Successfully managing large and complex integration projects is a focus for Polytron Inc., and the company is looking to continue to grow the digital manufacturing presence. Ron Rich, CEO of Polytron. discusses his company’s philosophy and its approach to innovation in an interview with CFE Media.
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DULUTH, GA – December 10, 2018 – Polytron, Inc., a Digital System Integrator, leader in engineering consulting and Systems Integrator is pleased to announce that it has again been awarded the prestigious System Integrator of the Year for 2019.
Each year, system integrators around the world compete for the title of System Integrator of the Year based on achievements in the areas of technical expertise, business skills, and customer satisfaction. Hosted by Control Engineering, entries are reviewed by a panel of industry experts who select one winner from each of the three revenue categories.
Duluth, Georgia – December 5, 2018 – Polytron, Inc. today announced the promotion of Richard Phillips, PE, PMP to Director of Polytron’s Smart Manufacturing and Digital Transformation Group. Richard has been acting as the practice lead over the past several years providing guidance and thought leadership to Polytron’s manufacturing clients that are embarking on their Digital Transformation journeys. As Director of the Smart Manufacturing and Digital Transformation Group, Richard will report directly to Polytron’s CEO, Ron Rich, in order to provide the agility required to effectively address this rapidly growing segment. READ MORE
On the plant floor, malicious code can easily shutdown production or threaten the safety of your operation. Learn some valuable protection tips from the United States Computer Readiness Emergency Team (US-CERT).
What is malicious code?
Malicious code is unwanted files or programs that can cause harm to a computer or compromise data stored on a computer. Various classifications of malicious code include viruses, worms, and Trojan horses.
- Viruses have the ability to damage or destroy files on a computer system and are spread by sharing an already infected removable media, opening malicious email attachments, and visiting malicious web pages.
- Worms are a type of virus that self-propagates from computer to computer. Its functionality is to use all of your computer’s resources, which can cause your computer to stop responding.
- Trojan Horses are computer programs that are hiding a virus or a potentially damaging program. It is not uncommon that free software contains a Trojan horse making a user think they are using legitimate software, instead the program is performing malicious actions on your computer.
If you are interested in going paperless, even if leadership has already decided to move forward, then the first step is to estimate the ROI of paperless manufacturing for the business. The ROI estimate not only increases support and vision upfront; it will help later to evaluate the success of the pilot program (See steps one and four, below).
- Estimate ROI
- Consider long-term technology stack implications
- Use Plant Readiness Assessment to select facility/area for pilot
- Deploy pilot to confirm ROI
- Develop full-scale rollout plan
- Go Paperless!
This blog itemizes all elements of paperless ROI, as well as areas where technological advancement has increased cost-effectiveness of going paperless, enabling smaller businesses to take large steps toward becoming Smart Manufacturers.
Going Paperless Requires Less Investment in Three Areas
IOT Sensors Less than Half the Price from 2004
The average price of sensors has more than halved since 2004, from $1.30, and is projected to dip to $0.38 by 2020.
RFID Alternatives for Manufacturers
Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology drives some of the largest process improvements on the factory floor. The technology can bring innovation and value when properly applied to manufacturing and warehousing. RFID uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. The tags collect and electronically store specific information that stays with the product; down the production line, to the warehouse, and on to the customer. Manufacturers use RFID to tag raw materials, production statistics, inventory, and even people so that they can be tracked seamlessly across process steps, location, and time. For more information on implementing RFID
Like sensors and barcoding, RFID prices are decreasing. Some alternatives for RFID recombine Bluetooth and barcode scanning to reach similar goals at a significantly reduced price point.
Cloud Solutions Drive Small Scale and Easy Integration
Another historical but outdated deterrent to going paperless has been software, as well as the cost of integrating comprehensive solutions between the factory floor and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Cloud solutions have become easier to integrate, while also allowing businesses to scale based on need and usage.
Targeted Areas of Return on Going Paperless
On average, manual writing takes twice as long to record as digital processes, but in some cases, where sensors and other automated identification can be used, the returns can be even greater. Estimate the time it takes for employees to enter data manually and/or input manual data into databases, spreadsheets, etc. Halve this number for a rough estimate of time savings. Use average factory floor salary to convert to a financial figure.
Inaccurate data can be another efficiency loss point for your organization, resulting in the need for product rework, or in the inability to make data-driven decisions. Automated workflow using RFID technology, for example, raises accuracy above 98% (Plant Engineering, May 2018).
Data Integration and Visualization
Going paperless increases accuracy and precision of tracking with real-time access to plant floor conditions. When data is instantly visible to managers, operators and MES systems, proven benefits such as improved product quality, optimized production efficiency, and supply chain integration are realized.
Historical Tracking Management
With paperless on the plant floor, historical production data is readily available for analytics and continuous improvement initiatives. How much time and effort does it take to store and retrieve critical production records that are manually-produced?
Overall Equipment Effectiveness OEE & Downtime Tracking
Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) measures the percentage of planned production time that is truly productive, accounting for three sources of real loss. Manual tracking systems can make reporting of these three areas of loss onerous and inaccurate.
Events that cause planned production downtime for a significant amount of time, such as Planned and Unplanned Stops
Factors causing a line to operate below maximum speed while still running, events described as Slow Cycles and Small Stops
Products that do not meet or exceed quality standards and therefore require rework. Production Rejects and Reduced Yield on Startup are two examples.
Using digital tools to track availability, performance, and quality allows managers to understand conditions in real time and optimize performance much more effectively. Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) is a great example of an old protocol, which was onerous in 1999 but is now easier to implement.
Go Paperless, Next Steps
As a CSIA-Certified leader in engineering consulting and systems integration, Polytron has helped numerous global manufacturers automate outmoded data management process with digital systems to deliver real-time visibility for data-driven decisions.
How far has your business come on its Smart Manufacturing journey? Take the Polytron Smart Manufacturing Maturity Checklist to find out.
Join Polytron for two Smart Manufacturing workshops on May 8th in Room 302A at the Raleigh Convention Center
9:00 am – 12:00 pm – Leveraging Smart Manufacturing for Digital Transformation
Smart Manufacturing is not a destination – it is a journey to digital transformation that begins at the plant floor. Identifying which latest technologies such as IIoT, Big Data, cloud computing, wireless, predictive analytics, etc. should be leveraged can be overwhelming. Where do you begin? This interactive hands-on workshop will provide proven methodologies and case studies to help attendees begin their own journey toward digital transformation.
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm – Best Practices for Optimizing Operations Using a Digital Manufacturing Platform
Today it is vital that companies seek to streamline their business processes, reduce production losses, and improve the productivity and throughput of their existing assets and systems. While methodologies such as Continuous Improvement offer an excellent framework for driving improvement, many companies still struggle to obtain higher levels of performance. How do you know where to begin? Which improvements will produce the greatest benefit? How can we become more proactive vs. reactive? Please join us for an informative live event to hear former factory manager, Six Sigma black belt and Continuous Improvement expert share best practices for optimizing operations using digital technologies.
Stop by Booth 831 at the IndustryWeek M&T Conference in Raleigh, NC, May 8-10 to learn more about Polytron’s Smart Manufacturing Solutions for the plant floor.
RFID Implementation Delivers Product Tracking & Inventory Control
The Radio-frequency Identification (RFID) market started off slow in the early 1990s, but is now expected to reach $14.9 billion by 2022 according to IDTechEx. RFID was primarily used in the Retail market, but is beginning to grow as a valuable solution in the manufacturing and warehousing sector.
The technology can bring innovation and value when properly applied to manufacturing and warehousing. RFID uses electromagnetic fields to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects. The tags collect and electronically store specific information that stays with the product; down the production line, to the warehouse, and on to the customer.
In the manufacturing environment, there are design challenges associated with RFID technology. It is important to understand the architecture deployed, along with the integration challenges and solutions developed. The RFID project typically includes some of the following considerations and issues:
- Selecting the correct Radio Frequency
- Calculating RFID range and interference
- Determining the right RFID tag standards to use
- Fixed and Handheld RFID readers / writers
- Using multiple antennas to improve read reliability
- Antenna coaxial cabling
- EPC data and GS1 standards
- Managing limited RFID tag User memory
- Choosing the correct RFID tag
- Reading only the “right” tags
- Printing RFID tags
RFID solutions applied effectively in manufacturing and warehousing deliver some of the following benefits:
- Provides more efficient product tracking throughout the manufacturing plant and distribution warehouse facility to enable vital product information and quality data stored on each individual part produced.
- Provides real-time visibility of all material on the production floor to help drive lean manufacturing practices, reduce inventory levels, and improve operator efficiency.
- Allows for quicker material location, order processing, and significantly reduces headcount required in manual sorting of product for customer orders in the warehouse.
- Allows reading of multiple products in a single scan for faster and more accurate inventory audits.
- Provides easier reading of product without specific material positioning or line-of-sight requirements – both needed for barcode systems.
- Supports a manufacturer’s initiative in leveraging IoT (Internet of Things) and provides potential applications to customers in the future.
In a recent Polytron use case, the manufacturer implemented an RFID solution that provides more efficient tracking of product throughout manufacturing, distribution and end customer’s facility. Original product test and quality data can now be stored within the RFID tag of each product. This allows the manufacturer’s customers to compare current performance of the product with the manufacturer’s production performance metrics.
Polytron’s expertise with data management systems and solutions, brings together the disparate components of an RFID technology project to ensure the manufacturer’s production operation is receiving the product data needed – from supply chain to warehouse to end user.
Smart Manufacturing Defined: The use of real-time data and technology when, where and in the forms that are needed by people and machines; fully-integrated, collaborative manufacturing systems that respond in real time to meet changing demands and conditions in the plant.
Business Value Drivers of the Smart Manufacturing environment are:
- Sustainability: Quality Improvement / Capacity Management enhancement / Reduction in energy consumption
- Asset Management: Reduction in equipment maintenance / Increasing lifespan / OEE Improvement
- Employee Productivity: Collaborative solutions / Automated workforce management / Increased worker mobility on the plant floor
As the plant floor evolves to a Smart Manufacturing environment, current workforce skills will also need evolve to efficiently respond to a data-driven work environment. While many discussions in the industry have centered around the challenge of finding new outside talent, the emphasis should shift toward a focus on workforce development for existing plant talent and closing the skill gaps through internal and external training.
Polytron addressed this topic in a recent workshop, “Preparing Today’s Multi-generational Workforce for Smart Manufacturing” facilitated at the 2017 Manufacturing & Technology Conference and Expo in Cleveland, OH. In open discussions with attending manufacturers, we asked about: pressures in their organizations; skill assessments for current employees; knowledge retention programs; and new ways to retain and motivate the workforce.
We heard comments such as:
- The overall skills gap is continuing to pressure our organization, and it has begun to negatively impact production.
- Our organization lacks the tools to conduct a skills assessment of the existing workforce.
- We currently have no intentional knowledge retention program to identify those workers who might be close to retiring taking valuable plant floor knowledge and best practices out the door with them.
- Increasing competition and cost pressures are reducing our ability to fill open positions.
- We need to provide our existing workforce with easy access to training and information that will improve productivity.
What is Your Risk – Know Your Current Workforce
Aging Workforce: Addressing your aging workforce NOW is critical. Baby Boomers are retiring at a rate of 10,000 each day and walking out the door with years of valuable knowledge you might have overlooked as critical to your current and future production efficiency. In the manufacturing industry, many of these individuals might not have reached “retirement age”, but they have reached “retirement status” due to the number of years on the job. More than ever before, a process to monitor the inventory of the retirement dates of these individuals is critical. Whether based on chronological age or work years, it is of paramount importance that knowledge transfer occurs as quickly as possible and in a continuous manner.
Skills Assessment and Knowledge Transfer Gaps: The process of closing the knowledge transfer gap across the Workforce includes:
- Conduct complete Skills Assessments with all workers, specifically those who might be retiring soon, to ensure you capture key knowledge as it relates to specific and critical tasks performed.
- Create Standard Operating Procedures and collaborate with other subject matter experts to develop Best Practices for Workforce Development
- Update Job Descriptions to accurately represent skills required
- Establish training plan to transfer to the knowledge across the plant floor and close the skills gap.
These practices will provide the organization with a more accurate understanding of the risks associated with lost knowledge and the skills gaps in the ever-changing manufacturing arena. The result of these efforts is a detailed process to track current skill inventories and future workforce needs for all essential roles.
What are Smart Manufacturing Skills Needed for the New Data-driven Environment?
A recent Deloitte executive study was conducted for the purpose of determining what skills are most lacking in today’s workforce. The results indicated significant skills gaps in the following areas: Technology and Computer Skills; Problem Solving Skills; Basic Technical Training; and Math Skills. These important skills gap findings were confirmed by a Smart Competencies Hierarchy created through collaboration between the Manufacturing Institute, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and the National Council for Advanced Manufacturing to identify the skills required for Smart Manufacturing.
An expanded sample listing from the Smart Competencies Hierarchy shows more focus is needed in the following areas:
- Critical and Analytic Thinking
- Communication – Listening / Speaking
- Sustainable Practices
- Maintenance, Installation, Repair and Production
- Problem Solving / Decision Making
- Employee Initiative
Start Today: By starting the Skills Assessment and Knowledge Gap process now, and implementing a continual practice of conducting further skills inventory interviews with your workforce, you might identify individuals with some of the skills listed above that aren’t being applied in their current position. For instance, a worker may not be using math in the current position, but a further interview and skills review reveal they have a background in bookkeeping and accounting. These are skills not required for the current position but are transferable to the requirements in the new data-driven manufacturing environment. The results of the skills inventory will allow the organization to maximize the productivity of the workforce by re-allocating employees to new roles or expanding their current position, without increasing the size of the workforce.
Changes made to the technology and processes without consideration of the workforce will impede the expected improvement in overall productivity. The plant floor and workforce must evolve into a Smart Manufacturing environment together. The current plant workforce becomes a resource pool for the new skills identified by the Operations Technology team as changes are being made to equipment, network, and data visibility.
Where are you in your Smart Manufacturing journey? Check out our new Smart Manufacturing Maturity Checklist.
Duluth, Georgia – January, 2017 – Polytron, Inc. was selected by Cisco’s Digital Transformation Group to be one of the first in its new Digital System Integrator Pilot Program.
Polytron, Inc. is a holistic Digital Solution provider – a Consulting and Engineering firm for manufacturers (not just a systems integrator) coming alongside its customers with full manufacturing systems and solutions for the Digital Transformation journey. Polytron understands that Smart Manufacturing is changing the way manufacturers strategically operate and is unique in its approach that addresses the culture change with a focus on its customers’ people Connecting Process – People – Performance.
“The Cisco Digital System Integrator Program is a natural fit for Polytron,” says Robin Cobb, PE, PMP, Manager, Industrial Network and Security Solutions (INSS) group. “We have been delivering innovative digital transformation engineering to our customers for many years enabling greater connectivity across the plant floor and connecting to the Enterprise level.”
Polytron’s certified expertise in the industry’s best-in-breed technologies allows the Digital System Integrator to leverage the best technology solutions for the customer to meet its long- and short -term business objectives.
Unlike other firms, Polytron’s Workforce Development and Training Group focuses on the people side of the digital journey. With today’s multigenerational workforce, developing a data-driven mindset for consistent operational efficiency requires standardized processes, new skill sets, a new way of communicating on the plant floor, and understanding manufacturing data delivered to the right person at the right time and the right place for actionable results.
“Polytron’s collaborative relationship with Cisco’s Digital Transformation Group will allow us to better support the customer’s whole business with Smart Manufacturing Solutions ̶ from the plant floor to the business enterprise,” says Polytron vice president Brent Stromwall. “We are proud to have been selected as one of the first integrators to participate in the Digital System Integrator Program.”
Polytron, Inc – Industrial Networks and Security Solutions (INSS): Developing a robust and secure network infrastructure requires protecting the integrity, availability and confidentiality of control and information data. Polytron’s approach to industrial network convergence applies a design methodology for network requirements to develop a physical framework to align with and support the customer’s logical framework. From Network Audit to definition and design, through Implementation and Validation, our roadmap ensures secure, standardized, and consistent network integration to enable plant wide information sharing. Polytron is a certified solution partner with other technology solution providers for Industrial Network Solutions and Security. Our technology relationships allow us to deliver the right solution to meet our clients’ specific needs. Our engineers are Cisco CCNA certified and we also have ISA99 Cybersecurity Fundamentals Specialist on staff.