By Eric Larson
What is a connected shop floor?
A connected shop floor is when a manufacturing facility uses digital technology to allow seamless sharing of information between people, machines, and sensors via a hybrid-cloud based model. This transition empowers workers by giving them easy access to their task lists, plus putting the information they need to locate their work in progress — all in a paperless environment.
Start with Digital Work Instructions
Does your company still route paper travelers on the shop floor? These papers are used as the work instructions, printed from the ERP routing, to have something built on your shop floor. They will contain operations, parts information, and maybe even space for someone to write down serial numbers, or mark a signature of completion. But these forms can get lost, are often messy, are hard to keep track of and most importantly, there is visibility into the manufacturing order’s status. Plus when it’s complete what happens when a customer calls for a complaint because the order is wrong? You have to dig through the paper records – if you can find them!
Moving from paper to digital allows manufacturing information and status to be stored electronically, like all the other data within the company and has the capability to do more with that data. From embedding 2D and 3D visuals to data collections and buyoffs, digital work instructions organize and improve your data. Not to mention it’s also visual, reportable and provides status on order completeness.
OK now that we know the overall gist of a connected shopfloor, along with where to start – let’s break it down by use case.
Connected Operator – Assembly
A lot of manufacturing work is assembling parts together. This is usually done in a very sequential way to make one product. And each operation is typically executed via a work order.
Data might be captured on things like the torque of a bolt, acquisition of serial numbers of components installed, or just acknowledging the operation was done successfully as it moves on to the next operation. The operator might need access to references of the engineering drawings, illustrations and even video instructions. In a digital “AKA Connected” shop floor environment, these items are readily available and easily accessible.
Connected Operator – Fabrication
Another use case of digital work instructions is within fabrication manufacturing often referred to as “lot based manufacturing.” In these scenarios things aren’t always done in a one-product-at-a-time approach. The floor could be producing many parts at a time with the operator randomly capturing information, or doing spot checks along the way. These checks range from temperature of a particular process, time elapsed for an operation, quantity of goods vs quantity of defects, and much much more.
The key takeaway here is that a fabrication-based process cannot be an assembly experience, one part flow, and it’s not repeatable. Moving to a digital format helps keep this information organized for when it’s needed.
One is example of this is heat treatment – typically done in batches of parts, at a
specific temperature over a prescribed period of time. Not only does the instruction have the prescribed temperature and time information but it can also receive periodic operator input to be stored for that lot, or a feed from a digital sensor can be stored to this automatically.
Ready to get started?
Every facility is different and every approach to a connected shop floor will differ. Make sure you know the right use cases you are solving for and how to account for them. Most importantly, make sure your tools can support it. If you have questions on how to get started, or are wondering if your software supports digital work instructions, please reach out. We’re here to help.