Conversation with: Mike P., Controls Engineering Manager
Topic: Data Exchange / MIS

As you know, in factories people and machines work together to reach production and bottom-line goals. One silent partner in the process that can ensure the system runs smoothly is data. How quickly is the line moving? What is the defect rate? How can you get to the smallest possible batch of products that must be scrapped due to a component recall?

We spoke with Mike, our expert Controls Engineering Manager, about how data exchange and MIS (Machine Information Systems) can help ensure you get your data, and that it is data worth having.

“Some clients need to find out how their equipment is running to improve operations, but we’ve also had clients with bigger issues. For example, a client who had a part recall from a vendor, and through the MIS system they were able to determine the exact serial numbers that should be recalled based on the lot number of the faulty part. It was a huge time and money savings! Having the right MIS in place, and the right data loaded in, made a big difference.”

At the most basic level, an MIS gets information from the machinery to a reporting application. When Wes-Tech installs new machines in a plant, those machines will produce data. That data is valuable to the OEM as it can help improve operations. The machines have always collected data, but as part of Industry 4.0 operations are now finding ways to use the information. That’s where a Data Exchange / MIS system comes in—it gathers and keeps that data, and the right system can produce reports to tell you what you need to know and help you understand what to do with it.

You may already know what data you need, such as process data (fault logs, maintenance routines, etc.) or parametric data (part color, height value, results of inspection, etc.), or you may be unsure what data is useful to you. Wes-Tech helps our clients determine which pieces of data would be helpful depending on what you are trying to accomplish.

“A misconception with some of our clients has been that they’d rather have as much data flowing in as possible. In reality, getting no data would be better than getting bad data. Bad data will lead you down the wrong path or give you a false sense of security. The methods to ensure you have good, reliable data are what separate the experts from the amateurs – at Wes-Tech, we don’t just data dump. We know how to ensure that when a value shows up in the MIS system it is the correct value.”

From the very beginning of the process, our software engineers work to ensure a client’s needs are being met from a reporting standpoint in the most cost-effective way possible. The most important thing is to understand how the client plans to use the data so the Wes-Tech team can tailor it to those unique needs.

For some clients, depending on what system they already have running, we implement at the level of just ensuring the information is available to the software and everything goes into the system from there. Or depending on a client’s needs, we can do a deeper integration, collecting data from the PLC or creating custom reporting, and we have a full range of expertise from installing MIS for individual machines to integrating a plant-wide solution.

“One key factor that we often suggest, and which may be overlooked as it is time consuming, is inputting material lots and batches and tying that to production. It is already common practice in the medical equipment and auto industries, but it could be helpful for any industry. This idea should be introduced from the very beginning as part of the cost justification process as parts suppliers may not already be doing this and there may be costs associated with helping them get everything into lots and batches. In the long run, having the right data will reduce the cost of recalls.”

Other important data may include pareto analysis on reject reasons and downtime causes—this is highly valuable because it would be a mistake to look for ways to increase equipment speed if a high percentage of the parts you are producing are being rejected. Another common request is tracking performance of individual operators to provide metrics, which can lead to a fun competition to improve throughput.

With so many possible ways to use good data to improve your operations, it is important to ensure your MIS is doing its job. Whatever your data exchange needs, the Wes-Tech team is here to help you get the absolute most value out of your engagement with us.

Team Wes-Tech

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