Warning light on production line turning red
It is estimated that unplanned downtime costs industrial manufacturers an estimated $50 billion each year.

Unplanned downtime is a source of headaches for factories, warehouses, food processing plants, and other industrial environments across the globe. Whether you make baked goods, move boxes, or manufacture wind turbines, it is never a good thing when production unexpectedly halts. On top of the cost of repairs is the loss of man-hours, raw materials, and product, and it is estimated that unplanned downtime costs industrial manufacturers $50 billion each year. What’s the best way to avoid unplanned downtime?

The Industrial IoT (IIoT), a wireless network of smart sensors and connected devices which captures data insights near the production line and throughout the facility, can help to identify when and where there are risks for unplanned downtime. Here are three ways the IIoT can help manufacturers avoid unexpected production issues:

Close up of production line repair.
Vibration sensors can measure motor vibration frequency and indicate when preventative maintenance should be performed.

1. Identify Preventative Maintenance Opportunities

Many manufacturers determine when to do maintenance on production line equipment based on a machine’s specification guidelines. However, machines can run at different speeds and durations which the guidelines may not take into consideration. The maintenance schedule ends up being a loose estimate for when to perform service and puts you at risk for unplanned downtime. Is there an alternative?

Through a facility-wide IIoT solution like SiteWorx Sense, facility and production managers can schedule and perform preventative maintenance on key machinery. One of the ways this can be done is through vibration sensors which measure motor vibration frequency and temperature. If a motor runs at 90% capacity for eight hours a day, it is on pace to need maintenance before a different motor that runs at 70% capacity two hours a day. With vibration sensor data, managers can spot potential mechanical issues like misaligned couplings and an unbalanced motor. Once a potential problem is identified, maintenance can be scheduled during off-peak or non-active production times. The threat of unplanned downtime is prevented and production can carry on like normal.

Steam leaking from a pipe in industrial facility
Leaks from cracked or burst pipes in main production can shut down areas around the production line.

2. Maintain Facility-Wide Conditions for Optimal Productivity  

Besides production line machinery hiccups, events like leaks can result in unplanned downtime. Leaks from cracked or burst pipes can shutdown main areas around the production line. A similar incident in an auxiliary area that isn’t occupied every day can be even more hazardous since no one knows it is there. Unmonitored leaks can cause more damage and eventually make their way to busy main areas and result in unexpected downtime.

Through power metering and flow monitoring, facility managers can monitor pipes and storage tanks for potential water and gas leaks. If a storage tank empties at a quicker rate than an established benchmark, that signals a problem. A flow meter may capture data to indicate liquids are moving out of one pipe at a quicker pace than usual, which can mean there is a malfunction. With this information, a plan can be made to protect the main production area from damage or disturbance and locate the cause of the leak.

Eggs on a conveyor belt in a food processing plant.
Big shifts in temperature and relative humidity can compromise raw material quality, damage product, or cause delays to scheduled production.

3.  Sustain Production and Product Quality to Avoid Delays

In some manufacturing facilities, big shifts in temperature and relative humidity can compromise raw material quality and cause delays to scheduled production. A food and beverage company discovered that each time one of their employees went in and out of the freezer where raw ingredients were stored, the door was left ajar. After a while, the freezer temperature increased to a point where the ingredients were compromised and had to be thrown away. So, production paused until another batch of ingredients were ordered and prepped.

IIoT-compatible temperature and relative humidity smart sensors transmit date to a facility-wide monitoring software application to track and verify real-time and historical data. Benchmarks can be created from that data so that current trends and anomalies can be accurately measured. SiteWorx Sense alarms can also be used to notify facility managers when the temperature or relative humidity levels have moved outside of the norm which allows them to deal with the issue right away.  

There are a lot of factors in any facility that can wreak havoc and cause unplanned downtime. Machine mishaps, leaks, changes in environmental conditions and more can all bring production to a complete stop. Through the IIoT, facility managers can initiate regular preventative maintenance, closely monitor environmental conditions in critical areas, and proactively address unexpected events in the facility before they become worse.


Learn more about how the IIoT and SiteWorx can bring efficiency to your facility:

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