In the manufacturing space as a whole, there’s been a trend toward having fewer people on the floor at any given time.
The trend started with the advent of automation. Reshoring initiatives hastened it, forcing companies to do more with less, in order to be competitive. Finally, and obviously, the COVID pandemic has kicked this trend into overdrive. Companies must do more, with less.
But more than just forcing manufacturers to keep staff further apart, the pandemic is forcing them to rethink, in meaningful ways, how they work. Your production floor will probably never look quite the same, there will be gaps — but where gaps must be, there will be technology to fill it.
The Future is Tech
Whether you’re frightened or excited by the idea, the future of manufacturing is technology. Staffing needs and abilities are changing, but the basic tasks are the same. And for just about every task, there’s a technology that can augment or complement your existing staff.
If you keep less staff per shift on your production floor, the demand to get tasks done does note change. If your equipment is going unattended for longer periods of time and you’re worried about failure, and the horrors of downtime and unhappy customers associated with it — predictive maintenance technologies can fill those gaps.
Predictive Maintenance in Future Factories
A lot of companies will run equipment into the ground before thinking about a plan for preventing maintenance. The proclivity is likely a bit more prevalent these days, with staffing restrictions and leaner budgets.
Humans have pretty good intuition, especially when it comes to how your equipment is running. Seasoned professionals can often hear or sense things that others can’t. That said, we are still limited. We can tell that a machine is running hot by touching it, but we probably can’t tell why, where the source of the heat is, the precise temperature, or how that temperature is impacting other parts of the equipment. Temperature and other sensors associated with predictive maintenance technologies, on the other hand, can.
It’s also not economically feasible for us — most of us, anyway — to keep highly skilled, experienced, intuitive technicians on the floor 24/7, even when we’re running production 24/7. Predictive maintenance technologies empower companies to monitor the equipment remotely, from virtually anywhere in the world. It has the power to give you peace of mind that your equipment is being looked after, and your staff the flexibility to do it safely and comfortably.
That’s not to mention: that one-time installation of sensors on difficult-to-reach equipment is far preferable to the struggle of repeatedly struggling to do human checks; that well-designed predictive analysis systems will warn you of potential issues long before they become serious issues, or even detectable by human senses; or that certain projections estimate that predictive maintenance can reduce a plant’s maintenance fees by 20% and its unplanned downtime by a whopping 50%.
Are You Ready?
Our natural limitations as humans, the constantly shifting workforce landscape, and the relentless march into the future combine to make the case for the implementation of predictive maintenance technologies plain. Almost by the day it’s becoming more difficult, more unsafe, and more expensive to keep production facilities staffed like we would 20, 10, or even just 5 years ago.
We understand that the future can be dizzying, especially when it’s filled with phrases like Industry 4.0, IioT, cloud-based SaaS, to name just a few — and no clear way to tell one from the other. The fact is that they’re all interwoven, and that can be intimidating, but you don’t have to jump in feet first. You can choose one part, one aspect of what it takes to bring your production into the future, and start there.
We recommend starting with predictive maintenance — even in turbulent times, a healthy factory is a profitable factory.