Transforming Legacy Facilities into Smart Factories

While the smart benefits of smart factories are widely recognized, few organisations are building them from scratch. The majority of manufacturers seeking to become smarter are starting the journey with legacy sites and diverse machine environments.

In this film Senseye's Alexander Hill and Rob Russell are joined by Dr Hannah Edmonds from the Manufacturing Technology Centre and Make UK's Jim Davison to discuss how manufacturers seeking to become smarter can approach the task of modernizing legacy systems, best practices for acquiring and analyzing data, and how information can be turned into action on the factory floor.

Transcript

Rob Russell, Senseye: The smart factory movement fundamentally brings a different type of opportunity in the level of connectivity you have, enabling the production lines to be far more connected, having a better understanding of the status of machines, and the opportunity that brings to drive deeper integration.

That could be an integration into the demand for tooling, spares, or even assessing the overall risk that you have at a high level within your production process.

Jim Davison, Make UK: Moving to a new plant is a golden ticket - it offers massive opportunities. The reality is, I think with modern systems and modern technologies, you can introduce smart capabilities within your process because it’s far more deployable. You can put in a local area network, you can use wireless technologies to connect the machines and sensors.

Dr Hannah Edmonds, Manufacturing Technology Centre: You don’t need to necessarily invest in a new machine, you can just upgrade your existing machine by putting sensors on it to collect data. You can still get the benefits in that instance.

There are a number of new products coming onto the market that allow you to enhance existing production equipment without having to make a significant investment. Just consider what the most appropriate data is, and where you’re getting the best value from collecting data, and start there in terms of your transformation journey on your brown-field site.

Jim Davison, Make UK: Going back to my EMI music days, we did this but we were having to lay kilometres of electric string to physically connect machines to our networks and then obviously our shop-floor data capture systems and then our planning systems. The beauty now, is that you can do it far more quickly, more cost-effective and more simply.

Alexander Hill, Senseye: There always has to be a cost-benefit analysis when understanding if it’s worthwhile modernizing a legacy system or if you can get benefits from just installing a completely new system.

These machines have a finite lifetime but often that lifetime can be quite long. It’s not unusual for us to see machines that have been operating in a certain environment for 20 or 25 years plus. Certainly, when they were installed they didn’t have the kind of data collection that now enables things like predictive maintenance.

So there has to be an understanding of: Is this asset worthwhile? Do we have enough of them? Is the cost of installing sensors going to be seen by avoiding failure or by improving throughput or improving quality?

There’s another way that companies can benefit from this - by installing new lines. We are seeing more and more that companies installing new equipment will specify that it has to have data collection capabilities that exceed the expectations of what that company thinks they might collect in ten years time.

What I mean by that is, companies buying new equipment will specify the data collection systems to have at least 10, 15 times the capability of what they will collect now.