How collecting data in a manufacturing plant can increase efficiency and learning

The more you know about your plant's operations, the more opportunity you have to improve efficiency and outcomes. To increase their knowledge about their operations, manufacturing companies are increasingly turning to data collection and analytics technology. Using sensors, manufacturing data collection software and other tools, manufacturers can collect data about a wide range of aspects of their plants and overall business. By evaluating and contextualizing the data, you can uncover insights that assist with enhancing manufacturing process control, increasing process efficiency, reducing costs, improving product quality and more.


An advanced software platform like zenon by COPA-DATA can enable the digital transformation and make data acquisition, management and analysis, application engineering and system control easier. In this article, we look at how plant efficiency and other aspects of your plant can be improved through data.


What data is beneficial to collect?

Data contextualization – which turns your data into valuable business information – and the subsequent decisions to improve your business is dependent upon what kind of data you collect. Because so many factors typically impact manufacturing processes, a wide range of data types from across your operations can be beneficial. Some of the most common information that manufacturing firms include in their production data collection includes the following.


  • Equipment status: Using sensors, you can collect detailed information about your equipment. Data collection enables you to see when your equipment is operating, how efficiently it's operating and more.
  • Line management: Line management involves many different factors, all of which data collection technologies can help you keep track of. Gaining a clearer view of your production line can help you increase efficiency.
  • Energy data: Collecting real-time data about your energy consumption helps you boost energy efficiency, reduce costs and operate more sustainably.
  • Order cycle times: By tracking metrics related to order cycle time, you can determine steps you can take to improve the process, thereby improving customer satisfaction, increasing orders fulfilled and boosting profits.
  • Shipping rates and times: Tracking and analyzing shipping rates and times allows you to provide more accurate shipping estimates, reduce shipping costs and deliver orders more quickly.
  • Delivery accuracy: Delivery accuracy is an important factor in customer satisfaction. Tracking metrics related to this factor enables you to pinpoint potential causes of incorrect order delivery and adjust them.
  • Business decisions: With data collection technologies, you can use data to inform business decisions and track the impact those decisions have on operations and management.

Uncover insights to enhance manufacturing process control, increase efficiency, reduce costs, improve product quality and much more.

Identify patterns

After you have started to collect manufacturing plant data, you can begin analyzing your data to uncover patterns and insights into your operations. To help accomplish this, you can combine historical data with recent data. As you continue collecting data, you'll gain deeper insights that have more value for your business.


There are four major processes involved in identifying patterns in your data, all of which zenon Software Platform can help you complete.


  • Data acquisition: Data acquisition involves collecting data from your equipment to give you a more complete view of your facility. Connect all of your industrial devices, even in a heterogeneous hardware landscape, to acquire data that you can easily validate and pre-process.
  • Data recording: Automation software with data recording capabilities can combine both machine-generated and manually input data. As it's stored, make sure the data is correctly aggregated, structured and contextualized so it's easily usable. This process eliminates data silos and ensures you can use all of your information.
  • Data management: The next step is to manage and contextualize your data so you can get the maximum benefit from it. zenon, for instance, offers numerous options for modeling and contextualizing data across your plants and can display all relevant information in a user-friendly way, even across equipment and locations.
  • Data analytics and reporting: Once your data is collected and organized, you can make sense of and use your data. From simple calculations to extensive reports, analyze it to gain insights into how to improve your manufacturing efficiency and productivity.


Determine areas of improvement


As you collect and analyze your data, look for areas where you can improve your operations. You may uncover potential improvements in various areas. Your data may reveal, for example, opportunities to reduce your energy consumption, improve product quality or decrease your costs.


Data collection serves as the basis of these enhancements. For these improvement strategies to be successful, the data you collected needs to be complete and accurate. Your analyses of the data also need to produce reliable results. You can get accurate data collection and in-depth but user-friendly reports with zenon.


Implementing modern data collection and analysis technology can enable substantial benefits. For example, in order to address many issues from manually collecting data, a PepsiCo bottler and distributor digitalized its entire data acquisition, visualization and reporting process with zenon. As a result, the company has gained full transparency of their production and has significantly improved the efficiency and quality through more informed decisions.

How to use this data

Once you've identified the opportunities for improvement you want to focus on, what are the next steps? The exact steps you'll need to take depend on the changes you want to make. Below, we'll discuss how to get started with using your data to gain critical information and make improvements in various areas.


1. Manufacturing operations

Data can, for instance, help you optimize the use of your equipment. You may find that a particular machine operates more efficiently on a certain setting. You will discover the factors that impact your manufacturing lines, such as machine installation and usage, system configurations and employee performance. You might also find areas within your processes that you want to improve. When looking at past data about when machines were in operation, you might find that it takes an especially long time for employees to start using equipment at the beginning of a shift.

By generating the actionable data, you can then improve the overall efficiency by addressing the equipment utilization and training of your employees.


2. Quality assurance

Quality assurance is another area that data can help improve. With the enhanced visibility that your data provides, you can more easily identify the causes of product defects.


With zenon, you can create reports that provide evaluations of production quality, including Statistical Process Control (SPC) reports and Process Capability reports. The Process Capability report can, for example, show you whether production is running with defined limits. The control chart available with zenon assesses the stability of quality within series production and can help you quickly identify variations in product quality.


One industry that has especially strict quality requirements is the pharmaceutical industry. By standardizing data from various sources and providing detailed reports, zenon can help you meet these standards. Initial data becomes available during a process, and the final reports are available immediately after a process ends, improving data quality and saving time. In addition to enabling the automatic collection of machine data, you can input data manually into zenon via a terminal or mobile device, combining both automatic and manual data in a homogeneous system. The software guides the operator through all required fields and ensures the manual data is entered correctly.


3. Equipment maintenance

Another way to use data to increase manufacturing efficiency is by improving how you maintain your equipment. You can use the data you collect to inform a predictive maintenance program.


Performing maintenance purely on a set schedule can result in replacing components sooner than is necessary and missing maintenance needs that arise unexpectedly, both of which can increase costs. A reactive maintenance program, which involves reacting to problems as they arrive, can result in increased downtime and worsened equipment performance. A predictive maintenance program, on the other hand, constantly monitors equipment condition so you can predict when problems may arise and determine the ideal time to perform maintenance work or replace components. This helps prevent breakdowns and downtime and can reduce your maintenance costs.


4. Energy management

You can also use data to boost manufacturing efficiency by tracking information about your energy use and leveraging that information to reduce and optimize your energy consumption. Optimizing your energy use decreases your company's costs as well as its environmental impact. It can also help you meet the requirements of the ISO 50001:2011 standard for energy management.


When you look at your energy data, you may find, for instance, that a certain piece of equipment is using significantly more power than other similar pieces of equipment. Using this information, you can find the cause of this increased power consumption, whether that's a faulty component or inefficient operating practices. You might also find improvements you can make to your overall facility, such as improving insulation or investing in a more efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning unit. Improved energy data management may also help reveal opportunities for using alternative energy sources or installing on-site generation, which may further reduce costs and environmental impact.


5. Test out new processes

Planning production is a complex task, as you must account for a wide range of activities. Using zenon Smart Checklist can help you to keep track of and successfully complete your processes. It replaces paper lists and helps ensure fewer errors, increased efficiency and enhanced flexibility. Along with the Batch Control module, you can easily access functionalities such as audit trail, alarming and messaging, historian and communication with ERP systems.


When testing new processes, it's important to streamline the data storage and management. Using zenon Smart Checklist, backed up by recorded data, you can create test logs and reports to optimize your processes.

zenon Smart Checklist tracks complex processes and ensures fewer errors and improved efficiency in production.

6. Inventory control

Optimizing your inventory is an excellent way to reduce costs, increase efficiency and improve customer satisfaction. While you want to ensure you always have sufficient inventory to meet customer demands, having too much stock can be a drain on your company's finances. It can be challenging to strike this balance, but keeping close track of your inventory data can help you succeed in doing so.


The right software can help you keep more accurate inventory records and update your inventory data faster. It can also enable you to see all of your data in one place, even if you have inventory across multiple facilities.

7. Sustainability and safety

Sustainability, safety and other aspects of corporate responsibility are increasingly important for today's businesses. Customers, suppliers and other stakeholders increasingly consider these aspects when deciding whether to buy from or work with a given company.


Data can help you create a more sustainable business by helping you to reduce your energy use or use cleaner energy resources. You may also be able to minimize material waste and optimize your supply chain with the assistance of data analytics.


Furthermore, it enables you to identify areas in which you can improve safety. For instance, tracking data might identify problems that may cause a machine to malfunction and potentially injure workers, allowing you to fix issues before they cause an injury. You might also detect factors that increase the likelihood of injury or unsafe conditions and proactively eliminate these issues.


Get started with zenon Software Platform

Collecting and connecting plant data from all levels, from the production floor to enterprise resource planning (ERP), is crucial for making business decisions, staying competitive and improving operational efficiency in manufacturing. The right software can help you get there.


zenon from COPA-DATA is a software platform designed to make the engineering and automated operation of manufacturing equipment easy. It's a standardized software onto which you can add modules and features, and it integrates HMI, SCADA, soft PLCs, IoT, reporting, messaging, alarming and other features into one platform. Manufacturing firms across various industries, from food and beverage to pharmaceuticals to automotive, can use zenon to boost their manufacturing plants’ efficiency, productivity and profitability.


Just as our products help you to continuously improve your operations, we are continuously improving our software to ensure it maintains optimal performance and provides state-of-the-art technology. We have over 30 years of experience in helping businesses improve their processes and are ready to assist your company in reaching your goals.


To learn more about how zenon can help with data collection for manufacturing and industrial operations improvement, browse our website or contact us today.