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THE ULTIMATE Guide for Manufacturers

What is machine monitoring?

(And why it’s important for your manufacturing operations)

Machine monitoring: buzzword, crucial technology, or just a nice-to-have around your plant? There’s a lot to know about machine monitoring, so let’s get into it with this comprehensive guide for manufacturers. 

Get ready to delve into the definition, benefits, challenges, best practices, and examples of machine monitoring.

What is machine monitoring?

In the manufacturing industry, machine monitoring is the use of sensors to gather information about the assets and equipment in your shop or factory. This technology collects real-time insights and data metrics such as which machines are currently in production, reasons for downtime, good parts vs. scrap parts, overall equipment efficiency (OEE) and more.

Explore the world of machine monitoring, an essential process in overseeing and analyzing real-time data from manufacturing equipment. Learn how this technology optimizes production processes, providing valuable insights for efficient decision-making.

Data collection

The first thing that machine monitoring does is collect data. Usually, a machine monitoring plug-in is placed directly onto the machine or piece of equipment to collect important data metrics and KPIs, such as:

  • Utilization
  • Machine status (uptime and downtime)
  • Cycle time
  • Good vs. scrap parts
  • Availability
  • Operator performance
Data storage

Data needs to be organized in a way that fosters consistent interpretations and highlights meaningful patterns. This makes it easier for the decision makers within your organization to understand and act upon it when needed.

Many machine monitoring solutions are cloud-based, meaning that all data is stored wirelessly in the cloud. You can then transfer or access the data from any device, making it mobile and therefore more useful to busy business owners and executives.

Data analysis

Raw data can be extremely difficult to understand. Effective machine monitoring tools will take care of the heavy lifting by completing data analyses for you to help provide meaningful and actionable insights. 

These results are often displayed on visual management dashboards that can be used for many things, like determining machine issues, identifying problems with certain operators or parts, increasing uptime, and finding other areas of improvement in your processes.

What is machine condition monitoring? (And how is it different?)

Machine condition monitoring is a type of machine monitoring that tracks machine health and performance over time. This includes measuring parameters like vibrations, RPM, currents and temperatures. It also looks for different thresholds of degradation that predict unplanned downtime.

While machine monitoring and machine condition monitoring are similar, condition monitoring focuses more on how well the machine is running and indicates when it needs to be maintained or when a part needs to be replaced. Classic machine monitoring collects data that can be used for business decision making, such as how many units a machine produced or which machine operators are best utilizing a machine. Most machine monitoring software options will help you with both types of monitoring tasks.

Benefits and advantages of machine monitoring in manufacturing

Machine monitoring is important in manufacturing for several reasons. From time savings to cost savings, it can drastically improve the way you run your operations.

Automates data collection

Manual data entry is time consuming and often inaccurate due to human error. Not only that, but because it takes so long to collect, by the time you’re ready to conduct some analyses and find trends, your information is already outdated. When you have machine monitoring tools in place, you can automate almost all of the functions of data collection and get a single source of truth for your data analysis.

Improves performance and productivity

Without machine monitoring on all your machines, it’s difficult to accurately judge the productivity and performance of both jobs and operators. But when you deploy a monitoring system and track OEE factory-wide, you can visualize the full potential of your workforce and create systems or schedules that equip your operators for success.

Similar to gaining an understanding of operator productivity and performance, you want to be able to judge your job performance effectively. In order to accurately see your job-by-job efficiency and improve your costing, you need to see how well the job is performed during each operation. You can't do that unless you're measuring all operations.

Increases operational efficiency (and lowers costs)

Machine monitoring facilitates real-time performance tracking, minimizing downtime through predictive maintenance. This not only enhances efficiency but also contributes to significant cost savings and overall revenue gains.

Enables better data-driven CapEx decisions

If you implement machine monitoring across your shop, you’re able to consider your factory-wide data, which is more conducive to providing quality justifications for CapEx decisions. You’ll be able to show with certainty how assets and operators are performing on your shop floor and make decisions accordingly. Furthermore, you’ll be able to answer the “why” questions and have the data necessary to support your decisions.

Facilitates true root cause analysis

Root cause analysis of any problem is only as good as the quality and quantity of data. By considering all variables, you can approach problem solving with a wider lens, enabling you to find the true root cause and implement an appropriate and effective solution.

What’s the best machine monitoring system for my plant?

Not all machine monitoring systems are alike, so it’s important to consider several factors as you research your options.

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

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 it’s often difficult to convert 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.

Is the machine monitoring 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.

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:

  1. How easy is it to generate reports? As you’d expect, some systems are easier for users to pick up than others.
  2. 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.
  3. Can we create custom reports? Many manufacturers need reports specific to their operations.
  4. 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.
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.

What is the true cost of purchase?

Chances are, you’ll find some machine monitoring systems that are startlingly expensive and some that seem suspiciously low (hello, hidden fees). 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.

Best practices: How to implement a machine monitoring system for success

With a few key items, you'll set yourself up for success with your new solution.

Understand the objective of a machine monitoring system

The first factor you need to consider when choosing a machine monitoring system is how to define your objectives and success parameters. Different machine monitoring tools and software solutions will accomplish different tasks. Therefore, it’s important for you to take the time to learn more about your own budgets, resources and needs before you can determine what type of machine monitoring solution will work best in your facility.

Appoint a high-level product champion

In order to win workforce buy-in and establish the right procedures from day one, your new machine monitoring system needs a high-level champion. To be most impactful, the project champion should participate in implementation meetings and stay involved with the system. They should be eager to review the ongoing data and keep pushing the team toward success.

Run a trial and validate results

The next step is to make sure that you are easing your team into the implementation process. By running a trial, you can start small on a couple of machines. After that, you can slowly build the process into your regular production floor processes, incorporating more machinery as you go. This gradual approach ensures that your team can adjust without feeling rushed. This will reduce errors and stress as well as prevent major, plant-wide changes from happening all at once.

Launch your machine monitoring system

Once you’ve run your trial, it’s time for the full-scale launch of your machine monitoring system. No matter how simple your machine monitoring system is though, it still takes work to see that it’s fully implemented, from equipment installation to training initiatives. Identifying a project owner to manage implementation will help your launch. In many cases, continuous improvement managers, project managers and process engineers make great project owners.

Review data and incorporate into plant KPIs

Like many manufacturing processes, you need to approach machine monitoring with a mindset of continuous improvement. It’s essential that your supervisors and production leads—the people who run your daily operations—stay on top of the system data and incorporate it into the company’s KPIs

Measuring metrics like production hours and machine uptime allows the entire team to track its performance relative to factory goals. If this data isn’t integrated into this process, your system will never be fully adopted.

Inform continuous improvement strategies

Regularly analyze data and conduct performance reviews, making iterative adjustments based on machine monitoring insights for continuous improvement.

Scale your machine monitoring system

It’s great to have a machine monitoring system in place when you want to grow and scale your business. Scaling involves cutting back on unnecessary expenses and optimizing the processes you have in place so you can replicate and expand them as needed. Machine monitoring helps you discover areas of improvement and gives you real insights on how to address those issues through actionable data. This helps you plan for scaling and growing the business as a whole.

Will machine monitoring make my plant a smart factory?

Almost! Machine monitoring is a great tool, but it can only take you so far. To really embrace the smart factory vision, we recommend looking for a solution that includes machine monitoring but also offers more tools to make a bigger impact on your profits. By itself, machine monitoring doesn’t give you the context you need in areas like revenue and labor performance.

How Amper FactoryOS is changing the game

Amper FactoryOS is designed to be your manufacturing plant’s mission control. With it, you don’t just track your shop floor—you run it. It’s the only place you’ll have to go to plan, communicate, and execute your smoothest operations yet.

Amper connects the dots of your siloed data—data from your jobs, your people, your machines, your systems—and shows you the full picture of your production. That means you gain a single source of truth with context-rich insights to inform your decisions.

With machine monitoring and automated cycle counting technology, Amper FactoryOS offers more context-rich insights than ever before. With advanced capabilities like job tracking, granular visual management tools, revenue data, and more, it's easier than ever to reach the levels of efficiency and profit targets you've always dreamed of.

Some of our customers' favorite features include:

Target Tracker.
This feature gives you the confidence to say whether you'll finish a job on time or get the promised number of parts out the door. Plus, you get instant feedback on uptime, cycle time, and parts made to fine-tune your goals and expectations for success.

Hour-by-Hour Board. The detailed visual tool displays clear hourly targets and progress. With such rich insights, it's easy to adjust your tactics based on real performance and hit those production goals day after day.

Revenue Breakdown Dashboard. This dashboard shows you the financial impact of your production performance, making it easier to stay on top of your bottom line. By assigning a unit price to each part produced, you can see exactly how much revenue each part is generating and how much it could be generating, so you can adjust operations accordingly. You can also measure the cost of scrap, downtime, and more!

Custom Report Builder. Get more out of your manufacturing data by seeing it your way. Create new dashboards and choose the metrics that align with your goals, so you can prioritize simplicity without compromising on depth.

We believe that only data with a story can help you run your shop, which is why Amper gives your direction—not just data. It’s so easy to get up and running, you can start getting insights and solving your pain points in no time.

Learn more about FactoryOS

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