Outperform competitors with Real-Time Operational Intelligence (RtOI)

Real-time operational intelligence (RtOI) is a term that is becoming more and more prevalent in the business world. But what is RtOI? And what are its benefits?

Introduction

The fourth industrial revolution paradigm (Industry 4.0) stems from the idea that factories are places where cyber-physical systems (CPS) operate, i.e physical systems integrated with computers. As a result of Industry 4.0, production becomes more flexible and autonomous, and products can be more connected and customized. The term encapsulates a variety of enabling technologies, including internet of things, augmented reality, cloud computing, intelligent robotics, big data, and cyber security.

The adoption of these technologies, driven by the digital transformation of production, has as a consequence the need to adopt technologies to connect and analyze production and process data in real-time. However, a digitalized production shop floor can be managed only if it is supported by a special platform capable of real-time, end-to-end monitoring.

Having a Real-time Operational Intelligence (RtOI) system in place is the key to achieving this performance. Indeed, in a competitive economy, technologies powered by real-time data provide manufacturers with new, powerful capabilities to address a host of challenges. Using an RtOI system, operations can be scaled on demand, resources allocated, problems on the shop floor can be identified and addressed in real-time, and more agile responses to customer expectations can be implemented.

What does RtOI stand for?

RtOI is defined as “the ability to collect, process, and act on data in real time to enable organizations to make better decisions and improve business performance.” In other words, it’s the ability to use data to make decisions in the moment. Operational Intelligence (OI) has traditionally been defined as the proactive and reactive decision-making required to manage current operations; meanwhile, RtOI is a type of OI that uses real-time data to make decisions. The benefits of RtOI are numerous, including the ability to make decisions faster, improved situational awareness, and reduced operational costs.

Why is RtOI important?

Real-time Operational Intelligence is a new concept that has emerged in the last decade and is rapidly gaining traction. It helps companies to increase efficiency and uptime by providing visibility throughout the manufacturing process. The goal is to provide companies with the ability to transform massive amounts of data into real-time actionable insights that are accessible at all times.

The purpose of RtOI is

  • to prevent accidents and save time. It helps companies identify issues with their machines before they arise so that smarter preventive maintenance can be done. This reduces the risk of accidents happening, which saves time for the company, customers, and employees;
  • to provide information on the current state of the plant and equipment, how it is performing and what might be needed for maintenance. This information can be used to identify potential problems and take corrective action before a problem becomes a disaster.

In order to maintain a high level of operational efficiency, companies need the ability to predict and prevent potential issues. This is where Real-time Operational Intelligence comes in. Preventing and identifying maintenance issues helps businesses avoid them. To take appropriate action as soon as possible is not just about predicting failures, but also about identifying what has already happened. In other words, failures cannot just be predicted, but need to be identified and corrected as soon as possible. This way, the company can reduce downtime and increase revenue.

What is the RtOI process?

The Real-time Operational Intelligence process is a system that collects, analyzes and interprets the data generated by the operation of the plant to generate real-time insights. This enables an operator to make decisions in a timely manner.

This process is based on the following steps:

  1. Collecting data from sensors and other sources (i.e. people, machines and systems).
  2. Analysing this data and generating insights.
  3. Providing stakeholders with direct access to information they need.
  4. Generating alerts when conditions are not as expected.
  5. Notifying operators of these alerts.
  6. Analysing the situation and creating a plan of action for dealing with the problem.

The Real-time Operational Intelligence process is a smarter and more proactive approach to shop floor management. It is a way of using data analytics to get a detailed view of what is happening on the shop floor in real-time.

At first, the process mainly provided simple tasks, such as preventing machines from breaking down. Nowadays, it is used systemically throughout the entire factory for more complicated tasks, not only to avoid downtime but also to prevent operators from being injured.

What does the future hold for Industry 4.0? What’s industry 4.1?

Creating a Zero-Defect manufacturing industry is one of the goals of industry 4.0, a concept which was first presented at the Hannover Messe in 2014. However, due to the way the Industry 4.0 paradigm has been structured, companies tend to be more focused on improving productivity than on quality.

This is where the Industry 4.1 paradigm comes into play. To guarantee Zero Defects, implementing a system that provides real-time and on-line data available for total inspection along the entire line and in all stages of production is necessary.

Therefore, by adopting an RtOI System, if properly implemented, it would be possible to consistently ensure high product quality and reduce rejects. Indeed, the system can be utilized to identify the root causes of the defects for continuous improvement of those defective products; as such, high quality of all products can be achieved.

Accessing data in real-time means being capable of:

  • implementing actionable quality control insights;
  • triggering notifications based on production quantity, timing & events;
  • defining, capturing, and analysing test results easily and quickly;
  • allowing production prediction & control in real-time.

In order to implement intelligent manufacturing, both high-tech and traditional industries could benefit from such a system by upgrading Industry 4.0 to Industry 4.1, aiming for “zero defects” in their products.

What challenges can manufacturers solve right now with industry 4.0 technology?

The manufacturing sector is under pressure to increase productivity and meet consumer demands. Many manufacturers are looking to Industry 4.0 technology to provide solutions.

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Infographic by the author

  1. The first obstacle that manufacturers have to overcome is the resistance to IT/OT convergence. There is still a strong resistance to organizational change. The IT and OT departments of companies remain highly siloed, with different people, different objectives, and different policies. They work in a completely independent, competitive, and conflicting way. Traditionally, IT (Information Technology) was used primarily for financial calculations and commercial transactions. On the other hand, operational technology (OT) was a pre-configured, proprietary vendor system designed to only work on a specific piece of equipment. While the difference in technology has gradually become organizational, the use of IT in OT is now becoming increasingly intense.
  2. The absence of a digital backbone. Many operational structures lack an interconnection structure consisting of tangible and intangible assets that supports the plug & play of technological assets, allowing for an immediate benefit from the exchange of data between different levels.
  3. A lack of or inefficiency in the Manufacturing Execution System (MES). Digitized production shop-floor management is only possible with a specific platform that allows data exchange across the various management areas: planning, scheduling, monitoring, process and product traceability, real-time data analytics, proactive maintenance, etc.
  4. A lack of training and knowledge about enabling technologies. Most companies invest in technology without adequately training the human resources involved in its use, at all levels.
  5. Process analysis and the ensuing development strategy are lacking. Too frequently, companies struggle to understand how to design a transformation process to evolve from the current condition to the desired state.
  6. Data and cyber security. As technology advances, cybercrime is in the pursuit of methods to breach the current technology, including finding loopholes and misconfigurations to exploit the technology in use. Communication and cybersecurity cannot be considered as separate processes in Industry 4.0. Manufacturers of all sizes must understand Industry 4.0’s capabilities and risks in order to take full advantage of its potential.

How can leaders make a business case for investing in technology that gets them closer to real-time intelligence?

In our rapidly changing world, it is more important than ever for manufacturing leaders to have access to real-time production data. Real-time Operational Intelligence can help them make better decisions by providing them with up-to-date information. However, technology can be expensive, and leaders need to be able to justify the cost of investing in it. Therefore, in order to make a business case for investing in technology, leaders need to have a clear understanding of how that technology can be used to address the unique challenges that their operations face.

There are several ways to make a case when it comes to investing in such technologies, but some of the most important factors include business benefits, potential ROI, and of course improving overall equipment effectiveness (OEE).

Let’s see a possible framework in practice. This example involves a real company operating in the production of plastics for a wide variety of sectors. Their two factories currently operate over 100 injection molding machines. A wide variety of parts are produced in these factories for industries such as automotive, healthcare and consumer products.

Manufacturing operations decide to adopt Matics’ Real-time Operational Intelligence (RtOI) solution. The goal was to leverage the platform in order to aggregate data from the existing enterprise resource planning (ERP) and shop floor machines, as well as use planning tools and optimization tools to continually improve their processes. As a result of this solution, the Client has been able to achieve their business objectives:

Solutions that meet all Needs (Success Metrics — SMs)

  • SM.1 The seamless integration with the RtOI Platform prevented any downtime from interfering with just-in-time production.
  • SM.2 The access to accurate productivity information allowed Client to increase productivity with better machine and operator scheduling.
  • SM.3 Having access to real-time data and alerts lets Client address issues as they happen and provide on-time delivery more consistently.
  • SM.4 Improved raw material management with the platform allowed Client to reduce the cost incurred by waste materials and improve OEE with fewer stoppages.
  • SM.5 Improved data visibility and effective communication tools from Client allowed departments to cooperate more effectively.

You can find more details about this use case here: “Rimoni Delivers on Time and Improves Raw Material Consumption with Matics”.

Conclusion

Data analytics will increasingly be at the heart of smart manufacturing in the future. Leading manufacturers can gain competitive advantages by implementing RtOI systems before their competitors. Indeed, RtOI systems integrate data from smart systems, individual machines, IoT sensors, human operators, and more into a single location to provide a current, high-resolution picture of what is happening now on the shop floor, so any problems can be solved immediately, not hours later.

With the right RtOI solution, businesses can produce more with fewer resources, adapt faster to market conditions, and achieve impressive results such as increased OEE, cost reductions, and higher efficiency.

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