Real-time work coordination – IoT in manufacturing

There are numerous processes on the shop floor that need to be coordinated and monitored on a daily basis. Coordinating tasks and monitoring production parameters efficiently guarantee smooth execution of day-to-day tasks and secure long-term benefits. The most significant advantages of alarm management and real-time notifications are reduced costs and higher output.

No matter whether an alarm or a simple step-by-step instruction, well-organized work coordination lies in the heart of long-term success.

Work coordination – alarms

Nowadays alarm management in an industrial setting is primarily based on the ANSI/ISA 18.2 alarm management standard, it covers baselines; benchmarking; visualization; documentation,  auditing, enforcement, etc.

Which event is an alarm? SA-18.2 defines an alarm as an indication to the operator through audible and/or visible means that abnormal event, malfunction or a deviation has occurred and requires a response. The alarm response time should be set in a way which is appropriate for the respective operator. This means that the operator can respond in a certain time-frame which has been previously agreed upon.

Alarm management is an ongoing effort. In the beginning, there is a huge gain in performance which gradually slows down. A cause for that is that processes in manufacturing constantly change, for example, product specifications, new regulations or materials. Getting a clear initial design is as important as managing the life cycle.

According to ANSI/ISA-18.2-2016 (figure 1), specific alarm management considerations should include:

  • alarm prioritization
  • alarm documentation
  • human-machine interface design
  • operating procedures associated with these alarms
  • operator training and training documentation
  • alarm maintenance
  • alarm testing
  • alarm monitoring and assessment
  • alarm management of change
  • alarm history retention
  • alarm auditing

Figure 1. ANSI/ISA-18.2 alarm management life cycle

In addition to that, there are certain parameters to reflect upon once alarms are already defined and put into action, for example:

  1. Which are the most frequently occurring alarms?
  2. At what times do most alarms occur?
  3. How to prioritize alarms and prevent alarm floods?
  4. How alert operators on mobile devices about the most important alarms?

It is crucial to prioritize alarms and prevent alarm floods. To make information actionable, the operator should only get relevant information such as priority, root cause, and a standard response procedure. The operator can react to the alarm efficiently when received on a wearable device. Operators receive only relevant alarms – they can prioritize them, attach relevant information, respond as required in a timely manner, or even disregard them.

Alarm management – challenges

Alarm management is crucial for effective operation and smooth work processes. Unfortunately, it is often the case that long reaction times occur in case of alarms. What is the reason for that? SCADA systems are widely used to support operators in case of unplanned events. These systems are connected to static HMI panels in control rooms which means one thing – long reaction times.

Another issue that most factories face is the non-transparent coordination of preventive maintenance tasks. The assignment of tasks to the right operator at the right time can be challenging due to missing software and resources mismatch.

Let’s not forget that paper documentation is still quite popular in most factories. For example, service technicians might get outdated materials and need to collect additional repair parts which slows them down. Paper workflows are not flexible and real-time data cannot be taken into account.

Lost time at each process step as well as waiting times between tasks accumulates and becomes a huge burden at the end of the day. This can be changed.

Work coordination – enabling the IoT in manufacturing

The WORKERBASE solution, including an industrial smartwatch and an Industry 4.0 software platform with manufacturing apps, breaks down complex processes into standalone apps that run on wearable devices.

What does that mean for work coordination?

Operators get instant notifications on the smartwatch. They can delegate, accept or decline tasks as well as provide real-time feedback from the shop floor. Operators get assignments based on their availability, location, skill set or any other parameter depending on the use case. Not only that but they always know what needs to be done since they receive step-by-step instructions on the smartwatch.

How is this possible?

The entire business logic can be easily configured in the WORKERBASE backend. The apps are created in a web-browser – zero programming skills required. Set up alarms, work instructions, work routines – you name it. The workflow data is automatically stored and can be analysed, for example in a digital kanban board. Thus you always have a transparent overview of the work being done at any moment.

Take advantage of the IoT in manufacturing by using WORKERBASE. We would be happy to answer your questions and provide you with a customized solution. Please contact us for more information.