Can you pinpoint a faulty pipe before your profits leak away?

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Can you pinpoint a faulty pipe before your profits leak away?

By Lee Shorten, EMEA Manufacturing, Symbol Technologies

As blue chip manufacturing companies seek new methods to streamline processes, reduce costs and increase ROI, more and more are beginning to realise the key lies in making real time, mission critical data available to their shop floor managers at the point-of-activity.

One option is mobilising scheduling systems in line with the visualisation of SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems, which eliminates the need for paperwork. It will empower shop floor managers giving them the ability to, for example, shut down a turbine that isnt working properly, pinpoint the exact location of a leak or notify maintenance before a pipe bursts. They can then check the spare parts are in stock, by accessing the ERP system using the same device and wireless network and schedule an engineer to make the repair and commission the machine back to full production from the line side. In essence, the shop floor managers can rise above the fray and obtain a larger, more strategic view of manufacturing and production activity, no matter where they are in the plant.

In a traditional manufacturing plant, the shop floor manager is slowed down by the amount of time it takes to identify the issue, analyse the scenario and eventually solve the problem. This time can be significantly reduced when the shop floor manager receives real-time data on a wireless handheld computer and the information is presented in such a way that he can make smart decisions quickly.

By combining this new way of thinking with real time dynamic scheduling of maintenance routes, an engineer can now fix the problems that are of the most cost to a business and have his route changed in real time when a more significant problem occurs.

Mobile SCADAthe new way of thinking for increasing
efficiency and benefiting from reduced operation costs.


A brief history: SCADA

SCADA began as an electronic system operating as I/O (Input/Output) from Remote Terminal Units in the 1960s. By the early seventies, DCS (Distributed Control Systems) had evolved, which were used primarily by large manufacturers and process facilities because they required large amounts of analogue control.

Up until the 1990s, SCADA used Remote Terminal Units (RTUs). These were controllers with I/O modules located at sites away from the central control station. The RTUs controlled I/O points at the remote site and sent data to a master station through a telemetry network.

SCADA systems today are used for measuring, forecasting, billing, analysing and planning. In addition, the SCADA system continues to be tested and tried as it must be flexible enough to interface with a new generation of equipment and tools: the internet and wireless handhelds.

Mobilising the visualisation of SCADA: Key considerations

For blue chip companies looking to increase production and decrease costs, mobilising the visualisation of SCADA systems will prove to be a significant step forward. However, to ensure they will see return on investment, they must consider the following questions:

How much time is the shop floor manager spending on paperwork?

Companies should seriously consider the amount of time a shop floor manager spends on paperwork, administration and filing reports. If a company then subtracts the number of hours from a total work week, they are likely to find that the shop floor manager spends approximately 20% on miscellaneous paperwork. Through the mobilisation of scheduling systems and SCADA, a shop floor manager can ultimately eliminate the need for paperwork, which frees up time to spend on strategic decision-making, analysis and management of projects.

How much is the company spending on clerical overhead?

Clerical overhead often takes up more time and resources than companies realise. What companies must understand are the business benefits inherent in investing in real time, closed loop systems.

AMR states the average IT investment in a manufacturing associate is approximately $11,500, which brings productivity tools to the desk of the associate an area where he/she spends only 30% of their time. For an additional investment of between $3,750 and $6,750 per head, mobility tools can be made available at the point of activity (where the associate spends 70% of their time) which increases efficiency and eliminates the need to file lengthy administrative reports.

How reliable and accurate is the information in the system?

Companies should seriously evaluate how reliable and accurate their data is - as the future success of their company depends on it. Studies have shown that 1 in 300 keystrokes are incorrect (and undetected into ERP systems). However, if a company introduces Automated Data Capture (scanning barcodes or reading RFID tags), it can improve accuracy levels to 99.999%.

How usable is your data for good decision-making?

Executive teams are often forced to make difficult decisions, such as deciding which plant to close. The difficulty is compounded when they realise they cant trust their own data. All too often these decisions are made without the strategic foresight that accurate data collection provides.

Show me the money: Return on investment (ROI)

The benefits inherent in mobilising the visualisation of SCADA and scheduling systems can be quickly realised; on average, it has taken some Symbol customers less than nine months to realise a full return on their investment.

Operational costs will decrease, the shop floor manager will have a heightened knowledge of system performance, and the systems efficiency will increase. Meanwhile, the equipment life will be extended while man hours (labour costs) for repair will decrease. In addition, mobilising the visualisation of SCADA and scheduling systems facilitates compliance with regulatory agencies as a result of automatic data capture, streamlined reporting and elimination of paperwork.

Looking to the future, it is clear that blue chip manufacturers that invest in mobilising the visualisation of SCADA will empower their shop floor managers to make educated decisions that will increase production, streamline business processes and reduce cost. These companies will quickly realise significant return on investment, maintain the strategic advantage within the market and build an infrastructure that will keep them ahead of the game for years to come.

About Symbol

Symbol, The Enterprise Mobility Company(TM), is the recognised worldwide leader in delivering products and solutions that capture, move and manage information in real time to and from the point of business activity.

Symbol enterprise mobility solutions are proven to increase workforce productivity, reduce operating costs, drive operational efficiencies and uncover competitive advantages. Symbol is a trusted advisor to the world's leading retailers, transportation and logistics companies, manufacturers, public sector/government agencies, as well as healthcare, hospitality and security providers.

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