Effective Communication Prevents Revenue LossesFri, 09/01/2017 - 13:37
Companies are becoming more digital as equipment connects with ERP systems and automation dominates most operations. Human-machine interaction is crucial to achieve the key attributes of Industry 4.0 and to avoid costly downtime, meaning communication systems need to adapt to these new requirements, says Juan Barragán, Distribution Channel Director of Motorola Solutions de México.
Unplanned downtime costs are directly related to equipment availability during manufacturing operations and how well the company manages its maintenance schedule. When a breakdown is detected, systems must communicate effectively to prevent the entire production line coming to a stop. In a Motorola Solutions 2015 study, Innovations in Plant Communications, 46 percent of CEOs, plant managers, operations personnel and engineers interviewed said digital radios can reduce downtime by 10-20 percent.
Motorola Solutions has focused on developing equipment that addresses problems such as sound clarity and coverage to make manufacturing efficient. “Regardless of the complexity of the operation, production requires the coordination of different work lines and that is where our services can offer a clear advantage,” Barragán says.
Maintenance and repairs are examples of when machines might communicate with operators. “Most companies have their own alarm displays for equipment malfunction and we are now communicating those alerts to our MOTOTRBO radios,” says Barragán. MOTOTRBO connects the machine and handles the alert registry for data collection. This helps companies build statistical data that can lead to schedule maintenance and prevent equipment malfunction. David Bell, Vice President of Business Development at SmartSignal, says downtime can lead to losses of between 1 and 3 percent of a company’s revenue. Bell’s affirmation was later used by Motorola in its 2015 study to show that approximately 20 percent of a plant’s production capacity is lost to downtime.
Smartphone complexity and the potential to integrate technology into smartphones would make them ideal devices to connect with manufacturing equipment. But Barragán says smartphones are not an efficient way to communicate in a production facility. Operators need to communicate with several people at the same time, so they would have to make multiple calls. With a radio, communication is simultaneous.
Motorola’s study shows manufacturers want two-way radios that can connect with other devices including smartphones, tablets and computers. “Companies must now be connected with their suppliers at all times and we have developed WAVE, a solution to connect suppliers’ cellphones with radios on the manufacturing floor,” says Barragán. WAVE connects plant operators with all personnel who do not have a radio.
Motorola’s next step is Wi-Fi integration. Motorola Solutions has just released a new version of its equipment that incorporates Wi-Fi, opening a new dimension for its clients. “With Wi-Fi, data transmission broadens to communications that require more bandwidth, which complements the advantages that radio frequency can offer.” Barragán expects Wi-Fi features to become standard across all Motorola Solutions’ products. These are all based on the same equipment architecture, which he sees as the company’s greatest advantage to attract new clients. Depending on their needs, clients can gradually add more features to their radio by simply acquiring new product licenses. Companies make the same initial investment in equipment and later decide how much functionality they want to add.
Motorola Solutions has positive growth expectations in the Mexican market, especially as more automotive companies arrive to the country. The company has already established close relationships with several automakers around the world and once these companies bring their operations to Mexico, they are likely to build on this relationship with Barragán’s team. He says the automotive industry is the second-largest sector in the manufacturing division, only behind low- cost manufacturing maquiladora operations. “Automotive is a sector that likes technology and is accustomed to incorporating innovation into processes, so we see an opportunity to grow our client base and bring more complex solutions to Mexico.”