive changeover times on specific products, shifts, machines or jobs leading to a review of standard operating procedures, staff competency, or even into a feasibility study on automation options 
  • No operator – identifying periods where there is no operator available to run the next cycle, enabling you to review the root causes, e.g. are you at sub-optimal staff levels, are your staff fully briefed on their daily jobs etc. 

Production monitoring systems are also essential for implementing predictive maintenance programmes. Machine monitoring can help you understand the real-time health of all machines on your shop floor, and to receive timely alerts before issues turn into larger problems. All of this helps to minimise downtime. 

Finally, machine monitoring can help you reduce downtime and improve efficiency by pinpointing the optimal times for scheduled maintenance. Production monitoring systems can identify the optimal times for performing regular maintenance on different machines.  

Benefits of Machine Monitoring – Identification of Production Bottlenecks 

Without a machine monitoring system, production bottlenecks can persist undetected. Production lines and shop floors can be highly complex, and without a production monitoring system, bottlenecks can be very difficult to spot. 

One way to spot bottlenecks is through differential machine utilisation rate analysis. Put simply if one machine within a production line is being used at or near capacity while others remain at low capacity, a bottleneck may be indicated. Data analysis, observation and team consultation can help to confirm a bottleneck and to diagnose root causes.  

Frequent downtime at a specific stage of production can also indicate a bottleneck. Manufacturing production monitoring systems can help you spot stages wherein machines lie idle or experience downtime. This can also signal a production bottleneck. 

Technicians using an iPad to monitor shop floor machines

 

Benefits of Machine Monitoring – Optimisation of Operator Productivity 

Manufacturing operations can achieve gains in profitability and production through optimisation of operator productivity. “Operator Productivity” optimisation involves aligning operator schedules with production and machine utilisation patterns. Machine monitoring is essential in optimising operator productivity. 

Machine monitoring systems can be used to identify and mitigate operator productivity issues during changeover processes. The system can help you identify when error rates increase during specific changeover processes. Manufacturers can tackle the identified issues through updated trainings for changeover processes and through improvements to communication protocols during changeover processes. 

Similarly, machine monitoring systems can be vital in spotting variabilities in machine utilisation rates. Inefficient workflows, lack of adherence to production schedules, or varying levels of operator skills can give rise to variabilities in machine utilisation rates. Production monitoring systems can help manufacturers spot inconsistencies in utilisation rates, and then address any personnel issues that could be contributing to them. 

See here for an example of how Mavarick’s system improved operator productivity: Optimising Overall Asset and Employee Efficiency

Benefits of Machine Monitoring – Workforce Optimisation 

Workforce optimization involves efficiently deploying and managing personnel to ensure that the workforce aligns with production demands and maximizes overall productivity. Machine monitoring systems can be instrumental in ensuring optimal workforce deployment. 

Machine monitoring systems can help you understand the correlation between machine utilisation and staffing levels. Production monitoring systems can help you understand minimal staffing levels required to achieve target production rates. Similarly, machine monitoring can help you to ensure proper staffing for peak production periods. 

Similarly, machine monitoring systems can help you manage dynamic staffing to ensure optimal profitability and production rates. Manufacturing operations that implement dynamic staffing can achieve outsized profitability rates. Part-time, flexible or temporary staffing can help operations match staffing to production levels. Without machine monitoring systems, such dynamic staffing would be nearly impossible. 

Benefits of Machine Monitoring – Quality Metrics 

Quality metrics involve assessing the quality of products produced by machines, including factors such as defect rates, scrap rates, and adherence to quality standards. Machine monitoring systems can be essential in helping your operation understand quality metrics. 

For example, machine monitoring systems can help you to understand the correlation between machine utilisation rates and defect rates. High machine utilisation can impact product quality, especially if machines are pushed to their limits. To maintain high product quality, use your production monitoring system to identify when defect rates may coincide with high machine usage, and adjust schedules or machine settings accordingly. 

Machine monitoring systems can also help manufacturers identify when machine utilisation itself is a factor in driving defects. Machine utilisation, especially at peak levels, can impact machine calibration in extreme cases – which can then affect quality levels. Through machine monitoring, you can identify when extreme utilisation tends to impact product quality and adjust calibration and maintenance accordingly. 

Benefits of Machine Monitoring – Predictive Maintenance 

Predictive maintenance involves using data to predict when equipment is likely to fail so that maintenance can be performed just in time to prevent the failure. This proactive approach helps minimize unplanned downtime, reduce maintenance costs, and extend the lifespan of machinery. Enabling predictive maintenance is a benefit of production monitoring. 

Through machine monitoring, you can identify utilisation anomalies and equipment health issues. Sudden or unexpected changes in machine utilisation rates can signal potential equipment issues. Real-time monitoring of machines can help you spot these changes and take measures to maintain equipment and avoid downtime. 

Production monitoring systems can also help you spot spikes in machine utilisation, which could lead to stress and breakdown of machines. Understanding where spikes can occur can help you optimise scheduling and avoid disruptions. 

The Mavarick machine monitoring system installed

 

How does Machine Monitoring Work? 

In this next section, we’ll discuss rudiments of using a production monitoring system to drive results.  

In this section you’ll learn: 

  • Machine Connectivity: How machine monitoring systems communicate 
  • Data Analysis: How to use a Machine Monitoring system to analyse and drive results 
  • Reporting: What kind of reporting is provided in a machine monitoring system 

Machine Monitoring: Machine Connectivity 

Every machine on your shop floor provides some sort of signal to let operators and managers understand the state of the machine. It could be as simple as signaling whether the machine is on or off, or whether the machine is functioning “normally”. Some machines have more complex interfaces that provide deeper information, such as temperature, humidity, or cycle time. 

The problem that most high-functioning manufacturing operations run into is that it is not efficient or effective to monitor each machine separately. In order to improve overall productivity and profitability, manufacturers need a holistic picture of their entire manufacturing operation. To get this view, information from multiple machines must be centralised in a single interface. 

To get information centralised in a single interface, that interface must have some form of connectivity to all the machines on the shop floor. There must be some mechanism for transmitting machine activity and health to the central interface. 

This section explores how to get data centralised in a single interface. 

Machine Connectivity: Machine Controller 

Advanced manufacturing machinery often comes with a built-in Programmable Logic Controller, or PLC. The PLC or the “machine controller” may provide very granular information about the health, conditions, or utilisation of the machine, such as vibrations, RPM, electrical currents, temperatures, pressures, or viscosity.   

This level of information can be vital for ensuring proper maintenance of the machine, and for maximising productivity. Problems can arise, however, when trying to transmit information from a PLC to a central monitoring interface.  

The makers of the machines on your shop floor – Original Equipment Manufacturers, or OEMs  may allow third-party software makers to access the PLC, but this can be an expensive  and time-consuming process. This can make monitoring machines from different OEMs difficult from both a functionality and cost perspective. It can also make setup of production monitoring systems more time-consuming and riskier. 

Mavarick has developed methods for obtaining vital conditions, health and utilisation data without having to integrate directly into PLCs. This helps to cut implementation times and allow manufacturers to begin monitoring more quickly. Mavarick can also work with OEMs to access PLCs directly, though manufacturers rarely see the need. 

Signal Towers

 

Machine Connectivity: Lighthouses and Signal Towers 

The most basic machine monitoring comes in the form of “Signal Towers”, often referred to as “Lighthouses”. Signal towers are physical structures that rise above the machines they monitor, for easy viewing. They typically will provide a “Green / Amber / Red” light to signal the current health and operating capability of the machine.  

Signal towers allow manufacturing managers to walk a shop floor and easily understand the status of the machines around them. However, many manufacturing managers don’t have time to walk the entirety of their shop floor. Signal tower information is not scalable, and often does not provide the depth of information needed to improve productivity or profitability. 

Machine Connectivity: Internet of Things (IoT) Devices 

Another way to transmit information from a single machine to a central interface is through Internet of Things (IoT) technologies. IoT technologies are typically small computers that are able to access the internet, and can be used to monitor and transmit information about health, conditions and utilisation rates of manufacturing machines. 

Through using IoT devices, Mavarick is able to compile all the data required to understand the health, conditions and utilisation of machines on your shop floor. The setup of monitoring systems is simple and straightforward for Mavarick personnel and can often be done in a matter of days. 

 

Data Analysis in Machine Monitoring 

Getting information from machines is one thing. Turning that information into actionable insights that improve production and profitability is quite another. 

Ultimately, if you’re looking to gain a competitive edge, optimise production runs or maximise profitability, you need software that helps you turn data into insights. That is where data analysis comes in. 

Historic Trends in Data Analysis for Machine Monitoring 

If you want to improve productivity, first you need an accurate measure of your current state of productivity. Unfortunately, managers of manufacturing operations can often be shocked to see the true state of productivity. Managers may react with disbelief when faced with accurate analyses of their operational productivity. Whilst this is understandable, facing the cold reality of historic trends is the only way forward. 

The gathering of data into historic trends is the only way to generate reliable, accurate benchmarks. Without these benchmarks, manufacturers are flying blind.  

Historic trend analysis and benchmarks help ensure that you’re accurately identifying and concentrating resources on the correct problem areas of your production floor. Historic trend data helps you be confident that changes you make to problem areas will result in positive impacts to production. 

Realtime Analytics in Machine Monitoring 

“Realtime” data is information that is provided instantaneously, or as near to instantaneous as possible. Monitoring data in realtime provides information about the current state of your machines. 

Monitoring data in real-time helps manufacturers make live data informed decisions and prevent small issues becoming larger and causing daily firefighting. Over time the value created from these live decisions accumulate and can make significant impact to a company’s bottom line.  

Real-time data can also help in a less obvious way; it can help manufacturers understand whether production monitoring systems have been set up correctly. When a machine monitoring system is powered by realtime data, manufacturers can check information collected by the monitoring system and confirm the accuracy of that data at the machines themselves. In this way, manufacturers can be extra confident in their data driven decisions.  

Reporting in Machine Monitoring 

Reporting”, as discussed here, refers to the methods used by a production monitoring system to deliver data and insights to the people that can use or apply them. Machine monitoring systems deliver reporting via a computer interface, via a mobile phone interface, via email, or via text message. 

Different delivery interfaces can be used for different purposes. For example, a computer interface can deliver reporting and provide capabilities to allow a user to dig into the numbers to diagnose an issue. In this way, delivery via computer interface can provide a diagnostic capability. A computer interface may also allow users to model the potential impacts of different hypothetical production strategies. In this way, the computer interface may represent a tool for optimising production. 

Reporting delivered via email can provide an automated way to help operators and managers plan their day. Alerts via text can provide immediate notice of issues that require immediate attention. 

The point is that data and insights are useless if they are not consumed and applied. A strong machine monitoring system should provide many different types of reporting methods, to allow all roles and personalities to receive the data and insights they need to excel in their positions.  

Electrical cabinet

 

Successful Implementation and Adoption of Machine Monitoring Systems 

In this section you’ll learn: 

  • Implementation: How a machine monitoring system is set up 
  • System Adoption: How to get your team to use a production monitoring system 

How to Implement Machine Monitoring Systems 

The way in which a machine monitoring system is implemented is critical to that system’s success.  

Successful production monitoring system implementation depends on these elements: 

  • Infrastructure 
  • Planning 
  • Integration of machine monitoring hardware and software 

The Importance of Infrastructure in Implementation of Machine Monitoring Systems 

If a manufacturer is to make productive use of a machine monitoring system, there are some very simple, foundational requirements for their physical plant. First, the manufacturer must have a reliable power system. The way the physical plant is wired can be crucial. Production monitoring systems can require electrical socket access for many points. If plugging into three side-by-side pinpoints blows a fuse, that could present a crucial problem. 

Similarly, many machine monitoring systems utilise Internet of Things (IoT) devices to monitor and transmit data. The use of these IoT devices requires solid Wi-Fi infrastructures.  

Planning for Implementation of Machine Monitoring Systems 

Planning for machine monitoring systems installation typically involves physical logistics like electrical wiring infrastructure and Wi-Fi distribution. Efficient distribution and access for power and Wi-Fi are requirements for successful physical implementation of a machine monitoring system. 

Planning for either an initial installation, or an expansion or layout change must also involve health and safety considerations. In the European Union, Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) protocols must be followed for the protection of people and machines. This can be as simple as ensuring that the leads used to connect monitoring devices are not trip hazards.  

Finally, be sure to include all necessary personnel in the planning and implementation processes for production monitoring systems. For one, you’ll need to ensure access to physical infrastructure such as the machine access panels. You may also need to turn off particular machines during installation.  

Integrating Production Monitoring Systems 

Manufacturers sometimes use “ERP” and “MES” interchangeably, but there are crucial differences. An MES, or “Manufacturing Execution System”, is a system that is specifically designed to provide insights into the manufacturing process, from raw goods to finished products. An MES provides insights into the costs and timelines associated with turning raw goods into finished products. An ERP, or Enterprise Resource Planning” system is a much broader type of solution. An Enterprise Resource Planning system is ultimately an accounting and financial tool. ERP solutions may sometimes be used to track costs of manufacturing – and in that way may act as an MES. An ERP is not specifically designed to track and analyse manufacturing, however. 

A good production monitoring system can integrate with both an ERP and an MES system. Many manufacturers rely on operators to manually enter data into their MES systems, such as stop / start times. Dependence on human operators for these types of manual and tedious tasks can inevitably lead to errors. Especially when operators have to devote a good amount of energy to the manufacturing tasks at hand. Integrating a production monitoring system with an MES can help you form an accurate and dependable picture of end-to-end production and operational costs.  

Similarly, if a manufacturing organisation is using an ERP to track manufacturing productivity, then integrating your machine monitoring system will yield more accurate and dependable results. 

Manufacturing team. Team culture is critical for machine monitoring system adoption.

 

How to Drive Adoption of your Machine Monitoring System 

If your organisation does not embrace your machine monitoring system, you will never get the full benefit of the system. This section lays out the steps for ensuring the best adoption for your production monitoring system within your organisation. 

The most important elements, when it comes to driving adoption of your machine monitoring system: 

  • Organisational Culture 
  • Data Literacy 

System Adoption: Culture 

We cannot underestimate how crucial organisational culture is to the adoption of machine monitoring systems. And of course, if you want to realise value from your production monitoring system, you’ll need to ensure wide adoption across your organisation – from the executive team to the operators. 

The best way to ensure adoption of a machine monitoring system is to involve members of your team in the decision-making process for selection of the system. If you involve your team in the selection process, they will help you to choose the right system for your manufacturing operation. And – at the end of the day – this involvement will make them feel that they have a stake in ensuring adoption and usage of the chosen system. 

Finally, you don’t want your operators to feel like the machine monitoring system is being implemented to evaluate them and their work. A production monitoring system isn’t “Big Brother” looking over their shoulder – it is a system for helping to improve overall production capability and profitability. And these types of improvements help everybody on the team. Involving your team members in the decision-making process can help to ensure this message gets across. 

System Adoption: Data Literacy 

Many industries have been disrupted by changes in the availability of analytics. This is happening now within manufacturing. Machine Monitoring systems and Energy Management Systems are making access to manufacturing analytics simple and ubiquitous. Manufacturers able to embrace and apply analytics will gain competitive advantages.  

The key to embracing analytics is data literacy. The more a team is able to understand and speak the language of analytics, the more they are going to be able to apply them, and to realise the gains. 

Engineers and operators are fantastic problem solvers, but not all are traditional data analysts. If you want your teams to embrace and apply learnings from production monitoring systems, you’ll need to ensure that they are comfortable with data.  

However – you can do your teams a great favour by choosing a machine monitoring system that is able to level-up insights, and to help operators make sense of data. It can be easy to get lost in the sea of data that is available when monitoring machines on a shop floor. The best machine monitoring systems present the most valuable data, to the right people, at the right time. 

 

ROI, Impact and Value of Machine Monitoring Systems 

At the end of the day, manufacturers need to understand the return on an investment like a machine monitoring system.

How do you drive savings from a production monitoring system? Can you leverage a machine monitoring system to win new business? When will you recoup your investment in a production monitoring system?

See below for a method for calculating ROI of a machine monitoring system.

How to Calculate ROI of Machine Monitoring Systems 

At the highest level, calculating ROI for a machine monitoring system involves comparing the savings the system provides with the system’s cost. 

For example – if we need “Machine 1” in a production run, and that machine has 70 hours available per week, we may decide that Machine 1 must be entirely dedicated to this production run. If, using a production monitoring system we find that Machine 1 is only running at 60% capacity and that increasing capacity by 20% can yield an additional €1000 worth of goods per week, then that machine monitoring system has generated €1000 of value per week. 

To calculate ROI in this case, you’d need to examine not only Machine 1, but all other machines involved in the production process. And then you’d calculate the total value gained and compare that figure to the cost of the machine monitoring system over the same time period. 

 

Talk to Mavarick today to learn how you could quickly increase your productivity and reduce downtime with a machine monitoring system.

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

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