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Industrial companies must be able to respond quickly to the everyday issues that can constrain production and drain revenue. Key to addressing this is understanding where efficiencies can be gained within a plant.

By Du Xiao Han, Business Manager, Architecture & Software, Rockwell Automation, Southeast Asia.

Plant floor personnel have the difficult task of monitoring and maintaining a growing number of IoT devices on their networks and often struggle to piece together information from different sources. With potentially hundreds, if not thousands, of devices in a large facility, users can get overwhelmed by the amount of information they need to manage and analyse, let alone provide the level of information needed by those with an eye on the company’s bottom line.

There is a solution: plant floor management software. Not only does it assist plant floor personnel with their day-to-day roles, but also benefits the company as a whole.

Combatting Information Overload

Knowledge is power for both plant floor personnel and their organisations when it comes to managing production and revenue. Accurate and up-to-date information about the plant floor is the answer. With so many sources of information across a plant floor, one collective spot that allows a real-time view of all devices and networks and access to historical data and trends is crucial for understanding both the day-to-day and bigger picture issues.

Plant floor management software offers strategies and processes to address these issues. By automatically discovering assets and their associated IP addresses it works to create a map of connected devices within the business. A grouping of equipment along with dashboard information then allows users to organise devices into specific areas or analyse them individually. By creating a topology of connected, networked, devices, users can see exactly what is going on with each individual device, as well as getting a bird’s eye view of the plant floor.

User-created configuration templates within the software also enable new switches to get up and running faster and more efficiently. These templates can be shared across an organisation, or with OEMs and system integrators to further ease network deployments, commissions and maintenance efforts. Furthermore, provision of role-based access control with auditing capabilities enables the software to track user-specific activities and changes across devices to ensure efficiencies amongst plant floor personnel.

Beyond the day-to-day overview of the plant floor, the software also enables companies to have a clear view of the plant’s history and trends in order to factor these into business planning. The software not only learns the processes of the plant and assists in identifying trends in the data, it also provides historical data retention for analysis and more informed decision-making on the plant floor and at a management level.

Real-Time Problem Solving

Through the mapping of devices and learning of processes, plant management software plays an important role in maintaining and increasing efficiencies on the plant floor that have a direct impact on a company’s bottom line.

Often, information sits in disparate silos and pieces of equipment on the plant floor that are not connected to one another, let alone a wider infrastructure. When something goes wrong with devices the result is often time intensive troubleshooting and problem-solving, resulting in costly downtime for the business. Plant management software is designed to address this issue and create an impact that can be felt all the way from the plant floor to the company’s bottom line.

Crucially, having a mapped architecture allows plant floor personnel to monitor the health of their network and reduce downtime to help improve overall equipment efficiency. By helping to remove blind spots between, and even within, organisational silos, users can directly access the information needed to get insight into network performance, allowing them to proactively take action before an issue arises.

In the event that an issue does arise, real-time alarms and events from network switches can help plant floor personnel to conduct faster, more precise troubleshooting and assign a user to resolve the issue. This can result in a near-immediate resolution of production issues and smooth operation, drastically reducing costly downtime and ultimately increasing a company’s revenue.

As the number of devices and information sources within a network continue to increase, finding a solution that gives a full overview and analysis of the plant floor is crucial for both plant floor personnel and also for a company’s bottom line.

Purpose-driven applications that are able to pull data from disparate systems that had proven difficult to integrate and limited workers’ ability to investigate production issues are key to improving operational productivity. By giving production managers and executives new visibility into key areas of operations and helping them more accurately forecast production targets, companies can achieve efficiencies that help them stand head and shoulders above the competition.

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