Young electrical engineer woman working on checking light indication status equipment at solar and wind power plant with digital tablet pc checklist in  control room of modern power plant electric energy station. XXXL size taken with Canon 5D MIV

You will spend months evaluating the different software packages you can use in your fight to stop downtime and waste from eating your profits. Vendors will show you the features and functions of their wares and promise a clear view of what is happening on the shop floor – delivered right to users’ PCs or mobile devices. They’re right — but when it comes to getting automated data from your process, there are 3 common mistakes that will cost you thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours.

Don’t assume your equipment can provide the level of detail you’re expecting to see.

Set very specific goals for what you expect to get from your equipment. List those goals and then go about finding out if your equipment can share that information without additional programming, network hardware, or modernization. It’s common for plants to set a goal to get information about the health of their equipment for predictive analytics, or to track alarms from the control systems for root cause analysis – only to find out the equipment cannot provide that information without a significant investment. Knowing what is available up front helps you choose the right place to invest in pilots, or to plan capital to modernize your control systems or alter programming. 

Don’t underestimate the complexities of adding data producers to your network

Cyber security, added network traffic, and server resources are just a few of considerations you will want to make as you prepare to connect manufacturing equipment to the network. You will be adding a load to the network that your team and your infrastructure may not be prepared to handle. Even if you plan to go completely rogue and make no considerations for data security and user authentication, you should evaluate your network and make a plan to augment it appropriately at a scale commensurate to your project. Before you connect your equipment, you’ll  want to have some discussions with your IT department or an outside contractor to ensure your network is secure, isolated, and capable of giving what you need.

Don’t wait to start investigating your equipment’s information capabilities

Once you make that capital investment on software and services to get your MES up and running, all eyes will be on you, and stakeholders will be expecting results quickly. Getting your equipment connected will slow your progress if you aren’t prepared.  Start getting the specifics on what is possible with your equipment while you are still in the dating phase of software evaluation. The discovery process will help you ask better questions of your software vendors, allow IT to get infrastructure in place, and help you set smarter implementation goals.

Your factory information system is going to help you crush downtime and waste, so don’t slow your progress by failing to get a clear picture of where you are right now.  If you want help to expedite this process, we suggest starting with an Automation Diagnostic  It is an inexpensive way to help you be informed about your equipment, and provide the details your IT team needs to get ready for your new information system. The Automation Diagnostic starts at $1500 for 10 machines, and is the most cost effective way to learn everything you need to know.