Ask any business line executive associated with a production line, or a continuous process, what is it that they fear the most and the almost universal response is “unplanned downtime”. This is the one thing that can wreck KPI’s and negatively impact overall equipment effectiveness in unexpected ways. Of course, unplanned downtime does not have to be caused by dramatic equipment failures, it can be the result of products that don’t meet shipping criteria, such as being underweight, or having the wrong mix, as some presenters shared during the session on Strategies to Reduce Downtime and Increase Plant KPIs at last month’s ARC Industry Forum in Orlando.
In his opening remarks, Craig Resnick, Vice President at the ARC Advisory Group, talked about the use of data and analytics to improve KPI’s and eliminate unplanned downtime. Storing, accessing and analyzing this data generally means crossing the traditional divide between operational technologists (OT) on the plant floor and information technologists (IT) in the data center. The traditional antagonism between these two organizations is why many plant operations remain completely segregated from the rest of the business, if for no other reason than the fear of cyber threats. However, when bringing these two groups together you can often find that there is significant common ground between OT and IT, and by harnessing common concerns, a cooperative environment can be built.
Cyber-security, standards-based, scalable and upgradeable, no unscheduled downtime and future proof are some of the key attributes valued by both IT and OT. At Stratus, many of these topics are a common theme we hear from our customers. The combination of a simple, integrated, redundant solution that is fault-tolerant, a service model that proactively detects potential failures, automatically sending replacement parts that are easily swapped, and experts who are constantly monitoring anomalies in overall operation to supplement OT/IT resources are the key things that draw companies to Stratus.
So what are some of the things that end users in the session have done improve their operations? This ranged from using data to understand where pre-mixed weight in raw materials and product mix in the final product were impacting quality and profitability (compensating low weight in cheaper raw materials with higher cost mixers) to providing constant feedback to plant floor operators via local HMI’s so that instant adjustments could be made in sensitive product environments to greatly reduce product wastage and increase overall quality. In all cases, one factor that stood out was the importance of the data, something that Stratus is ideally suited to protect, and a vital element in the move to IIoT and improved KPI’s.