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Brad Kuvin Brad Kuvin
Editorial Director

Metalformers and Fabricators Pay Attention: Use Data to Drive Daily Decisions

April 26, 2019

Manufacturers of durable goods will increase their investments in Internet of Things (IoT) technologies at a compounded annual growth rate of 29.4 percent through 2024, according to a report by

Manufacturers of durable goods will increase their investments in Internet of Things (IoT) technologies at a compounded annual growth rate of 29.4 percent through 2024, according to a report by And, according to a recent survey conducted by Decision Analyst (on behalf of IQMS), most fast-growing metal forming and fabricating companies credit recent successes to an intense focus on their IT operations and production-process management.

The increased emphasis on driving efficiency and profitability through IT represents a major driver for MetalForming magazine launching, in 2018, its Internet of Things for Manufacturers Conference. Our second annual IoT for Manufacturers Experience takes place June 24-25, in Cleveland, OH.

Among headliner speakers for the conference is Louis Columbus, principal at IQMS, who will cover the 10 best practices emerging from the above-referenced survey. Here’s a taste.

1. Use Data to Drive Daily Decisions

“Top metal forming manufacturers share an unmistakable trait—a passion to use data, from the shop floor to the C-suite, to drive their daily decisions and to develop performance-based incentives to motivate teams. It’s evident throughout plants,” Columbus says, “from the flat-panel screens displaying relative load levels by machine, yield rates by line and machine, and the overall production efficiency of a given line.

“One of the most interesting aspects of this data-driven approach to manufacturing,” Columbus tells MetalForming, “is how involved everyone on the shop floor is with achieving a given goal.” Columbus quotes a stamping press operator who completed the survey, who noted that with a good feel for relative load levels and yield rates, “when a customer needs a short-notice production run, we readily can decide if we have the capacity, even if it means working overtime.”

2. Standardize on a Core Set of Metrics and KPIs

Those businesses struggling to grow often go through a continual trial-and-error approach to selecting the metrics and KPIs used to manage their operations. By contrast, says Columbus, the highest-performing metal manufacturers concentrate on a core set of metrics and KPIs and rarely deviate from them. In particular, they focus on the metrics that tell them the most about production efficiency, quality, supplier performance, quality and team performance.

Other best practices Columbus will reflect on during his presentation at our IoT Experience conference include:

  • Make real-time monitoring a must—81 percent of survey takers say that real-time monitoring is improving their business; 83 percent consider real-time monitoring “essential.”
  • One of the prerequisites to growing at a rate of 10 percent or more is attaining a real-time, 360-deg. view of the shop floor and each manufacturing process. Having real-time data available enables fast-growing manufacturers to better see how they can improve inventory management, driving greater financial management accuracy across accounts payable and accounts receivable.

Another conference speaker, Rose of Sharon DeVos, founder and CEO of IIoT Automating Solutions, brings home many of Columbus’ points with a presentation discussing IoT on the plant floor, and how to gain the all-important operator buy-in.

“IoT quickly can become a production supervisor's best friend,” DeVos says, “once you've gained the complete support of the machine operators on the plant floor. This presentation will focus on the culture change required, and explain how to convince operators that collecting and analyzing machine data will simplify their jobs.”

IoT from A to Z

This year’s conference-speaker lineup has IoT covered from every angle—specifically for small to midsized manufacturers. For instance, keynote presenter Bill Frahm, president of 4M Partners LLC, will explain how IoT serves as a framework for an information network strategy for metalforming-plant operations, maintenance and logistics.

“IIoT—a defined relationship between machines, information technologies and people—represents a set of deployed technologies and interfaces that allow metalformers,” Frahm says, “to capture detailed and actionable information about their operations and equipment status. It can trigger alarms announcing undesirable conditions, and notify employees about maintenance requirements.”

Another keynote presentation, this from consultant Ed Potoczak of the Oakstone Group, will provide seven real use cases of metal formers who sought to connect their press-line equipment to automatically monitor and control their processes, enabling plant management to overcome challenges such as mixed generations of equipment, faults, bottlenecks and variations. Most importantly, Potoczak will cover the economic benefits that resulted.

The human element of IoT can’t be ignored, and we’ve got that covered from two angles. First, award-winning speaker and best-selling author Lisa Ryan connects IoT with workforce development in a presentation titled, Not Your Grandfather's Factory: Modernizing Manufacturing to Attract Millennials. Lisa asks:

“How do you make manufacturing jobs more attractive and appealing to prospective employees? You can start by modernizing your brand. If your company is stuck in an old, calcified way of doing business, you’re going to have a hard time finding and keeping younger workers. Today’s workers are digital natives, ‘wired’ for technology, and they expect to access it in the workplace. That’s why it’s critical for manufacturers to not only have cutting-edge Industry 4.0 technology available, but to also promote the technology used in their production process.”

Following that theme, a presentation from Systems X Corp. president, Rubens Perfomo, will alert attendees to apps running on mobile devices designed to allow plant floor workers to remain fully engaged with their fellow workers and with management. These apps, which run inside of an IoT platform, allow workers to view real-time work instructions, call for help when needed, and reach out to a team of employees for input and support as needed.

Sensors and Controls at the Heart of it All

Getting down to the technology available to bring IoT initiatives into our facilities, Helge Hornis, technology director at sensor manufacturer Pepperl+Fuchs, will explain the benefits of flat IP networks that allow automation components to interface directly via a communication layer. “In such models,” he says, “data are available and ready to be used by any process that benefits from the information.”

While the cell-control approach is expected to dominate metal forming applications for years to come, the demand for higher output and decreased setup times promises to become ever more important. “Over time,” Hornis adds, “metal forming operations will need to embrace lot-size-of-one manufacturing techniques based on advanced mathematical modeling and digital twins.”

Low-Hanging Fruit: Predictive Analytics

Other speakers in the lineup include:

  • Bryan Sapot, CEO and founder of SensrTrx, who seeks to dispel some of the myths of OEE and cut through confusing marketing speak, outlining how manufacturers can avoid million-dollar IoT analytics pilots and start tracking production KPIs with very little effort. He’ll explain why tracking machine downtime and downtime reasons are the most important data points from the plant floor, then outline the steps that manufacturers can take to affordably scale analytics to include operator input, provide conditional monitoring, and track scrap and yield counts.

  • Mohamed Abuali, CEO of IoTco, LLC, who notes, “Manufacturers must focus on the concrete steps to move from the start to finish of a predictive analytics project. The result is a successful deployment of predictive maintenance (worry-free uptime) and predictive quality (near-zero defects). These two areas are the low hanging fruit and the quickest wins for smart manufacturing.” Abuali will outline the six steps toward successful implementation of a predictive analytics project—data collection; data/signal processing; feature extraction and selection; machine health assessment; machine life prediction; and diagnostics—the root cause of failure.

ERP + IoT Ties Things Up

Mike Hart, director, product strategy, manufacturing and industrial IoT, Plex Systems: “When industrial IoT and connected manufacturing come together, the entire organization gains very real results. You can leverage the volumes of production data collected in the context of the business to make smarter, more accurate data-driven decisions rather than a simple gut-feel.”

Hart notes that customers have no patience for short shipments or delays, while wanting higher-quality products and more customization. “Let’s face it,” he says, “continuous improvement isn’t even a sustainable option if your customers are trying to cut costs while simultaneously asking you for more.

“What’s changing the way we solve for these problems,” Hart continues, “is what’s known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which promises to bring us a wave of manufacturing technology that will enable metal manufacturers to find more ways to improve productivity. Building on the previous digital revolution with innovations in wireless connectivity, cloud computing and inexpensive sensors, you now can collect more data from machines, processes and systems. This in turn helps manufacturers gain new insights into their operations, leveraging big data and analytics to understand what is happening on the shop floor in amazing detail.”

When companies have the technology to support decision-making with real-time data about production operations, they unlock a world of opportunity to connect their top floor with the shop floor, and even affect the flow of business information from customers to suppliers by allowing for automation and transparency in a wide variety of transactions.

“This is connected manufacturing,” Hart says. “When industrial IoT and connected manufacturing come together, the entire manufacturing organization gains very real results. You can leverage the volumes of production data collected in the context of the business to make smarter, more accurate data-driven decisions rather than operating off of a simple gut-feel.

“For example, monitoring a machine can signal an issue that might result in failure,” he adds. “In the context of maintenance, you fix the machine. However, when considered in the context of production, sales orders or even customer satisfaction, you must plan the maintenance around your business. You’ll need to consider trade-offs and make (data-driven) decisions about which jobs to reschedule and when.”

The future is bright for manufacturers who can see the future of how industrial IoT can affect their business strategy. Those who focus only on technology and not on how their business might benefit may not realize the true benefits of connecting their enterprise. MF

Learn more about this thought-leading conference at

Industry-Related Terms: Core, Forming, Layer, Run, Scale, Scrap, Ties
View Glossary of Metalforming Terms


See also: Pepperl+Fuchs, Inc., Plex, A Rockwell Automation Company, Dassault Systemes, Mingo Smart Factory, 4M Partners, LLC

Technologies: Sensing/Electronics/IOT


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