Downward trend chart representing the cost of planned downtime in manufacturing.

How Planned Downtime in Manufacturing is Killing Your Profits

Planned Downtime in Manufacturing Kills Efficiency

The truth is, planned downtime in manufacturing could be hurting your bottom line just as much as unplanned downtime in manufacturing. One thing is for sure, downtime in manufacturing is a serious problem that constantly needs to be addressed. A large number of manufacturers are dealing with this on a reactive basis. This is not the right approach for companies who want to continue to grow.

Being reactive with downtime occurrences and stoppages on the plant floor might work at times with unplanned downtime, in situations such as a machine going down, or an expected failure. However, how would a reactive approach assist you with planned downtime? When you are dealing with things such as slow changeover times, slow maintenance, upgrades, or unnecessarily slow machine testing, when would a reactive approach ever improve these inefficient processes, if there is nothing really standing out to react to?

The odds are if you are not tracking these processes, you likely do not even realize how slow and inefficient they might be. This is where you can find a lot of value in tracking everything that happens on the plant floor, as well as having a proactive mindset. When you are dealing with these processes that “aren’t broken” they simply will not get addressed with a reactive mindset, although there is always room for improvement.

The Importance of Tracking Data

In today’s world, analytics in the manufacturing sector is more important than ever. There are a few reasons for this. One reason is simply that IIoT and manufacturing analytics systems are much more widely available. The connected factory is not exactly a new idea anymore, and it is not out of reach for small-medium-sized manufacturers. The fact that manufacturing analytics solutions are more widely available today, means that it is slowly becoming more of a standard in the sector, rather than a luxury. Furthermore, the results that manufacturers are seeing from these systems make it just that much more enticing. It isn’t just a nice extra little bonus on the plant floor and across the company, it’s a complete game-changer.

Things that get tracked get improved. Unplanned downtime gets a lot more attention because it is very visibly costly, and hurting the overall production on the plant floor. However, inefficient planned downtime in manufacturing can be quietly eating into your revenue and profits.

A recent study shows that consultants believe that 80% of factories can’t accurately estimate their downtime (source). This is an astonishing number. 4 out of 5 factories are not able to accurately estimate their downtime. The keyword there is accurately. That does not mean 80% aren’t putting in any effort. But why might the numbers be so far off and inaccurate? It’s fair to say the method in which they are gathering data could be very inefficient, and of course, inaccurate. How can you get the most efficient, most accurate data so that you can properly estimate your downtime (and start making the proper adjustments to improve)?

The Most Efficient and Accurate way of Gathering Data from the Plant Floor

The traditional way of gathering data on the plant floor is to have somebody manually walk around the plant floor with a notepad and a pencil recording basic information. Not too long ago, there was a time when this was the standard in the manufacturing sector. That time is up. Technology in recent years has advanced at a rapid pace. Everything we do throughout the day has gotten more convenient or more efficient from technology, likely both. We can order groceries with a few clicks delivered right to our front door, we can use FaceTime to check in on a family member across the world at any moment, in real-time. Why would it be any different in the manufacturing sector?

The answer is, it’s not. Still, many manufactures are willingly choosing to ignore it. IIoT solutions can extract data directly from the machines on your plant floor and deliver that information to anybody that needs it, in real-time. There is no room for human error and inaccurate data when the data is extracted directly from the source of truth. Furthermore, it is relevant data, real-time information. Whereas information that someone manually gathers on the plant floor likely will not get into any decision maker’s hands for at least a couple of days.

How to Put it all Together to Create the Most Efficient Planned Downtime in Manufacturing

Once you can accurately track your downtime so will see just how inefficient your planned downtime might be. With changeover times, you could start to notice too large of a gap where nothing is running. You could start making adjustments and shorten that gap of downtime and increase production. The data will start to show patterns and reveal tendencies you can work with.

With this new detailed information, you might see that your maintenance schedules are way off. This could go both ways. Either you are over maintaining, scheduling maintenance on machines and equipment prematurely. This adds up quickly to a lot of unnecessary downtime.  Or, you are under-maintaining, and your equipment is losing a lot of life from not getting the proper attention it needs. These are just a couple of scenarios, the overall point is that downtime gets expensive fast, and is a leading cause for lost revenue.

Accurate Data

Don’t get stuck in the past. Take advantage of the technology available today. IIoT, and manufacturing analytics systems provide the quickest, most accurate data available for you. Utilize this data to decrease planned and unplanned downtime, improve manufacturing processes, lead times, and overall production.

Proactive Continuous Improvement Mindset

Create a strong company culture, include your employees. Your operators want to be efficient and improve their process, give them access to the data so that they can be involved and get better. Make sure you have a continuous improvement mindset. Don’t wait for something to go wrong to make a change, actively look for areas to improve. No process is ever completely optimal, you never stop improving.

Become Data-Driven

You have the right data, and you have the right mindset. Now you need to make sure that you are actually using the data. If you have the mindset to continually improve, and you have the data to make the right decisions, you are positioning yourself to become an industry leader. Numbers don’t lie. Pull the data, get it to the right people efficiently, and the results will come.

Concluding Thoughts on Planned Downtime in Manufacturing

Don’t let the unforeseen, unplanned downtime overshadow the money that planned downtime in manufacturing is costing you. Planned events have lots of room for improvement. Set yourself up with the right tools, and you will be on your way to running the most efficient factory possible. Don’t get stuck in the past using old and outdated methods. Take advantage of the technology available today and climb past the competition.


Take advantage of modern manufacturing intelligence technology by using electronic devices instead of recording data manually with pen and paper.

Why You Need to Prioritize Manufacturing Intelligence

Why You Need to Prioritize Manufacturing Intelligence

Manufacturing Intelligence can be what makes or breaks the future of your company. Industry 4.0 is bringing a digital revolution to the manufacturing sector. IIoT and digital transformation are some common terms you might hear often that headline this revolution. Manufacturers today need to be proactive and buy into the industry 4.0 ideas and principles. Otherwise, they will see their competition closing the gap and moving past them. You need to be taking advantage of the technological advances the world has made, and improve your factory’s manufacturing intelligence.

What is Manufacturing Intelligence?

Manufacturing Intelligence is software used to bring data together from multiple sources on the plant floor. This data is used for reporting and analysis. Utilizing a manufacturing intelligence system helps manufacturers gather data, manage the data in a simple format, and use the data to improve operations around the plant floor.

Why You Need Better Manufacturing Intelligence

Earlier I briefly mentioned that manufacturers need to utilize manufacturing intelligence in order to remain competitive in the industry. The structured data that you can acquire in an efficient and simple format with these systems can benefit you in more ways than you might think. Here’s a few examples-

  • Real-time Accurate Reporting

Without manufacturing intelligence software, how are you recording data on the plant floor? If you still have somebody incrementally walking around the factory floor and manually recording data from your machines then it’s time to implement a new system. This worked in the past, but it’s simply an outdated system. On top of that, inevitable human error makes it less accurate information. 

Manufacturing Intelligence systems today are able to pull data directly from the source of truth (the machine or equipment). Then, deliver that information to the operators in real-time. These systems also have the ability to gather large amounts of data. Data sets so large that it would never be possible for a person to manually record, this is referred to as big data.

Think about how much more efficient an operator would be able to make his process if he had structured, accurate, and detailed machine data delivered in real-time. Opposed to hunting down whoever manually recorded basic machine data from a few days ago, or the last week. Manufacturing intelligence gives everybody on the plant floor the ability to make adjustments and improvements much more frequently. This equates to a more efficient and constantly improving process.

  • Better Customer Relationships/Satisfaction

We have established that real-time data analytics is useful for machine operators and people inside the company. Your customers will also benefit from this data. Essentially, you will be able to eliminate all guessing. Having access to accurate real-time data gives you the ability to base your decisions and your estimates on that data. This is part of becoming a data-driven company.

If you are guessing based on incomplete data, or just on a gut feeling, your estimates inevitably will not be as accurate as they could be. This can damage credibility with a customer. On the other hand, if you can provide your customers with accurate data-based lead times, you will have more happy customers. In turn, these customers are likely to return in the future.

When a customer calls for an update on their order you won’t have to make up a number in your head to let them know how far along the process you are. Let your customers know how many units have been produced, how long machines have been running, and when the product will be delivered.  All in real-time right there on the spot.

The next benefit is that if something does unexpectedly go wrong during the manufacturing process, you can share your data with the customer so that they can see exactly what happened. Giving the customer some real substance to back up what you tell them creates trust and they will appreciate the insight. 

  • Data Readily Available for Everyone

Data readily available for everyone to consume. This point ties the first two together. We know what we can do with all of the data that you now have available to you. Earlier we established that manufacturing intelligence software is much more efficient and detailed than manually recording data on the shop floor. Let’s touch on that point a little more.

Here at Ectobox, we have helped a lot of clients with manufacturing intelligence solutions. We have heard from some clients before we set up a system, that they have people recording data manually. This alone is already inefficient. Then they also have other people aside from the operators that need this data running around the shop floor half of the day trying to find the information they need.

With manufacturing intelligence software this would be a non-issue. More detailed and more accurate data can be readily available instantly in real-time. Available for everyone who needs it at the exact time they need it, delivered in a simple easy-to-read format.

Concluding thoughts on Manufacturing Intelligence 

What might have worked in the past, is simply outdated today. The best part about manufacturing intelligence is that you don’t need to reinvent your factory or get all new equipment. Even machines made 40 years ago or more can be equipped with modern technology to pull data out. It is already becoming standard to have a good manufacturing intelligence setup for manufacturers that want to grow. Mixing that with the fact that you can implement this technology within your current factory almost makes it a no-brainer.


You could look at the data on these devices, and determine the actual cost of unplanned downtime in manufacturing.

The Real Cost of Unplanned Downtime in Manufacturing

The Real Cost of Unplanned Downtime in Manufacturing

The cost of unplanned downtime in manufacturing adds up quickly and gets expensive fast. It’s no secret that unplanned downtime in manufacturing is a leading cause of lost revenue. Downtime affects your bottom line in many more ways than just the cost of fixing a machine or some equipment. You are losing money on inefficient employees’ time when equipment is down, longer project lead times, and of course the time and money it takes to get your equipment back up and running.

When you add all of this up, it equates to an enormous amount of lost revenue. The question is, do you know how much money downtime is costing you in your factory? Some consultants believe that 80% of industrial facilities are unable to accurately estimate their downtime. It’s commonly estimated that factories typically lose 5-20% of their productivity due to downtime (source). Again, these are just estimates, the actual number for each manufacturer is going to vary.

It’s not realistic to expect to completely cut out downtime altogether. Nonetheless, there absolutely are tools out there that you can take advantage of to cut the cost of unplanned downtime in manufacturing.

In the remaining parts of this article, I’ll be sharing more downtime statistics that you might find alarming. But don’t worry, I will also share some possible solutions that can help you to avoid unplanned downtime in manufacturing and run the most efficient factory possible.

Planned vs Unplanned downtime in manufacturing

Manufacturing downtime in general always has room for improvement and can be cut back and decreased. Planned downtime is any downtime for regular maintenance, changing fluids, maybe making an upgrade to the system. It could be an inspection or just any regular upkeep of the machine or equipment.

Unplanned downtime is any of the events that pop up out of nowhere. Unplanned downtime consists of machines or equipment unexpectedly breaking, human errors by the operators, and slow changeover times. It can be any unforeseen time that a machine is not up and running and producing.

You may think that only unplanned downtime is where the lost revenue is coming from. However, inefficient planned downtime can match the cost of unplanned downtime in manufacturing, or be even more costly. With planned downtime, maybe you have excessive scheduled maintenance or inefficient inspections. Operator changeover times are technically planned downtime, but an inefficient process leads to unexpected and excessive amounts of unnecessary downtime.

Following the continuous improvement philosophy can prove to be greatly beneficial in these instances. No process is ever completely optimal. Even multi-billion dollar corporations such as Amazon and Apple have room for improvement. And these companies are aware of this, they are not content with their current process. They are constantly innovating and actively looking for ways to get even better. If these companies see room for improvement, there is no reason why any manufacturer of any size should be content with their current manufacturing processes.

How much Money Downtime is Actually Costing You

Some of these numbers can be hard to wrap your head around. A great number of manufactures know that the real cost of planned and unplanned downtime in manufacturing is going to be a substantial number. Let’s get into it and go over some actual numbers from studies that have been conducted in recent years. This study took place in 2016 and comparing it to a previous study conducted in 2014, there was a 60% increase. In 2014, the average cost of downtime per hour across all businesses was $164,000. This is already a massive amount of money, then in 2016, that number jumped up to $260,000 per hour (source). I’ll leave it up to you to determine where you think that number is today in 2021 compared to 2016.

Let’s try to translate this into a very mild real-life scenario. Say you have your plant floor full of machines, operators, and equipment running 40 hours in a week. Keeping this as a fairly mild situation, we can say that just 5% of that time will be downtime. According to the statistics in these studies, that would amount to just 2 hours of downtime, and $520,000. Keep in mind this is just 1 mild week and using average numbers from 2016 that are up an incredible 60% in 2 years from 2014.

More Eye-Opening Downtime Statistics

The stat that I brought up earlier about downtime costing $260,000 per hour is a very general statistic. This goes across all businesses. There is good and bad news here. The good news is that number might be high for some manufacturing sectors. The bad news is that number might be substantially low in some manufacturing sectors. The Auto industry is especially high in downtime cost. A survey revealed that just one minute of downtime in the auto industry can amount to $50,000, with an average of $22,000 (source). What is that per hour? $3 Million. This shows the importance of really putting effort into decreasing downtime, and actively trying to improve your process. The cost of unplanned downtime in manufacturing is very high. The cost of unplanned downtime in the auto industry is extremely high compared to other industries.

With so many machines and moving parts around the plant floor, it makes sense that machines breaking even just little parts here and there would be by far the biggest cause of manufacturing downtime. You might be surprised to hear that human error accounts for 23% of unplanned manufacturing downtime (source). The manufacturing sector is among the highest percentages compared to the average of other sectors at just 9%.

Now, this wasn’t to downplay the amount and cost of unplanned downtime in manufacturing coming from the machines and equipment. Faulty and improperly maintained equipment is an extremely common cause of unplanned downtime within the sector. A more recent survey in 2017 revealed that 70% of companies are completely unaware of when their machines and equipment are due for an upgrade or proper maintenance (source). This is an astonishing number. Roughly 2 out of 3 manufacturers have a hard time determining the needs of the equipment on their own plant floor.

What You can to do Cut down on the Cost of Unplanned Downtime in Manufacturing

Machines, equipment, and operators are all leading causes of both planned and unplanned downtime. We have gone over some pretty scary statistics today. So, what can you do to bring those numbers down?

Industry 4.0 has been making a strong push in the manufacturing world over the last few years. Yet still, many manufactures choose to ignore the new capabilities brought by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and industry 4.0. However, this is the modern-day answer to combating downtime.

As we have seen, 70% of manufactures are unaware of what is going on inside the machines on the plant floor. This is a major problem. Many of the other leading causes that bring up the cost of unplanned downtime in manufacturing can also be attributed to improper data or no data at all.

IIoT fixes this issue. IIoT pulls data directly from the source of truth (the equipment) and delivers it in real-time, in a contextualized, easy-to-read format. Data that would otherwise not be possible to extract. You can also benefit from the help of big data analytics, bringing you deep and detailed large sets of data. When you implement an IIoT system and follow Industry 4.0 principles, you will gain the insight you need on your plant floor to reduce downtime.


Complete and accurate data is the answer. A large amount of downtime is attributed to not knowing what’s going on, and guessing on maintenance schedules. You need to become a data-driven company. Gather data, put it in the decision maker’s hands, and make the final decision based on the data. Numbers don’t lie. Every minute, every hour of downtime can prove to be very costly. It’s important to make it a point to reduce downtime as much as you possibly can.

With IIoT and industry 4.0, you can establish a strong company culture, allow employees to get smarter, and gain knowledge on the plant floor by analyzing the data. At the end of the day, this leads to happier employees, improved lead times, less downtime, and more company revenue.

On the Ectobox blog, we have tons of information about IIoT, Industry 4.0, digital transformation, real-life downtime case studies, and more. Subscribe to our newsletter on the right-hand side for weekly tips and tricks in the manufacturing world. Also, feel free to contact us with any questions, we are happy to help and enjoy talking about all things IoT and manufacturing.

Upward graph illustrating how your efficiency could improve if you utilize IoT and smart manufacturing.

IoT and Smart Manufacturing: Why you Can’t Ignore it

IoT and Smart Manufacturing: Why you Can’t Ignore it

IoT and Smart Manufacturing, Industry 4.0, manufacturing analytics, digital transformation. These are frequently talked about terms in the manufacturing industry. For some people, it’s just talk, some ignore it, and some are adapting and changing their current way of doing business.

You want to fall into that last group.

The industry is changing, and it has been changing for a while now. The old ways of manufacturing are behind us, and the companies staying with those old ways, are seeing the competition creep closer and surpass them.

What exactly are these old ways that I am referring to?

Industry 3.0 brought us manufacturing automation. It brought us the ability to turn on machines and let them do the work. We could produce thousands and thousands of products and materials without humans having to be directly involved in the process.

This was huge for the manufacturing industry. Manufacturing production received a massive boost, many more products were produced, much faster than before.

Where does IoT and Smart Manufacturing step in

The machines that came of out industry 3.0 are still just as valuable today. IoT and smart manufacturing, as well as Industry 4.0 principles, are not all about creating an entirely new factory and changing every piece of equipment on your plant floor.

The machines from industry 3.0 are great, but they could be even better. Whether you have a handful or hundreds of machines on your plant floor, you want all of them to be performing optimally. Any little bit of downtime, decreased efficiency, or scrap, eats into your revenue, profits, and lead times.

These numbers add up quickly. For example, let’s just say that you run a small plant with 5 machines that are running at 70% efficiency and you “should be” producing 100 parts per hour. You run these 5 machines for 8 hours a day, and end up with 2,800 parts by the end of the day. You might say that sounds pretty good. What if those machines were running at 90% efficiency? you would have 3,600 parts.

This is just one day. You could argue that 70% machine efficiency, or OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency) is pretty low, I would argue that it is an extremely high number for a machine that is not tracking any data.

Once you start tracking a machine, you will gain the ability to improve that machine. This is where IoT and smart manufacturing takes over.

The New Way of Manufacturing

How do IoT and Smart Manufacturing solve inefficiency problems? IoT is the infrastructure implemented into your factory so that you can pull out data that your industry 3.0 machines already have. Yes, these machines have the data you need, they just need to be unlocked, they need something to extract that data. IoT makes this possible. Smart manufacturing is using the data that you pulled with your IoT system to make educated, data-driven decisions to improve efficiency across the plant floor.

You can see how these two separate things work together for better manufacturing. IoT and smart manufacturing put together make for an efficient factory that will be productive today, and competitive for years to come.

Just having those machines from industry 3.0 was great for a long time. But today with technology constantly advancing, it is not good enough to just have the equipment. And a few years down the line, IoT and smart manufacturing will only become more of a necessity.

Why IoT and Smart manufacturing is The Answer

IoT and Smart manufacturing is the new way of manufacturing, it is the key to successful manufacturing in the future. It helps you improve efficiency across the plant floor. But how does this data really help you? Here are a few specific ways that you can benefit from the data you are pulling, and how it will put more money in your pockets at the end of the day.

I mentioned the example earlier based on the machine’s efficiency, but what are some areas that could be improved that would bring up that efficiency number?

Cut Downtime

Without a doubt, downtime is a big problem and something that all manufacturers need to improve and cut back on. IoT and Smart manufacturing can assist in this area by providing the data and information you need to make adjustments. You will gain insight into how the machine is running, machine-learning so that you can pick up on tendencies for a variety of things. One area machine learning proves to be valuable is in reducing downtime. You will start to notice machine patterns before they break and cause a stoppage. With this information, you can perform a small fix. Or, make the proper adjustment to ensure that each machine on your plant floor is healthy and running strong.

Machine Learning

I touched on this briefly, because this can go hand-in-hand with cutting downtime. At least for the point that I want to bring out today. A huge benefit of IoT and smart manufacturing is reducing downtime. Although you largely cut back on the amount of downtime, there will still be unplanned stoppages and machines going down from time to time. The difference is that with IoT you have the data to assess and determine why that machine went down. No more having everyone stand in a circle around the broken machine. Trying to determine why it went down with no data and no information to come to an accurate conclusion.

With machine learning, you will instantly see what was different. You will have a pretty good idea of what you need to do to get the machine back up and running. And you can do this as fast as possible. Not only can you be more efficient in reducing downtime, but you can be more efficient when you do encounter downtime.

Improved Lead Times

You will be gaining efficiency, reducing downtime, reducing scrap, more uptime, and benefit from predictive maintenance so that machines stay healthy but also keep you from “over maintaining.” A few of these areas I have not talked about today. But, if you want more information, we have lots of articles that touch on these topics on the Ectobox blog. When you put all of this together- you get more production in less time, which leaves you with more time to make more products for more customers. It’s as simple as that. Combine these aspects with machine learning and big data, and you will have an abundance of information to provide your customers with more efficient, accurate, data-based lead times.

IoT and Smart Manufacturing Conclusion

This is undoubtedly the future of manufacturing. Modern technology is becoming more and more available to any sized company. Manufacturers need to adapt to the change. The ones willingly choosing to ignore the change will not be the ones continuing to grow and becoming industry leaders in the near future.

The Digital transformation process does not have to begin with an insanely large investment. If you work with a good manufacturing intelligence solutions integrator such as Ectobox, we can help you find the right solution for your business goal and budget.

Adapt and become an industry leader, don’t ignore the future, and get left behind.

Utilize the internet of things in industry 4.0 to get better plant floor efficiency.

Internet of Things in Industry 4.0: How They Tie Together

Internet of Things in Industry 4.0: How they Tie Together

The Internet of things in Industry 4.0. You have likely heard these words said around the industry at least a few times. The internet of things and industry 4.0 are both very valuable pieces to manufacturers’ success today and in the future. These phrases are also very commonly used together. While they definitely tie in together, they are not exactly the same thing, there are some key differences.

In this article, we will differentiate the two, and clear the air on what each of these concepts/ideas are. Furthermore, we will get into how you can make these two work together for your benefit.

Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 is the movement. It’s not any specific thing, it’s just the idea that ties everything together. In the past, there have been Industry 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and now we are experiencing Industry 4.0- the fourth industrial revolution.

This revolution started around the early 2000s. However, it’s really got moving and has made a much bigger impact in the last 5 years.

Many people associate automation with the IoT in Industry 4.0. Although automation is a big part of Industry 4.0, and there is more automation available with Industry 4.0 technology. The truth is that automation actually was the big change in Industry 3.0.

Industry 3.0 brought us machine automation. New machines that could run without operators being part of the process the entire time. In industry 3.0 theoretically, you could turn on a machine, run it all night, and come back in the morning to a finished product. That is automation. This automation from Industry 3.0 created data that wasn’t tapped into at the time.

This data is what drives industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 is all about translating the data we can pull from automated machines into information that is consumable for humans.

Internet of Things

We know what Industry 4.0 is, but now what role does the internet of things play? What is the internet of things in industry 4.0?

The internet of things, commonly referred to as IoT or IIoT, are the mechanisms or systems used to turn data into information. In a few words, Industry 4.0 is the idea, the movement, the principles. The internet of things is the system that makes this idea work, it’s the part that translates the industry 4.0 idea into real life. This engineer could be using the internet of things in industry 4.0 to analyze plant floor data.

The Industrial Internet of things on its own can be broken down into a really simple concept. Simply, it’s all about getting the information that everybody needs, in their hands, instantly right when they want it.

Putting all of this together is what brings us to IoT in Industry 4.0.

Now that we know what they are and the differences between the two, we can get into how they can work together for your benefit.

How You can make the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 work together for Your Benefit

These two things are not exactly the same, but they do go hand-in-hand. When you put these two together- the principles and ideas of industry 4.0, mixed with the internet of things software and its capabilities, you create a lot of valuable possibilities for yourself. You can position yourself for massive growth, increased efficiency, and prime yourself to become an industry leader.

Here are a couple of specific ways that the internet of things in industry 4.0 can benefit your manufacturing process, help you to save money, and increase revenue.

Predictive Maintenance

Traditionally, you hear a lot about preventative maintenance. You might have scheduled every so often to do a maintenance check or change certain parts or fluids after x amount of time. This sounds good, likely a system that everybody has used, you probably do something similar to this for your car.

Utilize the IoT in industry 4.0 by upgrading your preventative maintenance schedule to predictive maintenance. Thanks to all of the big data sets that can be collected and analyzed by modern internet of things software, you have the ability to predict when machines will need maintenance based on historic data and trends. This is possible today with the help of current internet of things software. Data was created in industry 3.0, but now we have the technology to efficiently extract and use this data.

No matter how often your preventative maintenance schedule is, machines will still break. Although it’s near impossible to stop this completely, by analyzing trends in the data you will begin to understand exactly when each of your machines needs attention. Maybe you have too much planned downtime for preventative maintenance that might be unnecessary. Or, maybe the lifespan of your machine has dropped dramatically due to maintenance that was not as frequent as it should have been.

This is a great opportunity to improve the health of your machines and cut back on downtime. Whether the downtime is planned or unplanned. All possible today by using the internet of things with industry 4.0 principles to gather important information all over the plant floor.

Quality Control

Up until now, quality control has been on a reactive basis. For products that get damaged or something goes wrong, it’s up to the workers to try and catch it in time. In theory, this sounds fine, but

  1. People Make Mistakes
  2. Modern technology can take over this task, and do it better.

Even the best assembly line workers are susceptible to making mistakes. You can’t expect anything else, humans make mistakes. Because of this, manufacturers are left with a lot of scrap material, and a lot of products that cannot be sent out.

IoT in industry 4.0 changes that. Internet of things equipment has the capability the monitor the quality throughout the production process. It can assess performance and instantly find defects in real-time.

We have seen numerous cases ourselves here at ectobox where companies had excessive scrap that we were able to cut down a large portion of. All by integrating an industrial internet of things system.


This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are near endless possibilities and areas to make improvements when you have access to the big data that the internet of things brings you. On top of that, being able to acquire this data and turn it into consumable information in real-time is immensely valuable for any manufacturer.

We have a lot more to talk about. On the Ectobox blog, we are constantly publishing new content all the time. We have lots of articles about the internet of things, industry 4.0, manufacturing analytics, smart factories, and much more. If you found any value in this article, check out some of our other posts on related topics. Feel free to reach out to us anytime with questions or concerns, and subscribe to our newsletter on the right-hand side for exclusive weekly manufacturing tips and tricks.

Worker working on a machine that could be connected with IIoT Devices to gather data and make improvements.

Thousands of IIoT Devices to choose from, which one Fits You?

Thousands of IIoT Devices to choose from, which one Fits You?

The manufacturing industry is constantly growing, and evolving quickly. There are lots of ways for you to improve your efficiency on the plant floor. IIoT devices are the key to making this happen in today’s market. Those devices enable you to gather data directly from your manufacturing equipment, process that data, and get real-time visibility into what’s going on on the factory floor. With so many brands,  products, and solutions out there just finding the perfect solution for you can be a big challenge.

Like I mentioned, and you likely know this yourself, the industry is moving at a fast pace. You need to implement the right tools and techniques to remain competitive, so what should you be looking for?

A lot of the devices that are being used and sold today might work for now, but they will be completely outdated in the coming years. What separates a tool that is going out of date, and a tool that will give you the flexibility and scalability you need now and that you will be able to use effectively for decades?

Industry 3.0 devices vs Industry 4.0 devices

The answer is Industry 4.0 devices.

Industry 3.0 devices can do their job, but not much more. Those devices lack the features and capabilities to create flexible and scalable IIoT solutions to move a company towards becoming a digital factor.

Our definition of the best Industry 4.0 devices are devices that follow 4 principles for best-in-class IIoT devices.

  • Report by exception- Data should be pushed out when it changes; decreases the load on communications and processor time for all kinds of devices including PLCs.
  • Edge Driven- Push decisions for data as close to the edge as possible; we shouldn’t be sending up completely raw, millisecond data to the Unified Namespace.
  • The Solution is Lightweight- Use protocols like MQTT that are lighter, less verbose; it makes them easier to work with, better for communications.
  • Open Technologies- Use tools that don’t have a proprietary bent, that can be leveraged with other tools from companies. When a company says you must use all the tools in their stack, run away…they’re mostly helping their shareholders, not you. Industrial Manufacturing plant that could have increased efficiency with the help of IIoT Devices.

Devices that don’t share these qualities are more difficult and expensive to work with. They also often don’t have the capabilities internally to run a variety of tools that can add to the flexibility and scalability of that device within the larger solution. With that groundwork laid out, let’s review a few of our favorite and most commonly used IIoT Devices that are Industry 4.0 capable.

DXM from Banner Engineering

The first IIoT device I want to talk about is a DXM series controller from banner Engineering. The DXM Controller can connect to wired, or wireless sensors. It communicates on a 900MHz secured and encrypted network. Another nice feature of this product is there is a scripting language that can be used to write some basic logic. This logic can perform small tasks such as turning on a light or sending an email or a text. Lastly, the device can push out its data to any endpoint via HTTPS, like a REST API.

These may sound like small features but small devices like this can have a powerful impact on getting valuable data at the edge and contribute to improving efficiency.

These products are also great for connecting legacy equipment and other old equipment with wired or wireless sensors as well as analog and digital I/O. This is really helpful when you are not able to directly connect to a CNC machine or a PLC machine.

Groove Rio, Epic from Opto22

These are another couple of products that we think are great, and fit in perfectly with the Industry 4.0 ideas and standards. The principles behind the Groove Rio and Epic products are right up our alley. Both of these products are great as they are extremely compatible with the connectivity that Industry 4.0 is all about.

There are a number of ways the devices fit the 4 principles for Industry 4.0:

  • Report by exception – They use MQTT SparkplugB protocol among others to enable one-way communications.
  • Edge Driven – The device has the onboard capacity to run NodeRed and other tools to add logic for processing data locally before sending it out.
  • Lightweight – Again, it’s supposed lightweight protocols like MQTT.
  • Open Technology – You can work with the device using open standards and tools, and don’t need to pay extra fees for extra tools.

These make for a great product with great flexibility to meet the needs of many different companies, that have very specific problems requiring a tailored solution.

They allow us to use technologies that are well suited for IIoT which includes the MQTT data protocol with SparkplugB, as we’ve said above. If you’re interested, check out this great article I just read that goes more in-depth on this topic.

Industrial PCs

An industrial PC is an immensely valuable device to have. It is exactly what it sounds like. A PC that would typically run Windows or Linux, small, ruggedized, and built to be used in harsh environments.

There are a couple of different versions of Industrial PCs that we like to use at Ectobox. One of them is from Siemens and the other is from OnLogic. Both of these are great products. The one from Siemens is a bit more expensive and has some more capabilities and will work in more demanding environments. These machines allow us to use Kepware, a machine connectivity tool from PTC which is industry standard, and other machine connectivity tools to connect to and pull data from various equipment.

These Industrial PCs work by connecting to a PLC or controller on a CNC machine via an ethernet connection RJ45 Plug. This connects directly to the machines and then we have the ability to pull out all of the data directly. Then we can process that data at the edge as needed and send that data up to our IIoT platform whether that platform is on-premise or the cloud.

So which IIoT Devices are best for you?

All of these IIoT devices are great and are built to be around for a long time. Don’t make the mistake of implementing a device that does not have the connectivity, flexibility, and longevity to be relevant in the coming years. Industry 4.0 is, in part, centered around machine connectivity across the plant, and even across multiple plants remotely.

Like I mentioned earlier, we know that everyone has a different situation that is unique to them. Some of these products might fit into a certain company’s situation, or maybe not. Regardless, at Ectobox we have helped a large number of manufacturers tackle issues, or just take the next step to stay ahead of the competition. We are more than happy to answer any questions to help you find the right solution that fits your needs. Contact us here to get in touch.

This manufacturing process could have improved efficiency if they would engage in data-driven manufacturing.

Why Data Driven Manufacturing gives You the Competitive Edge

What is Data-Driven Manufacturing?

Data-Driven Manufacturing is leveraging data gathered from the plant floor so that everyone in the plant from operators to COO’s can adjust and make improvements to the overall manufacturing process. Data from your equipment allows everyone to make confident decisions based on solid information. 

There are many ways that you can acquire data, with some being much more efficient than others. You could hire someone to go to your plant floor, and manually record data from machines with pen and paper or have the operators do it themselves. Although this is a very straightforward concept, it likely is not the best solution for you. Having people manually record data sounds like a simple, efficient, and very straightforward task. However, the data typically recorded on paper ends up being old (once it’s in a state to be analyzed), moderately inaccurate, and limited. The truth is, there is a much more accurate and efficient solution available today. 

Implementing an IIoT manufacturing analytics system. These kinds of systems will allow you to pull data directly from the machines on your plant floor, to provide you with data that was never available before, in real-time. Some wonder if we can rely on this data to be accurate, without human interference. As humans, we will make errors, and improperly record data from time to time. IIoT systems pull data from PLCs, controllers, and sensors to pull data right from the equipment. There is nothing in between, it is the most straightforward path possible. This means that you get the most accurate, and detailed information in the quickest way possible. For the data that may not be available from the equipment, HMI or operator data entry screens can be provided for operators to enter the pertinent process, production, quality, and availability/downtime data. 

Why You Need to be a Data-Driven Manufacturer

Making decisions with solid substance behind your reasoning is invaluable. We have established that implementing an IIoT system is the best way to gather data. How does the data you are gathering really make such a big difference? There are so many different categories of data that IIoT systems can attain today. You can track downtime with reason codes, production throughput, temperatures, vibration, and scrap just to name a few. That data can then be converted into more valuable information like OEE, downtime Pareto chart with reason codes listed by occurrence or duration, product goals versus actuals during the middle of the day, and more. 

If you are tracking these metrics and seeing the real performance, inevitably you will find room for improvement, even in areas where you might have thought you were doing pretty good. Seeing the actual numbers is shocking to most people. 

Continuous Improvement

When you are driven by data, you will see all the areas that need improvement. Since you are looking at precise data you will also see exactly how much room for improvement there is in one area. Right from the start, you will clearly recognize your biggest inefficiencies. Now you will know exactly where to focus your efforts. Real-time data will assist you in solving the problem, and getting instant results. In our experience it can take from 1-2 days to 2 weeks to get data recorded manually, data entered into a spreadsheet or database and then converted into usable metrics. The real-time availability of data with IIoT solutions is immensely valuable and puts you right on track to running the most efficient factory possible. 

Confident Decisions 

Being a data-driven manufacturer can help you in other ways that you might not put much thought into initially. You’re able to make confident data-based decisions. Empirical data including numbers and large amounts of the right data backing up your decision are undoubtedly a massive benefit. You’re able to work in a clearer state of mind, not continuously thinking about a past decision, wondering and hoping that you made the right move. Realistically, you have more than one thing on your plate and the added stress holds you back. When you eliminate the guesswork and know that you made the right decision based on facts, it will help you tremendously. Allowing you to solve issues quickly and effectively, and shift your focus onto the next task. 

Why Being Data-Driven will Generate You more Revenue

IIoT systems, manufacturing analytics, and real-time data are great tools and features to help convert you into a data-driven manufacturer. This is, of course, an investment. Here is how data-driven manufacturing will take your company to the next level by increasing efficiencies, reducing costs, increasing production, and in the end increasing revenue. 

Once you see the data, you will have an accurate perspective on efficiencies in your operations. Once you gain that awareness you’re better able to improve efficiencies. You’ll be able to track data to decrease downtime, increase throughput, increase OEE, you will understand your machines better, and move aware from expensive maintenance practices like reactive and preventative to more valuable practices like condition-based monitoring and other efficient and proactive maintenance practices. 

Here are some additional areas of plant operations that can be improved with IIoT solutions: 

  1. Project Lead Times

    This area will be improved if you act upon the data that you are now receiving. More units manufactured faster, as your manufacturing process efficiency is improved, your project and lead time will inevitably go down. Now that you can get projects done faster, you have time for more projects. More projects is more money.  

  2. Downtime

    Downtime will decrease. Whether it is scheduled or unscheduled downtime, the numbers will improve. Once you have PLCs and sensors installed that allow you to see what is happening inside the machine, you will learn the reasons why that machine might be going down. You will have the historic data to find trends in machine behavior, this will help you avoid unscheduled downtime. You will also know when you will need to schedule maintenance on the machine based on the actual, current health of the machine. Before you were tracking this metric, you might have even been spending too much time on maintenance that the machine did not require. Unscheduled downtime is always bad, but having inefficient scheduled downtime can be just as detrimental.  We have another blog post focuesed solely on reducing downtime- If you think you could benefit from reduced downtime check it out here.

  3. Customer Relationships

    Improved customer relationships. Your customers will appreciate you engaging in data-driven manufacturing just as much as everyone on the plant floor. Each job has different requirements and a lot of variables. Those variables can cause issues including poor quality and/or late deliveries. If you have historical data and an awareness of current conditions in the plant you can then be more proactive to make adjustments on staffing, routing, shifts, parts and raw materials needed for jobs, etc. You can then give the customer updates with precise and detailed data for when their orders will be delivered. If you can provide more insight into your manufacturing process, you will establish trust and transparency. Happier customers lead to more return customers, better reviews, and a great brand reputation.  

Put Yourself in Position to be an Industry Leader

More insight, more throughput, less downtime, happier customer, and smarter employees that have machine insights and make decisions based on the facts. These are many of the traits companies have that are leaders in the manufacturing sector. 

Technology is advancing at a quick pace. These capabilities are becoming more and more available to everyone. Being a data-driven manufacturer is not just for the Teslas and the Amazon’s of the world. Today, it is available to even small-medium-sized businesses. The ones who are taking advantage of this are the ones that are growing, making a name for themselves, and will thrive in the coming decades. Don’t sit back relying on the old way manufacturing has been done for the last 30+ years, put yourself in a position to lead the industry.  Seemingly small details are the difference that can make or break your results in the future. 

IoT in Manufacturing can help this factories' machines to run at peak performance.

IoT in Manufacturing: Is IoT a Long Term Solution?

What is IoT in Manufacturing?

Simply put, the Internet of Things (IoT) is the use of tools to gather data from manufacturing equipment, people, and other systems to get the right information to the people and machines who need it, where they need it, and when they need it. The idea of this right information in the right hands then enables those people to create the best products possible at the lowest cost and highest quality possible, on time for the manufacturer’s customers.

Manufacturers use IoT to eliminate paper and digitize their entire factory, which means real-time data from the shop floor and other areas of the factory. Data acquired via IoT-enabled equipment will be precise, detailed, and delivered instantly. Machine automation, in part, enabled through IoT, allows machines to take over small tasks that would otherwise require time from an operator and creates a fully connected factory in which all people and machines are connected and sharing the same information. Everyone and everything knows exactly what is happening on the plant floor at all times, in real-time. There is tremendous value in connecting modern technology with your manufacturing shop floor, and in this article, we dive deeper into that idea.

How IoT Contributes to Better Manufacturing

  • Automate tasks

IoT systems equip your machines with smart technology, automating shop-floor equipment to take over tasks that otherwise would have to be done by a human. This frees up time for operators who can now focus on higher-level, more valuable tasks like continuous improvement of their manufacturing process. This is much more beneficial than having to perform tasks such as turning a knob to increase the speed of a motor or press a button to adjust the temperature. Let your machines handle these types of tasks.

  • Creates new jobs

Additional machine automation often brings concerns that jobs will be lost. Although automation will allow machines to take over more tasks, it rarely decreases the number of jobs. Instead, operators will have an adjusted focus or will be busy managing increased throughput! There will also be a growing demand for people that can analyze the data that is being received from machines or that can use already-analyzed data (i.e., analyzed in an IIoT platform) to make fewer adjustments to how equipment is running.

  • Real-Time Analytics

Why is eliminating paper such a big deal? Simple, paper takes time to travel around the plant before its data is entered and converted into useful metrics- it’s just not efficient. Also, paper forms and reports introduce multiple opportunities for data errors and mistakes. With a good IoT solution setup, you can pull data directly from the source (the machine). This way you get the most accurate and the most current information. Instantly identify problems and trends, and start making adjustments immediately, instead of making decisions based on hopefully accurate data from yesterday or last week.

  • Machine learning

Technology is constantly advancing, and IoT in manufacturing is no exception. With the help of devices that are equipped with Industry 4.0 connectivity, sufficient historical data, and machine learning tools at the edge or in the cloud, machines will start to identify patterns, learn tendencies on each machine, and truly learn how to make better decisions. Your whole plant floor will get smarter. Big data analytics also ties into this idea. By recording and analyzing large amounts of data on machine performance over time, your smart machines will be able to avoid issues that have been experienced in the past.  This makes for a smoother production process and assists with more maintenance practices. It’s no secret that downtime gets expensive so doing everything you can to keep your machines running optimally is a must.

  • Better Customer Relationships

With these proper IoT protocols, you will have accurate data on which to base your decisions. You can then more accurately estimate when orders will be delivered to customers. Over time you will develop a better understanding of how long each task takes in your production process, how much scheduled or unscheduled downtime you might run into, and you will be able to provide more detailed, data-based information and answers to your customers. Essentially, you are eliminating all guesswork. Your customers will be happier when they know what is going on, and they receive their order on time as promised.

Does New Technology Require You to Reinvent your Factory? 

The best part of implementing IoT is that none of this requires major changes to your shop-floor. Smart Manufacturing sensors can be added to any equipment, even those from the last century. There are many devices and systems out there that can help you get all of these features and much more, for a very reasonable investment.

The manufacturing sector is headed towards Industry 4.0 and is recognizing the importance of connectivity. Investing in Industry 4.0 capable devices will not only help you get the most out of your machines but will provide a competitive advantage moving forward. A large number of manufacturer’s equipment is running at about a third of its possible overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). IoT can ensure that your equipment is running at peak performance.


IoT in manufacturing is an important concept that we will see more and more of as time goes on. There are many benefits of automating your manufacturing process; including decreased downtime, improved decision-making, and quick adjustments to deliver on-time to your customers. The companies that are adopting these technologies now are industry leaders to be watched!

If you enjoyed this article, check out one of our other articles titled What is Industry 4.0, and how does it help you? This article describes the history of Industry 4.0 and how we believe it will affect the future of the manufacturing industry. At Ectobox we specialize in Industrial Intelligence solutions – if you would like to learn more, subscribe to our newsletter from the menu on the right-hand side of this page.


Two Ways to Improve Production Schedules

Two Ways to Improve Production Schedules

We talk with a lot of manufacturers, especially high mix/low volume shops, which have challenges with their production schedules, and production scheduling boards.

Typically, ERP systems don’t have great scheduling modules. Too often those production schedules are pipe dreams because they expect the world to be perfect…like an automotive manufacturer that has near-complete control over the supply chain, machine uptime, workforce, etc. You likely do not have that kind of control.  The predictions are often too optimistic and end up being inaccurate more times than not.

There is hope, don’t lose faith!

In this article, we will go over two ways to get better, more accurate manufacturing production schedules and production scheduling boards.

Accurate Cycle Times- having accurate cycle times and very good data on the job setup and changeover times for jobs helps immensely in improving estimates for jobs so you lose money less often on jobs. This data also helps more accurately predict the actual time it’ll take for the job to move from station to station through the shop. This helps you but will also give the customer more clarity, and will make for a smoother transaction if the estimate that you gave the customer actually ends up being accurate at the end of the deal. A happy customer will help build your reputation as a knowledgeable and trustworthy manufacturer which will encourage a lot of customers to continue doing business with you.

This is why using an Industrial Internet of Things system to pull machine data is so important for you. The more data you have the more you will learn and understand about the machines. Over some amount of time, you will start to really see what is happening which will make it much easier to predict an accurate time. Also, this way it will be a more confident prediction, and completely data-based. Making a data-driven decision makes the process a lot clearer and will give you some real in-depth substance for more accuracy in your decision-making.

You can have better communication and valuable updates with the customer this way. Everyone involved in the project will be better educated. This makes the entire plant more efficient and leaves you with a happier customer with a project finished on time that was planned and executed the way they were told.

Actual vs. Planned- data should be available from your systems for how well the manufacturing production schedule performed. This data should also be available in real-time, no waiting for someone to manually calculate and analyze actual vs. planned to provide a report. When this real-time data is available performing a post-action review on your production schedule your team can get a lot of valuable lessons for how to improve the manufacturing production scheduling boards. A prime example of how important real-time data is for multiple reasons. Use the data to avoid problems before they happen, but it also helps to continually educate people on the plant floor that have complete visibility into the machines. Everyone will develop a deep understanding of machines across the plant, which will assist them in making the right decisions to keep projects on schedule.

Do you have this kind of data available to you? I hope so. If not, look to your Industrial Internet of Things/Manufacturing Analytics product. These should be out-of-the-box capabilities. Additionally, the Industrial Internet of Things/Manufacturing Analytics solution should also integrate well with your ERP system and automatically share the data. We have a lot of experience and help with these kinds of situations all the time. If you have any questions or want to get in touch call or email anytime, we are more than happy to see if we can help.

Connect IIoT platform to CMMS?

Should we connect our CMMS to our IIoT platform? Would that effort provide us with valuable results? Yes…only if you keep a few points in mind. These points are honestly a reminder to stick to the basics.

Note: Computerized Maintenance Management System is software systems used by Maintenance & Reliability teams to, among other things, manage machine health using work orders and other data.)

Back to the question, should we connect the CMMS with the IIoT system?

Connecting these kinds of systems can be really valuable. It enables Maintenance and Reliability teams to monitor more equipment, attain better uptime, with fewer resources (“do more with the same”). However, there’s a balance to strike….Goldilocks strikes again (I reference “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” often).


1) Not in the Pilot Project, Keep it Simple: We recommend not doing it as part of your IIoT pilot project where you’re connecting 1-5 machines for the very first time to get maintenance and production-related data.

Integrating an ERP or CMMS with an IIoT / Manufacturing Analytics platform isn’t rocket science, far from it. Though it does make that first pilot project a little more complicated. Pilot projects are supposed to be simple. Adding another big moving part like getting two software/data systems to talk with one another adds a bit more complexity and is best done after the pilot project. KISS…Keep it Simple Silly.


2) Are the Maintenance Culture and Practices Ready? Are your Maintenance & Reliability guys and gals ready for it? Many companies are still in the Reactive Maintenance mindset, no matter the cause. If you connect a CMMS with the IIoT system, set the IIoT system to start creating work orders in the CMMS when certain conditions are met, the guys and gals in maintenance might be overwhelmed with work orders and not see the value. “Last time I fixed this machine it was smoking and whining. Why should I fix it now if it’s not smoking and whining?”

Changing the culture and mindset around Maintenance & Reliability to move to Preventative and better yet, Proactive Maintenance or Condition-Based Monitoring would be optimal. Companies that are already on this path, as many are, are well suited for this type of integration.

For those that aren’t on the path forward, this doesn’t mean you can’t and never should set up this integration of IIoT and CMMS platforms. It simply means there’s a little more thought that goes into it.


3) Start Small, Less is Better…Incremental Approach: A thought…maybe hold off trying to track a lot of data and various conditions of many machines all at once at the outset of getting IIoT setup. If you try to track a whole bunch of data points on each machine you connect with, with no approach for solving a specific challenge with the machines, then you’ll be drinking from a fire hose and it won’t taste very good. You’ll get a whole bunch of data, and it potentially won’t be terribly useful.

Instead, as part of the Pilot Project, look to solve a specific, common, valuable problem with a limited set of data. Also, do that on one specific type of machine or a small set of machines that are very similar.

However, if you’ve already done that and the value of the solution is proven…then keep going…add more data to solve additional, narrow challenges. Work the problem step-by-step, incrementally.

These are simple reminders of key ideas that many of us often forget when we get into the fray of or workdays. A lot of life and work is about getting back to the basics.