How To Manage Equipment Obsolescence

No one wants expensive unplanned downtime. Here are key steps to avoid it when dealing with obsolete technology.

close up of a toothed gear system.  Such systems may be affected by equipment obsolescence.
No one wants downtime because of equipment obsolescence. Keep those gears turning.

Unplanned downtime due to equipment obsolescence.  

It’s a dirty subject no one wants to talk about. And for good reason.  A 2016 study by the Aberdeen Group put downtime costs across industries at a whopping $260,000 per hour, up 60% from 2014 data.  A 2014 Gartner study was even worse: placing the average cost at $336,000/hour.   One lost eight-hour shift could mean a $2.08 million to $2.68 million loss. 

Regardless of who’s right about the costs, eliminating downtime and disruption is a high priority for most businesses.   Yet more than two-thirds of companies don’t have a full understanding of when their equipment should be maintained, upgraded, or replaced.  

While we’re excited about the future of  Industry 4.0 and IIoT, where every machine can self-analyze its needs and tell you what to do before there’s a problem, we also understand most factories and industrial locations aren’t there yet. They likely won’t be for decades as they continue to operate with older systems in place. 

But old doesn’t mean unusable.  Here’s why. 

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Bring Legacy Equipment to the Industrial Internet of Things Age

This photo of industrial equipment by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

There are reasons to bring legacy equipment into the Industrial Internet of Things (IIot) Age.

Most manufacturers work with older equipment. A 2017 McKinsey report notes factory machinery and tools have an average age of 11 years. Industrial equipment lasts by design; we even use the term “industrial strength” to attribute higher-than-usual durability and power to everything from bug spray to boots. And when something is still working–and working well–a full upgrade to something new can be a difficult sell.

But many of these older legacy systems were created before the age of connected manufacturing systems, which bring with them a number of added benefits. A connected “smart factory” can mean higher productivity, increased flexibility, a safer manufacturing floor, and lower costs.

One option that bridges the gap between a full upgrade and missing out on all these benefits is to perform a retrofit of connected IoT gateway and data feedback devices. But until recently, this kind of upgrade was a complicated and costly affair. But it doesn’t have to be anymore, and more options are available.

What is the Industrial Internet of Things?

IIoT or the Industrial Internet of Things is the industrial extension of IoT. Automation in a traditional factory improves through the use of interconnected smart sensors. Other instruments work with sensors to take advantage of data collection and analysis. This happens on a networked (Internet) platform.

Options for Connecting your Factory Floor

There are several options now available for connecting your legacy systems to the IoT. These include

  • Retrofitting IIoT Connectivity. IoT gateways use software, sensors, and industrial-based control systems to provide a simple connection that can send data in real-time.
  • Using Video Cameras. Video analytics allow cameras to recognize objects, people, or issues on your floor automatically.
  • Using Edge Devices. Data can be accessed via local devices. This can improve security and provide access to process data more quickly.
  • Using Biometric Devices. Your employees can become part of your data acquisition through the use of biometric wearables or tags. This works in conjunction with additional upgrades.
Infographic: Bring Legacy Equipment Into the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) Age
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What is Lean Manufacturing?

We answer some of your questions about Lean.

Lean helps all parts of your organization come together as an organized machine.

History of Lean Manufacturing

“Lean Manufacturing” as a term has only been around for a little over 30 years. The term was originally coined by John Krafcik (now CEO of Waymo and former CEO of Hyundai Motor America) in his MIT master’s thesis entitled “Triumph of the Lean Production System.”

Definition: Lean Manufacturing

a practice or process
that seeks to minimize waste while maximizing value to the customer or client.

While Krafcik may have created the term, lean manufacturing has been around for significantly longer. It can be traced back to the work of Eli Whitney, who was the first to successfully manufacture a product with interchangeable parts, and to time and motion studies by engineers like Frederick Taylor and Frank and Lillian Gilbreth applied to industrial workers of the early 20th century. Additionally, Henry Ford’s assembly line was also a leap forward in lean manufacturing.

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