Few things can damage the financial stability of a manufacturing facility more than unexpected downtime. Unplanned downtime may be beyond the control of a manufacturer — caused by infrastructure failures, human error or even natural catastrophes — but there are ways to reduce the risk.

Here, Lee Sullivan, Regional Manager for industrial automation software expert, COPA-DATA UK explains his five steps towards zero downtime.

Data for Business Decisions
Collecting and archiving company wide production data is hugely beneficial, and can be difficult to obtain, but industrial automation software can reduce this headache using advanced communication technology.

Today, 68% of manufacturers are investing in data analytics. The most intelligent automation software is built around usability, but effective applications will also provide graphical visualisation of production data and generate customised statistical reports. To do this, it is recommended that manufacturers opt for software such as zenon.

To truly reap the benefits of big data, it is vital that manufacturers can consume this data in a clear and insightful way. One example would be to use the data to establish where production bottlenecks are, analyse the requirements and justify the solution. Then, the chance of securing project funds is much higher.

Increasing Automation
According to the Annual Manufacturing Report 2017 by Hennik Research, two thirds of UK manufacturers have made investments in automation in the past 12 months. However, once the investment has been confirmed, the installation of automation into production needs to run smoothly.

Smart automation software ensures that users can learn new installations quickly. With features such as smart checklists, embedded standard operating procedures (SOPs) and tailored alarm control, becoming an expert operator or technician on a new machine can be completed quicker and can even reduce training needs.

Automated machinery can dramatically increase effectiveness by speeding up production time and reducing the potential for human error, therefore increasing overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

Real-Time Monitoring
Investments in automation have generated a significant increase in the deployment of automation software on the factory floor. Traditionally, SCADA applications were simply a way to acquire data from machinery. However, modern automation software applications can provide much more intelligent insight.

COPA-DATA’s zenon enables manufacturers to incorporate real-time production data from any relevant source across the production facility, regardless of the age of the hardware or how distributed the infrastructure is. By gaining a full overview of the value stream map, manufacturers can make fast business decisions based on real-time events.

Predictive Analytics and Preventive Maintenance
Predictive analytics technology can review production data to assess whether the machinery being monitored is on an obvious or immediate downward slide to failure. Naturally, this information can be massively valuable for manufacturers when attempting to avoid unexpected breakdowns.

Pattern recognition can also decode the relationships between certain types of events and machine failures. For example, if a component fails after being used for a specific product run, the pattern recognition can identify the stresses that are unique to that run that could have caused the failure.

Instant Cloud Insights
Cloud storage has been hailed as the obvious solution for the ever-growing expanse of production data generated from automated manufacturing. However, for manufacturers with more than one production facility, the cloud can do much more.

Traditionally, automation software was set up locally and the data acquired from this software was embedded into the existing IT infrastructure. However, moving SCADA data to the cloud enables a company wide analysis of data and even benchmarking of sites.

Providing a meaningful evaluation of the state of a manufacturing facility is only possible when its production figures are available in a complete manner. Using a software application with cloud integration allows facilities managers to track this data on a global scale, regardless of their location or the geographical distribution of their facilities.

On average, manufacturers suffer with 30% or more downtime during their scheduled production time and for some sectors and this production downtime can rack up excessive costs.

It’s estimated that downtime can cost £17,000 per minute and £1.03 million per hour in some industry sectors. Manufacturers are always looking for ways to reduce this risk and as the sector continues to embrace smart technology, the steps to zero downtime are becoming clearer.