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5 Factors to Consider When Choosing a Machine Monitoring System

If you haven’t already put a machine monitoring system in place, you’re undoubtedly thinking about it. As the saying goes, if you’re not making chips, you’re not making money—and according to an Amper survey, machine utilization in factories averages just 26%. There’s plenty of room for improvement—but only when you know where to focus your efforts.

Forget those hunches of yours: to truly improve your OEE—and therefore, your productivity—you need actionable, data-driven intelligence. It’s not enough to measure your QCD and P&L at the end of the month. You need leading indicators, not lagging ones.

That’s where machine monitoring systems come in. A good system can tell you where and why downtime is occurring, help you resolve problems quickly, and put you on a path of continuously-improving productivity.

But not all machine monitoring systems are alike, so it’s important to do your research first.

Before you start, identify what you hope to achieve by investing in a system, what features/capabilities matter most, budgeting considerations, and potential dealbreakers. Then, you might want to evaluate each system in terms of these five key factors.

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1. What Are the Implementation Requirements?

If you’re like most manufacturers, you have a mix of new and old machines. Those older machines can complicate implementation, because often it’s difficult to convert their older PLC boards.

If part of a vendor’s implementation plan involves sending a technician into your shop to recode your machines—say, at a cost of $1,500 per day—beware. Not only is that costly, but it means each machine may be down for some time during the process.

Instead, look for implementation protocols that require little or no coding and downtime and no outside technician.

How Amper Stacks Up: Amper’s implementations are surprisingly fast and simple and can be handled completely in-house. Our noninvasive sensors can be installed in about 10-15 minutes per machine, and there is no need for PLC integration. Plus, our devices can link to a Wifi or cellular connection gateway, so they require little to no IT involvement. Depending on the number of machines, implementation can often be completed in an afternoon.

 

2. Is the System Easy to Use?

Some systems require more extensive training than others and may demand support from IT experts. Others are more intuitive, with functions calibrated to the levels of various users. Be sure to use the providers’ demos as an opportunity to sample the user experience for each type of user.

Beyond the system itself, gauge the level and type of support that the vendor provides. Are there guides and tutorials available in various formats? How helpful is the system itself? And what type of live support does the vendor provide? You want a vendor that is deeply invested in helping you master the system.

How Amper Stacks Up: Amper’s system was designed for ease of use—for operators, managers and decision-makers. Many users are pleasantly surprised by how quickly they get up to speed. In addition to instruction guides, videos, and Amper’s customer support team, every client receives a dedicated Amper Customer Success Manager—someone whose job it is to ensure you’re getting the most from your system.

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3. Will the Reporting Function Give Us What We Need?

Obviously, your machine monitoring system won’t be terribly useful without reporting capabilities that tell you what you most need to know. When evaluating reporting features, be sure to ask these questions:

  • How easy is it to generate reports? – As you’d expect, some systems are easier for users to pick up than others.
  • What’s included in the standard report package? - Be sure to request samples during the evaluation process, so you can see if the data provided will meet your day-to-day needs.
  • Can we create custom reports? – Many manufacturers need reports specific to their operations.
  • Can the system be programmed to automatically generate and email specific reports? – This feature can help your managers jump on issues quickly and build good oversight habits.

How Amper Stacks Up: Amper’s real-time reporting feature is comprehensive and easy to use. In addition to a large menu of standard reports, our system features flexible data fields that allow users to develop custom reports. Customers can program the generation and distribution of automatic reports.

 

4. Does the Solution Encourage Team Engagement?

When you first introduce a machine monitoring system, it’s not uncommon to immediately get pushback from operators and even their managers. From the beginning, it’s important to stress that the OEE tracking system is designed to oversee the machines—not the people—and will in fact make their jobs easier by improving the work process.

For this reason, it’s important that the machine monitoring system offers features and benefits for all the various team members who use it. Look for tools for workers in different roles, such as time-saving digitized tally sheets for operators, as well as communication tools that keep everyone in the loop.

How Amper Stacks Up: Amper’s philosophy is that machine monitoring systems are designed to work for people, not the other way around. We offer an array of tools and checklists that make life for everyone, starting with operators. Instead of a top-down approach to data usage, our system provides actionable data at every level—from helping operators minimize downtime to helping management create data-driven sales and purchasing strategies.

 

5. What is the True Cost of Purchase?

Chances are, you’ll find some machine monitoring systems that are startlingly expensive and some that seem unrealistically low. Either way, be sure to verify that the quotes include everything you’ll need: hardware, software, implementation, IT requirements—even your people’s time.

In short, for each system you’re considering, find out how long it will take before you see a return on investment.

Tip: to reduce your capital investment, choose SaaS-based (i.e., Internet hosted) software over on-premises software you’ll need to purchase, install and maintain. With Software as a Service solutions, the provider maintains and updates the software—and you’re typically charged only for what you use in a given time period.

How Amper Stacks Up: Amper is consistently the simplest, most-affordable machine monitoring solution on the market. With Amper, your hardware investment is minimal, and because our solution is SaaS-based, so are the IT requirements. Implementation is speedy. Best of all, our customers generally see an ROI in just two months’ time—that’s how quickly the system pays for itself.

Your vendor of choice should offer you strategies for gaining worker buy-in from the beginning.

In summary, there is much to consider when choosing a machine monitoring system. To hear how one manufacturer used this five-step evaluation process—and where it led—check out our video, featuring Don Dumoulin, Owner & CEO of Precise Tooling Solutions, a specialty manufacturer based in Columbus, Indiana.