Efficiency as a necessity

Italy, despite the difficulties, continues to be an excellence in manufacturing worldwide. There are many companies that produce highest quality products and semi-finished products, but, at the same time, there are many companies that suffer in a competitive ruthless arena, where any cost reductions can be decisive.

This is why, in a company that does not want to risk losing competitiveness, the production process must be monitored, analyzed and improved. The objective must always be the highest possible efficiency, without affecting the quality of the product (lean philosophy).

One of the most important actions to reduce losses and avoid production delays is to minimize standstills, the so-called downtime. It will be necessary to reduce them as much as possible or improve their management by introducing tools that allow complete visibility on the status of the line by receiving data in real time and collaborating to solve the problem as soon as possible. According to a research by Motorola, speeding up problem solving is considered an important point by as many as 92% of manufacturing industries in order to improve the efficiency of the plants. On the other hand, if defective products are sold, a bad management of the problems could have negative impacts not only from a strictly economic point of view but also from a reputational one.

Let's see how a competitive factory can solve these problems, with the support of technologies able to facilitate and improve communication in the plant.

Improve communication to reduce downtime and problems

The economic impact of a downtime obviously depends on the specific characteristics of the production process. However, in any factory, a downtime in the production chain results in delays, in the availability of the product and in a possible increase in waste. Ultimately, the erroneous or delayed handling of problems translates into higher costs that will affect the company balance sheet.

It is intuitive that the correct collaboration between the people involved in solving the problem has an important impact on reducing downtime. In these cases, in fact, there are many skills that come into play: in addition to operators, engineers, supervisors, security managers and managers may have to be involved.

It is not surprising, therefore, that over 75% of companies aspires to improve communication between workers: it is in fact the first step to better tackle a downtime.

But how to connect so many people? There are different means traditionally used: from phone calls to emails to walkie talkies; however, none of these tools allows a structured and extended communication to all the people involved. Only by adopting a collaboration platform it will be possible to give instructions visible to everyone, to update the others on the progress of the intervention in real time, increasing the speed of resolution of the problem and consequently the efficiency of the process.

But it is not enough. One aspect that should not be underestimated is the possibility of communicating with machines and IT systems, accessing real-time information on the status of the basic production lines in order to identify any problems in a timely way and to avoid downtime or to solve them much more quickly.

Which are the right industrial indicators to monitor? Find out the main ones in our glossary of industrial KPIs!

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Alarm management to promptly intervene

Communication between man and machines, we said. A certainly fundamental point in the resolution phase of the problem, because it allows us to understand what is wrong and if our intervention is successful.  

Furthermore, such communication allows prompt action before the situation becomes critical and difficult to resolve. Before that, without your knowledge, the downtime could caused serious losses. This is where the alerts come into play.

Receiving alerts from machines when something doesn't work is essential: once the notification is received, all the people involved will be able to move immediately to limit the problem, reducing the possibility that this will give rise to downtime. The temperature is too high, the lack of material for the production, the block of a machine: these and many other information will be immediately available in a clear, complete and easily readable way to the people concerned, if you have a good system of alarm management.

The importance of knowledge management to solve problems

A generally overlooked aspect, when it comes to managing problems, errors and reducing downtime in production, is the knowledge management. This term refers to the management of information and experiences in the company. Use documents, videos, guides and other information materials to add to the skills of the operators is the best solution to accelerate problem solving and reduce errors not only in the specific area of production but in all business processes.

The knowledge management can therefore have a very important impact on productivity, not only in terms of effectiveness but also in terms of efficiency, because the resources are enabled to operate at their best, supported by the right information at the right time, and they are therefore more productive.

Let's contextualize what has been explained for a downtime situation. Sometimes the operators find themselves having to solve a problem they have never faced before and for which they would need to ask a more experienced colleague, with the risk that he/she is not available at that time. If, instead of being guarded only by some workers, the knowledge was instead contained in a well-prepared and rich corporate knowledge base, then the operators would be able to find the information they need to quickly solve the problem, in total autonomy.

But we need to take another step forward. Since a lot of time is lost during the search for the information necessary to carry out the work, having a system that can immediately and automatically provide staff with the resources needed to solve the particular problem they are facing can really increase efficiency and effectiveness of problem solving and reduce operational and decisional errors.

Collaboration and execution platforms to reduce downtime

We have seen how, thanks to the communication among staff and between people and machines, it is possible to speed up problem resolution and to minimize both operational and decisional errors, thus reducing downtime and therefore, ultimately, increasing plant efficiency. But what are the technological choices to be adopted for this purpose?

A winning option is surely to have an enterprise collaboration and execution platform, a space to communicate among operators, machines and IT systems to facilitate the exchange of data and information, as well as a system that guides workers in their tasks through personalized workflows, even in case of downtime or errors.

Keethings, among the collaboration and execution platforms, is one of the most complete, being equipped with:

  • Virtual Workspace: all the people involved in a process can communicate with each other and with the machines in virtual workspaces, chat rooms where they can exchange information, instructions, comments, updates, etc.
  • Alarm management: automatic alerts allow you to quickly identify a problem or downtime and they are automatically sent to the people involved in the process.
  • Knowledge base: the platform speeds up the problem solving thanks to the ability to access to> all information materials: documents, video tutorials or guides related to the problem under examination. There is also a further feature: all these materials are classified according to what has proved useful in solving the problem and, as the problem recurs, Keethings is able to select and propose the most effective ones.
  • Workflow: the platform allows to guide the user during the execution of his activities, involving, from time to time, the people directly involved and providing strictly necessary data.

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