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How Azure IoT Enables Operations Managers to Boost Production Efficiencies

Published January 7 2022
Diane Perry, Senior Solution Architect (Microsoft Practice)
Diane Perry
Senior Solution Architect (Microsoft Practice)

Gathering and Analyzing Production Performance Data using a SCADA System and Microsoft Azure IoT

Operations Managers are challenged with effectively managing manufacturing processes and machine efficiencies in real-time while also managing the day-to-day business processes and personnel. An Operational Manager's objectives include keeping the business running efficiently, producing high-quality goods, maintaining optimal run rates, and keeping costs within budget by managing waste, machine downtime, etc.

In a traditional manufacturing setting, operations management is still a very manual process including walking the production floor to inspect machines, checking in with team leads and line workers regularly for performance reporting, and having daily update meetings to be made aware of obstacles and challenges causing delays and subpar production output. In many cases, management doesn't know of a slow-performing production day until the next day when reporting is available, and by then it's too late to take action to remedy the loss of production. This results in a reactionary break-fix management process.

Accessibility of real-time data using a SCADA system and Microsoft Azure IoT supports proactive management instead of reactive management.

With the implementation of a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system, and the Internet of Things (IoT), real-time data from the production floor is available to Operational Managers. People and technology work together to form an industrial control system comprised of programmable logic controllers (PLCs), and sensors placed on production machines, as well as tools to allow workers to input data recording their performance. This system of people and machine data provides measurable and actionable telemetry data to the Microsoft Azure IoT hub. Reports are then generated based on the Hub data for consumption by the management team, executives, etc. Microsoft Power Apps and/or Microsoft Power BI Dashboard presents the data to users, real-time or at near real-time.

Performance operational efficiencies metrics such as downtime, quality, machine run rates, etc. are displayed on the Apps and Dashboards in near real-time and users can take immediate action to remedy a reported problem resulting in minimal loss of production time and higher operational efficiencies.

Implementing a Microsoft Azure IoT solution, coupled with the functionality of Microsoft Power Apps, and the real-time reporting capabilities of Microsoft Power BI reports, allows organizations to replace what is traditionally a very time-delayed, manual spreadsheet data reporting and analytics process. These tools support improved operational efficiencies, offer the ability to proactively manage people and assets, and allow for real-time reporting and decisions to be made resulting in overall positive process and operational improvements. Additionally, this data could be potentially fed to Microsoft Azure AI and ML models for predictive analytics which can improve the reaction time to potential adverse events even before they could occur thereby improving operational efficiencies even further.

Adoption of these technologies will be the differentiator for manufacturing organizations that have to adapt to future crises and weather the storms in their supply chains. Organizations that adopt these Industry 4.0 technologies will ensure their survival and Microsoft is the right technology platform in enabling that digital transformation in manufacturing.

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