By Sam Cece, founder, president & CEO of Swift Sensors
Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) has been around since the 1960s, and now it’s having a renaissance due to IIoT advances. Small, easily deployed wireless sensors and real-time analytics have made it cost-effective for manufacturers to gather and interpret the data necessary for notable OEE gains. And the combination of OEE and IIoT has the potential to change the competitive landscape in ways that go far beyond equipment uptime.
Efficiency gains translate to higher profits and margins
Capgemini has projected that through 2024, as companies make the switch to smart factories, overall manufacturing efficiency will grow at seven times the rate recorded from 1990 to 2016. Companies that have already made the transition, for example, see an average 21% gain in OEE, while those just starting the process see an average improvement in OEE of 17%.
When data analytics and an OEE-based strategy of continuous improvement are applied beyond the factory floor, they can also deliver improvements in product quality, customer service, and even quality of life. Already, IIoT tools and OEE principles are delivering benefits to sectors including not only manufacturing but also healthcare, agriculture and government.
More efficient processes lead to better product quality
Equipment that works more efficiently and fails less often results in fewer products with defects that compromise their function and/or their safety. In the food-production industry, for example, better operational efficiency of refrigeration equipment translates to fewer instances of food going out of its safe-temperature zone, less waste, and less potential for food-borne illnesses among consumers.
In agriculture, where equipment availability during peak seasons is critical, IIoT devices are helping farmers run their machinery longer with less unplanned downtime. During harvest season, this improvement in equipment efficiency can yield more produce harvested and more of the harvest sent to market at optimal freshness. These gains are important not only for the farmers whose livelihood depends on crop success, but also for a growing worldwide population that will need more food in the decades ahead.
Greater efficiency drives better customer service
Sensor data and an OEE mindset can help companies deliver better service when a customer has an issue. For example, a router manufacturer that adds sensors to its products can use sensor data to help customers determine the cause of operating issues and find a solution. Cumulatively, sensor data that relates to customer-service calls can also create a better experience going forward. The manufacturer can use the data set to inform customer-service guidelines, maintenance schedule updates, and product-design decisions in the future.
IIoT data can also improve customer service in the field. For example, an aerospace manufacturer’s field technicians can access real-time operational data for repairs, maintenance and inspection. This data, too, can be used to improve maintenance schedules, customer service guidelines, and future design choices.
IIoT and OEE best practices can improve quality of life
When government agencies and healthcare providers make IoT-enabled continuous improvement a goal, the result can be a safer, healthier experience for individuals and communities. In the Toronto suburb of Markham, a new smart city partnership will deploy IoT sensors to monitor storm-water and flood levels to guide operations management and protect residents. The partnership will also monitor energy and equipment use to optimize efficiency and reduce costs.
Healthcare providers and insurers are starting to offer remote-monitoring systems for patients with cardiac conditions. The real-time data can help doctors monitor patient health, boost compliance with treatment plans, reduce unplanned hospitalizations, and help individual patients better cope with chronic illness. For pharmaceutical manufacturers, data analytics is contributing to new predictive models and equipment designs to reduce downtime and increase production, which can help prevent drug shortages.
Even if today’s data-driven OEE were limited to industrial manufacturing, it would still have a dramatic impact by reducing the $50 billion lost every year to unplanned downtime. However, better quality of life, customer service, and product quality are outgrowths of the continuous-improvement approach that OEE supports and IIoT enables. As more businesses in more sectors harness the power of IIoT to collect, analyze, and use real-time data to drive process, service, and customer experience improvements, those who want to remain competitive will need to do the same.