Modern manufacturers are facing a unique dilemma. Although there’s a wealth of data flowing throughout their facilities, the insights needed to make strategic decisions are often obscured, buried by the day-to-day processes needed to simply keep operations running smoothly. While each machine, shift, and line has information waiting to be leveraged, the challenges lie in tapping into this data and analyzing it on a consistent basis. Production tracking software addresses these challenges.
While the manufacturing sector in the US as a whole began automating more than 70 years ago, many companies still have a considerable way to go before they fully embrace solutions like production tracking software to become more data-driven and to optimize their operations. For industries like food and beverage, in which pressures such as safety, compliance, and traceability add complexity to manufacturing, there’s an especially rich opportunity to begin tapping into production data. Here, we take an in-depth look at the features production data tracking software offers and the benefits it can provide.
What Does Production Tracking Software Do?
Production monitoring software, also referred to as production tracking software, uses automated technology to gather operational and equipment data in real time. In doing so, it offers insights that can help plants maximize performance and availability across their entire operation. Specifically, it provides tools to boost overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), such as calculations and dashboards, as well as statistical process control (SPC) charts.
OEE is a metric which determines the level of actual productivity versus planned production in a facility. It sheds light on losses within operations across three key factors: availability, performance, and quality. In fact, OEE is calculated by multiplying these factors. To provide the most comprehensive OEE calculation possible, production data tracking software assesses metrics such as unplanned stops, reject count, and run time. Production schedules can be uploaded to compare actual performance against the target. With this information, production managers can begin to see where their greatest losses occur, so they can then plan strategically for long-term improvements.
SPC is a process through which quality and variation are measured and controlled in manufacturing. Like OEE, it draws on several data sources to illustrate potential areas of improvement. Production monitoring software can collect product or process measurements in real time and can then be compiled with control limits, which determine the process’s capability, along with specification limits, which are determined by the customer. With real-time SPC, manufacturers can pursue a more consistent, quality output.
In addition to these critical metrics, production monitoring software can also provide:
- Comparisons across shifts, lines, and plants
- Real-time spec verification
- KPI and performance dashboards
- Root cause analysis and alerts
- Equipment checks
Check out our blog "Why SPC Quality Matters" for a deeper look at the benefits.
Thanks to IoT-enabled devices, the software also seamlessly connects to manufacturing equipment. In food and beverage, for instance, it can track data from scales, thermometers, and other machines. The right production software can even perform equipment checks, triggering alerts to let your teams know when specific machines – or even their components – are underperforming and may need repairs or replacement.
What Are the Benefits of Production Data Tracking Software?
Manufacturing is complex, and without real-time visibility into operational data, production managers can’t always easily pinpoint problem areas. Snags in the manufacturing process can occur at virtually any point, and whether some lines are running slower than others or a particular shift seems to be lagging behind, production tracking software facilitates root cause analysis to support a prompt resolution.
Of course, inefficiencies in the manufacturing process tend to reveal themselves over time. But in high-stakes environments such as food and beverage plants, factors like stringent customer requirements and compliance factors don’t allow for long stretches of time to go by without a resolution. When production data is collected and analyzed immediately through real-time production monitoring software, issues become apparent immediately and can therefore be addressed before they create bigger problems. The platform can even trigger alerts for operators to notify them when any specification limits are surpassed, thereby giving them even quicker insights into bottlenecks.
Currently, forward-thinking companies are already embracing digital momentum through partnerships. According to Deloitte, implementing digital technologies can create business models for manufacturers at five times the rate of their peers and deliver twice as much value to customers. Ultimately, adopting these solutions leads to greater overall productivity and output.
These benefits are particularly advantageous in a post-COVID world. In a PwC survey, manufacturers noted that not having enough information to make good decisions and potential effects on productivity were among the major concerns stemming from the virus. With pandemic-related constraints such as supply chain bottlenecks and unforeseen financial challenges, it’s more important than ever for manufacturers to achieve visibility into their operations at every level. Production data tracking software takes the guesswork out of decision making, offering facility-wide reporting with the insights needed to maximize yield, minimize unplanned downtime, reduce waste and rework, and drive plant productivity.
Production tracking software is especially timely for manufacturers as it allows for remote supervision. While we may see the effects of COVID wean over time, remote work isn’t a passing fad. In 2019, even before the first signs of the pandemic, nearly half of the workforce in the U.S. worked from home at least once per week. As solutions like production monitoring software make plant data accessible from anywhere in real time, companies will continue to embrace remote work arrangements to better support safer products and plants, evolve with employee expectations, and reduce overhead costs. Many of these tools are accessible on any device, making them a collaborative tool both remote and onsite workers can leverage to streamline management and communication.
Finally, one of the most compelling benefits of production tracking software is its ability to eliminate paper-based processes. For the food industry especially, supporting key outcomes like compliance and traceability is cumbersome with binders and notepads. Missing information, lost paperwork, and drawers upon drawers of files simply aren’t conducive to meeting safety and quality objectives. When data collection becomes automated, it minimizes the risk of errors while freeing up line employees’ time and attention.
If you’re interested in exploring the benefits of production tracking software for your plant, learn more about SafetyChain’s Production Manager platform here.