Thursday, May 22, 2014

Tech Trends Journal Article: Going the Distance: Solving 'Last-Meter' Connectivity on the Shop Floor

Al Bredenberg wrote a great article for Tech Trends Journal titled "Going the Distance: Solving 'Last-Meter' Connectivity on the Shop Floor"

I had the privilege of speaking with Al for this article.  Below are a few snippets on my discussion with Al on "the last meter" that are in this article:

"The concept of the “last mile” has often been used in telecommunications to describe the challenge of getting connectivity from the network to the customer’s premises. The term also has been used in logistics and supply chain management, referring to the last leg of the goods journey from the distribution hub to the destination.

But in recent years, a similar “last meter” concept has emerged in manufacturing, referring to the final connection from a machine or device to an enterprise’s network. Dave Edstrom, chief technology officer at Burlington, Ont.-based Memex Automation, says there are technical and business challenges involved in making that last-meter connection, in an interview with ThomasNet News.

“A device could range from a multimillion-dollar machine tool to an inexpensive sensor,” Edstrom noted. Solving the last-meter problem, Edstrom says, means “getting data from countless devices and putting it into an easy-to-read format, so data can become actionable intelligence anywhere, anytime, on any device.”
 Below are a few snippets on a very powerful example of Magellan Aerospace:

"Memex Automation has built a manufacturing execution system (MES), called MERLIN (Manufacturing Execution Real-time Lean Information Network), based on MTConnect and other protocols. MERLIN provides a real-time window into any machine of any vintage. Memex Automation is able to combine MERLIN with custom-developed circuit boards and networking interfaces to convert legacy machines into networkable devices. Allowing managers to view basically any output that can be generated by an old machine, MERLIN can monitor its metrics, signals, and functions -- number of fault events, quality, cycle time and count, part names and counts, alarm states, interrupted cycles, down time, feeds and speeds, idle times – and thus overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). It essentially gives the machine a second life. 

In the case of Magellan Aerospace’s last-meter problem, the company decided to hold off spending money for a fourth machine in the problematic cell it was evaluating. Instead, the company installed MERLIN to monitor the three-machine cell and was able to identify an inordinate amount of optional stop time that was causing about 100 hours of idle time per month for each machine. 

After making adjustments, Magellan Aerospace was able to go from an OEE rate of 36.9 percent to 85 percent. The company saved the capital cost of a new machine and monetized $40,000 per month of production time, which was enough to recover the cost of MERLIN in four months."