Improving shop-floor productivity through data and analytics is making real-time monitoring essential to plastics processors’ growth in 2019 and beyond. This was one of the many insights that emerged from a February 2019 survey by Decision Analyst on behalf of IQMS, a global supplier of enterprise resource planning software and manufacturing execution systems based in Paso Robles, CA. Among the 150 North American manufacturers interviewed for the survey, 55% came from the plastics industry, providing an opportunity to compare responses in this sector with those of participants overall.
The following chart summarizes the highest rated real-time monitoring benefits across 150 North American manufacturers today. It provides a basis of comparison of how plastics manufacturers prioritize these benefits when implementing real-time monitoring to drive their company’s growth and profitability.
Production and scheduling efficiency
Among all manufacturers surveyed, 53% reported that they are adopting real-time monitoring to improve production efficiency as measured by order-cycle times. By contrast, when the plastics manufacturing cohort is analyzed separately, improving production efficiency as measured by order cycle times soars to 62%. Plastics manufacturers also depend more on real-time monitoring to improve scheduling accuracy compared to their general-manufacturing peers, with 58% identifying this as essential versus only 47% of survey participants overall.
Product and process quality
Plastics manufacturers bring a far greater level of scrutiny to inbound supplier, process and product quality than their counterparts. Across all manufacturers, just 38% are adopting real-time monitoring to improve quality control. For the plastics manufacturing cohort, this figure jumps to 61%. Notably, the fastest growing manufacturers are linking quality to growth, and they note that once they can scale quality, they can then proceed with moving a shift to lights-out production. Often, success with an initial lights-out pilot will lead to two or more shifts moving to lights-out operations.
A case in point is one of the most successful plastics extrusion manufacturing companies in North America, which has a series of plastics extrusion machines connected to Fanuc robotic stackers and sorters, capable of handling more than one million plastic parts per week. Real-time monitoring provides a constant view of the plastics extrusion machinery’s health and indicates preventative maintenance needed to keep the Fanuc robotic stackers and sorters at peak performance.
“Our lights-out manufacturing strategy hinges on the health of our machines and the accuracy of our real-time data monitoring,” explained the company’s CEO. “When we’re running two full shifts lights-out, we can hold our own from a cost and quality perspective with anyone in the world.”
Shop floor productivity
The survey revealed that while 76% of manufacturers say improving shop-floor productivity is far and away their most important growth strategy for 2019, there are many definitions of productivity improvement and strategies for achieving it.
For example, 72% of plastics manufacturers are investing in existing machinery upgrades, and 71% are acquiring new smart, connected machines. These rates are significantly higher than those of the general population of manufacturers, where 41% are investing in equipment upgrades and another 41% are purchasing smart, connected machinery. Upgrades are being completed to improve connectivity, integration across machines and productivity. Meanwhile, the new smart, connected machines can directly integrate with real-time monitoring systems while also performing advanced self-diagnostics and self-correction.