Shop Floor Connectivity | Sustainability

Building a green enterprise – How connectivity enables sustainability

Words by Atlas Team
Building a green enterprise – How connectivity enables sustainability

Sustainability is a big word, and one we’re all possibly over familiar with these days. For that reason alone it’s important not to take a step back and remember what it actually means. Over familiarity with terms like sustainability can mean they lose their impact and importance. In reality, businesses need to be more sustainable for their own benefit and to ensure we’re safeguarding our world from irreversible climate change.

On a grand scale, sustainability efforts help the world. On an individual level, they open opportunities for businesses to be leaner, more efficient, and more sustainable in ways beyond what we might expect.

Sustainability in the global sense is about sustaining our environment. But a sustainable business is also one that weathers all storms. A sustainable business minimises its impact on the natural world, while maximising its longevity; adopting resource saving methodologies, waste minimisation techniques, and efficient business processes that maximise their output.

We’ve already demonstrated how a good connectivity solution takes into consideration scalability and how usability should also be at its core. So how does sustainability factor into the conversation? How could a shop floor connectivity solution help a business be more sustainable?

Our Top 5 Takeaways

  • Scale can be sustainable with the right data being collected and used
  • Maintain your equipment before it needs maintenance and eliminate breakdowns
  • Make what you and your customers need in the right quantity at the right quality
  • Shop floor connectivity can help you achieve sustainable energy utilisation
  • IIoT goes beyond shop floor connectivity and across your whole supply chain

Global expansion and international efforts can happen with data collected, analysed, and democratised by a smart shop floor connectivity solution. Historic data on waste and inefficient efforts can be easily shared and understood, making each new push for growth more efficient and sustainable than the last.

Environmental officers can see at a glance the minutiae of detail, as well as the big picture. Countless sensors in innumerable machines across multiple facilities can send real-time data to a usable, accessible platform where minute changes multiplied many times can make massive savings in energy reduction and equipment management.

Supply chain managers can see every piece of their digital thread, from ingredient procurement to product delivery. Every element of a manufacturing process can be monitored and tweaked to be as efficient as possible.

A truly connected shop floor, supply chain, and enterprise as a whole, is one that can achieve sustainability in ways that only industry 4.0 technology can make a reality.

Making sustainability simple

In this series we’ve already discussed scale, more than once in fact, and we’re going to discuss it again. While it obviously warranted its own article, it also touches every other aspect we want to look at in terms of shop floor connectivity.

A scalable solution needs to be sustainable or it will do more harm than good. Moreover, if you’re achieving scale with sustainability in mind, you’re going to do untold good for your enterprise. Sustainability means less waste, more energy efficiency, and ultimately a more profitable enterprise.

If you’re expanding a business from a single location to a national business, or a national business to a global one, doing so in a sustainable way is not only a good thing to do, it’s the smartest thing to do.

If your shop floor connectivity solution enables experts throughout your business the chance to make use of the maximum amount of data your business produces, then the opportunity for sustainable scale should become clear.

With the proper use of information throughout a single site’s growth, the expansion of a business to multiple locations and across national borders is one that can happen sustainably. Mistakes made on a small scale can be tracked, understood, and avoided when scale begins.

And it’s important to remember that connectivity doesn’t just touch the shop floor. That’s obviously the focus of these articles, but connectivity should have an impact throughout the entire supply chain.

The industrial internet of things (IIoT) in terms of manufacturing tends to bring to mind our facilities, but it can and should enhance everything from logistics to product sales. With data being collected on your entire supply chain, you can achieve sustainability in many more ways as you scale.

Achieving a lean approach means less delivery vehicles on the road, only when they need to be there. Less wasted energy in storage facilities and better use of the time of the people in your organisation. Scale can happen in a way that means every element in your business that might have a negative impact on the environment is being used as efficiently as possible.

And once scale has been achieved, a usable digital system provides the same access to sustainable approaches on a global scale. The right system integrated from the beginning of a company’s growth should allow for new people entering the organisation to make use of data and insight the enterprise has collected up to that point to make data led, sustainable decisions.

How GloboBake uses shop floor connectivity decisions to grow sustainably

Our fictional bakers have grown in many interesting ways. Through this series of articles, and through our series of articles on supply chain management, they’ve developed from a single shop to a leading light in the world of baked goods.

To enable sustainable growth, they need data from the shop floor. They have a system that’s usable by the experts throughout their business, a system that enables scale, so how can they use the insight that system affords them to achieve their sustainable goals.

In the above diagram, we can assume that GloboBake starts on the left. They make fantastic products, but the way they do so creates waste. Currently that waste is unanlysed and the lion’s share of it ends up in landfill. For a company with sustainable pretensions, this is no good. They produce a large amount of product, they’re profitable, but the means by which they achieve this has a negative effect on the environment and means they’re missing out on potential efficiency.

Waste for GloboBake comes from many areas. There are times when the products they output don’t meet their exacting standards. This could be due to human error, poorly maintained equipment, mismanaged logistics or a number of other reasons.

Reducing Waste

Already, a shop floor connectivity system that integrates across their many types and instances of equipment can help. Measuring and monitoring the temperatures of their ovens, the tolerances of their dough mixing machines, and the operation of their production lines and conveyor belts will help.

Comparing the data collected on oven temperatures in one location could provide a solution to waste through burning in other locations. A minute adjustment of a degree or two can be rolled out globally and cut waste in half. Understanding the limitations of dough kneading machines can lead to predictive maintenance on a global scale, minimising downtime and maximising quality product production.

Beyond the mechanical aspects, energy efficiency can be taken into account. GloboBake’s environmental officer can look at the uptime and downtime of machines in different facilities operating under different circumstances and make adjustments to ensure that energy isn’t being used for no reason. Ensuring that when uptime is necessary, it’s happening. And when downtime is unavoidable, implementing energy saving measures that reduce the companies carbon footprint and save on energy costs.

These steps move GloboBake into the lean world.

Becoming green

Lean is good, but lean and green is better. Now that the basics of minimising waste have been attended to and automated across GloboBake’s facilities, they want to step it up a notch and become a truly green company.

With the initial push taken care of by smart systems, integrated and automated throughout their facilities, the bright minds at GloboBake can start innovating harder. Whilst their product is close to perfect in terms of structural quality, some of the baked goods they produce don’t reach their aesthetic standards.

While it’s difficult for GloboBake to achieve perfection in this area, that doesn’t mean these unattractive but ultimately edible products are destined for the landfill. By integrating visual sensors that can evaluate the attractiveness of a baked good, they can funnel these less than perfect loafs to separate production lines. They might never make it to the shelf as thick sliced loaves, but they’re perfect for packets of breadcrumbs.

With this innovation, GloboBake is moving into the green square. They’re not just reducing waste, they’re reusing and recycling previous unsellable products. Again, minimising their impact on the environment and maximising their efficiency and productivity at the same time.

Evolving sustainably

Minimising waste, reducing, reusing, and recycling are all taken care of to a greater or lesser extent. The landfills now see almost no direct input from GloboBake. The ingredients they turn into baked goods, one way or another, find their way to suppliers and into the hands of hungry customers.

Through careful analysis of the data their shop floor connectivity solution affords them, GloboBake can now focus on the real minute and previously unavoidable wastes their processes create.

Recipe management can be enhanced using smart systems. Loss and waste can be tracked, analysed, and understood. GloboBake’s digital systems can take data directly from their equipment, enhance their recipes and feed back new, leaner, more sustainable recipes to the shop floor.

Kneading machines, for example, inevitably create slightly more dough than can be loaded into loaf tins. Unused ingredients left in loaders for too long become unusable and need to be replaced. Many other examples of waste that are minute in local terms can collectively create large areas of waste in a global business.

A shop floor connectivity solution that’s able to spot these wastes, build intelligent solutions, and automatically enhance recipe management, is one that enables remanufacturing of these elements, redesign of these processes, and recovery of otherwise perfectly usable elements.

Achieving Total Effective Equipment Performance

The heart of any manufacturing enterprise is the equipment. Without equipment being used, sustainably or otherwise, product isn’t created and profit isn’t realised. This is where the concept of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) comes in. And with it, the lofty goal of total effective equipment performance (TEEP).

OEE as a metric describes how well manufacturing equipment is utilised. An OEE of 100% would mean that only quality output is being produced, at the highest speed, without any interruptions. Or in OEE terms, 100% Quality, 100% performance, and 100% availability.

TEEP is closely linked, but maps OEE against calendar hours rather than against operating hours. Meaning that for a TEEP of 100%, an enterprise would need to run with an OEE of 100% 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.

For most organisations a TEEP of 100% is unrealistic, but it gives us that perfect metric we can work towards, while remembering that perfect should never be the enemy of progress.

With a smart shop floor connectivity solution, attaining 100% OEE should be a core goal and it’s one that can and should directly relate to sustainability. With quality products being produced fast and without downtime, waste will inevitably be reduced. Energy efficiency should also be maximised.

OEE is best described by looking at the ‘Six Big Losses’ it aims to eliminate.

How availability losses can be minimised using shop floor connectivity solutions

Availability losses make up the first two of the Six Big Losses. They’re characterised as breakdowns and setup and adjustments.

Breakdowns are probably the most straightforward and easy to comprehend. If a machine is broken down, it’s not going to be producing a product, and it’s going to be holding up a manufacturing process. It’s going to take time, energy, and resources to get back online and could result in waste, for example ingredients needing to be replaced.

With cutting edge shop floor connectivity systems, breakdowns can be understood, predicted and dealt with much more efficiently. At a base level, breakdowns can be communicated immediately by sensors on the machines alerting a system that can alert maintenance engineers and provide information on the breakdown.

But this is reactive. A more advanced solution would be to track maintenance alerts and understand the circumstances which cause breakdowns. In this way, predictive maintenance can be achieved and downtime can be planned, with maintenance happening before it’s needed and as part of an efficient process.

Setup & adjustment can both be improved by shop floor connectivity systems as well. By understanding how various equipment in your enterprise has operated over its lifetime, expanding your operations can become smoother. New locations with new equipment can be set up and calibrated in such a way that the initial setup achieves the efficiency that previous equipment has, straight out of the box.

How performance losses can be minimised using shop floor connectivity solutions

Keeping 100% speed and minimising performance losses, here characterised as small stops and reduced speed, is more subtle than our availability losses.

Small stops and reduced speed aren’t issues that cause full breakdowns of equipment. These are rather times when equipment stops functioning for shorter periods, or operates at slower than optimal speeds, for reasons that don’t require maintenance. These stops and slowdowns are typically solved by the workers operating the machine and tend to be chronic. Small issues that turn up day after day. Individually they can seem unimportant but collectively, globally, they can add up to major losses in efficiency.

Often the powering up and powering down of equipment can be the most energy intensive periods, and having these shortstops continue can result in power surges and energy spikes that have a direct impact on sustainability.

With shop floor connectivity done right, these incidents can be tracked and understood as part of a big picture. Solutions to these small problems can be mapped out and implemented across global networks. At scale, these minor solutions can mean major energy savings.

How quality losses can be minimised using shop floor connectivity solutions

Quality losses are probably the clearest example of waste in OEE. Defective products are something we’ve covered already and it’s clear why they produce waste. If your equipment isn’t producing to a standard that meets your customers expectations, it’s a waste. That means the ingredients or components, time, resources, and energy that went into creating it has not resulted in something salable and that’s not sustainable.

Startup rejections are a bit more complex. This isn’t about the everyday running of your operation but rather the waste a manufacturing enterprise incurs when spinning up new equipment. While your shop floor engineers dial in the specifics, test variables and adjust settings, it’s possible that inferior products are produced, again leading to waste.

In both of these cases, we can clearly see how your sustainable shop floor connectivity solution is key. Every piece of equipment in your enterprise can and should be feeding back data to a central point, allowing for defects to be spotted and minimised, with the processes used to create them growing and evolving to become less wasteful and more efficient over time.

And this process should help you cut your start-up rejections to as close as zero as possible. With ever evolving data models and understanding of how things have worked, you’ll have a better and better understanding of how new equipment should work.

Enabling complex solutions to sustainability concerns

So far we’ve really looked at the simpler, more scalable end of sustainability in shop floor connectivity. But we wouldn’t be the cutting edge technology creators we are if we didn’t investigate and champion the complex end of the argument too.

While we believe a good shop floor connectivity solution should be available to all the experts in your organisation, whether their expertise lies in the technical sphere or not, we also believe it should be capable of enabling the technical geniuses to shine too.

With the right shop floor connectivity systems, machine learning ops experts should be able to take the data your equipment produces and use it to create AI bots that improve efficiency automatically.

If you don’t have a system that’s robust and accessible enough to enable deployment of these technical marvels, they could be stuck in siloed systems, far from where they’d be most effective. In reality, you need a system that enables deployment of these digital solutions at the edge, in your operations around the globe.

With AI handling minute and incremental change on a global scale, a million tiny energy efficiency solutions can add up to a company that is more sustainable than you might have thought possible.

What’s next?

Now that we’ve discussed scalability, usability, and sustainability, we’ll be moving on to affordability. The first three are laudable goals, but to achieve them you need a system that fits your budget and won’t become unmanageable as you grow. We’ll see you next time for that one.