Paul Hogendoorn, Founder and CRO
With so much recent progress and the convergence of multiple technologies including IIoT and Industry 4.0 in manufacturing, one question is making rounds in the tech circles: Is the investment in IIoT worthwhile? The answer may not be that easy.
Many manufacturers believe that they must invest in wholesale transformational technologies to create “smart factories” before gaining any benefits. Yet for most manufacturers with a mix of old and new equipment, it’s better to start by building a simple foundation to collect and leverage data rather than undertaking a massive (and expensive) overhaul.
Taking a step in that direction is FreePoint Technologies, Inc.—established on the simple notion that every process, in every factory, can and should be monitored and measured.
By combining a range of simple sensors and IoT devices and the data generated by them, FreePoint Technologies is helping manufacturing companies maximize production by bringing greater visibility to shop floor performance while simultaneously engaging employees in identifying performance issues and making simple improvements that can dramatically increase production throughput and improve quality.
Incorporated in 2013, FreePoint Technologies understands that any company can be saturated by connectivity and the sheer volume of data produced by IoT initiatives. But, to drive process improvement and cost reduction, organizations need the ability to put the data in context for effective real-time decision making.
FreePoint’s product, ShiftWorx, is a cloud-based platform that both management and workers use to quantify, analyze, and share production and operation information in real-time. The combination of technology and employee engagement increases output while managing time and costs and is a steppingstone to Industry 4.0.
“Visualization of real-time data triggers the Hawthorne Effect and supports collaboration among management and workers to use equipment for maximum efficiency,” explains John Traynor, CEO of FreePoint Technologies, Inc.
Initially, CellMonitor, FreePoint’s on-premises application, facilitates communication between every machine on the factory floor and a local PC.
The collected data is saved and transmitted to the ShiftWorx cloud to measure and share production data, uptime, and downtime information for each machine.
Visualization of real-time data triggers the Hawthorne Effect and supports collaboration among management and workers to use equipment for maximum efficiency
ShiftWorx’s WatchLive is an application that transforms machine activity into a visual representation of work using blue bars to indicate when value-adding work is happening. ShiftWorx’s “Narrative” documents machine performance using customer-specific reason or Status Codes to explain or “narrate” downtime and uptime, as well as tracking production by machine operator, shift, job or part, and associated scrap and quality data.
Through an API (application programming interface), ShiftWorx allows production data to be shared with a company’s existing ERP, MES, and MRP platforms for enhanced transparency, customer service, scheduling, and others uses.
For a modest investment on a per-machine basis, FreePoint’s platform provides the data and tools to engage workers and management alike and thus enable production optimization with minimum disruption to existing operations and systems.
The efficiency of FreePoint was on full display when it assisted Excel Connections, an industry leader in manufacturing electric cables. FreePoint discovered that the client’s employees spent an hour to configure machines and bring raw materials for manufacturing different products. “Employees were busy but not productive,” says Traynor. After deploying ShiftWorx, the client witnessed improved machine productivity, identified and mitigated bottlenecks, and increased overall production by a whopping 50 percent.
Commenting on FreePoint’s ShiftWorx platform, a delighted Collen Weber, Business Manager at Excel Connections, says, “The technology has really made a difference, the real-time visualization of data allows employees to work on inefficiencies, and perform better by inducing friendly competition amongst them.”
While already serving customers in the U.S, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and elsewhere, FreePoint is continuously making efforts to improve its solutions by listening to customers and giving manufacturers tools to help them reach their true potential.