Data visualization is changing manufacturing, encouraging people and machines work together (OMRON Corporation)

In the age of the Internet of Things (IoT), production machinery and equipment generate vast quantities of data on an ongoing basis. Utilizing this data is one of the challenges of next-generation manufacturing systems. Fujitsu, with a longstanding commitment to innovation through ICT, has teamed up with Omron Corporation to design the next-generation data-driven manufacturing systems of the future.

Identifying efficiency improvements from aggregated data to boost productivity

The Sysmac platform from Omron, a world leader in industrial automation, provides integrated control for devices on the production line.

The heart of the Sysmac platform is the NJ Controller.

Sysmac has been installed on printed substrate and electronic device production lines at Omron's principal production facility, the Kusatsu Factory in Shiga prefecture. Highly automated factories tend to suffer declining returns from continuous improvement programs that have been in place for many years, causing productivity growth to stagnate.

Fujitsu is taking a new approach to the challenge of boosting productivity, one that involves setting up a variety of hypotheses on what we can find out from the data collected by Sysmac. Data from a range of sources is combined and used to extract key production information and generate reports with a strong visualization component.

Fujitsu technology is used to combine data from four separate processes and produce a visual representation of the entire production line

The production line in question comprises four separate processes. Fujitsu uses unique technology (patent applied for) to consolidate and integrate the data collected by Sysmac that controls processes and generates "Timeline Data Visualization" reports.

Timeline Data Visualization display shows key production statistics at a glance.

The graph lists processes on the horizontal axis with time on the vertical axis. It shows the time taken to produce a single product. In combination with bubble charts showing key statistics such as the number of errors in each process, this allows operators to determine the overall health of the production line at a glance.

For example, lines close together indicate efficient production levels, while lines far apart indicate that the production line has stopped and production is taking longer than expected.

In this way, data visualization has produced spectacular improvements in productivity, which had previously been an area of some concern.

Results visualization works well as a motivational tool for workers, boosting productivity by up to 30%

Data-driven production lines

Previously, when an error occurred it used to take expert engineers six hours to determine the cause based on their intuition and experience. With data visualization, now anyone can do it in an hour and resolve the error. This time saving alone represents a significant productivity boost.

But the single largest benefit of data visualization has been in raising awareness among workers on the factory floor. The reports clearly show where errors have occurred, as well as the impact of those errors on the rest of the production line. In this way, the workers are now able to appreciate the production line as a whole rather than concentrating only on their own tasks. And this has inspired them to provide valuable feedback and suggestions for improvement.

Workers can also see the actual benefits of improvements that have been introduced. This serves as an important source of motivation, providing the inspiration for further suggestions and creating a cycle of positive change.
The introduction of data visualization brought an almost instantaneous improvement in productivity, as evidenced by an increase in the number of chips mounted per hour (CPH) of nearly 30% in the space of just a few months.

Yoshihiro Adachi, General Manager of the Kusatsu Factory, Business Division HQ,was highly impressed with the reports.

"When the workers on the factory floor first saw the reports, they were amazed at how they showed exactly how the production line was performing - as if you were right there. The reports are both visual and intuitive. You can see right away where the problems are. Data visualization is like the bottom of a river: normally you don't see it, but if you take away some of the water, all of a sudden it's visible. It's been there all along, but you just couldn't see it. Data visualization has uncovered a whole treasure trove of improvement ideas for the factory."

In this way, Adachi and his team are harnessing the power of data for continuous improvement.

"Visualization using Sysmac data has generated important efficiencies, broadened the scope of what the machinery can do and helped to motivate workers by providing concrete evidence of benefits. Our productivity has increased spectacularly as a result. We think it has considerable potential in a range of other manufacturing-related areas."

Data is the future of manufacturing

Data visualization provided the impetus for further improvements. And since the results are also visualized, people, who are the lifeblood of manufacturing, are working more harmoniously with machines to generate truly impressive productivity improvements on a level never seen before.

"There's plenty more scope for improvement yet to come. We're looking to ramp up our use of data even more to improve performance further."

In this way, Fujitsu is harnessing the potential of ICT to create next-generation manufacturing where people and machines work together in harmony.

* Sysmac is a registered trademark of OMRON Corporation.