Injection Molding | 2 MINUTE READ

Home-Grown Production Monitoring System Brings Industry 4.0 to Smaller Shops

An automotive molder’s need for simple, affordable, easy-to-use production monitoring resulted in a system that brings data-driven decision making to plants of all sizes.
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Three to four years ago, Axiom Group, a Canadian Tier 1 automotive molder, started looking around for a production-monitoring system and concluded that the commercial products on the market were too costly and too complex, requiring weeks of personnel training and expensive installation. “Let’s build our own,” was the response of Perry Rizzo, Axiom’s president, co-founder, and co-owner.

The result was Smart Attend, the first prototype of which was installed on an injection machine in early 2016. It is now used on all injection machines at Axiom’s headquarters plant, and on machining systems in its tooling operations. Smart-Attend terminals are at each lead hand’s desk and in the central office. A large Smart Attend screen is located on a wall of the molding floor and has become an anchor site for production team meetings. Last June, Smart Attend became available commercially to other processors and moldmakers—and you can see it here at Booth S10039.

As explained by Max Preston, director of sales and marketing for Smart Attend, the product is based on key concepts of simplicity, affordability, fast setup (two to four hours, in most cases, without need of specially trained personnel), and ease of use. Another key concept is immediate availability of important, useful data—not a digital blizzard of information—to everyone who can use it. “With Smart Attend, data goes instantly from machines to managers,” says Preston, adding that “Big Data does not equal smart data. A production-monitoring system does not need to provide a lot of data, but just crucially important data, usable data, actionable data.”

Another fundamental concept is bringing a key element of Industry 4.0—data-driven decision making—to smaller shops. Explains Preston, “We decided that the ‘smart factory’ should not be only for large multinational organizations. We built Smart Attend to bring the benefits of real-time manufacturing data to entry-level companies and owner-operated firms that need to move themselves forward in competitiveness.”

Data-driven decision making, adds Rizzo, “is a quantum shift in how people run their business. In many shops today, people come in Monday morning—or any morning—and get together to discuss the weekend’s or last night’s problems, and then people fan out to try to gather information on what went wrong and why. With Smart Attend, there’s no need for morning meetings. Problems were identified when they happened overnight; the appropriate people were notified; and they had data in their hands that could help them find a solution right away.”

He cites the example of Smart Attend’s Pareto charts that make it quickly apparent to managers where (or when) their biggest—and most expensive—sources of downtime and quality problems are occurring. “It takes away redundant, burdensome thought processes from managers and highlights their top three or five issues that need attention.”

“For us, the importance of Smart Attend has been monumental,” says Rizzo. “We’re a lean Just-in-Time operation. We don’t hold safety stock for our customers. We can’t make mistakes. One of our biggest problems was the human interaction—manually entered data, which could be missing or inaccurate. Smart Attend ends that. Smart Attend does not have opinions; it has data.”

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