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What Your Clipboard Won’t Tell You, Your Data Will

Smart Manufacturing, Production Management
December 20, 2022

At the time, it seemed like a good idea. Write down if there are any breakdowns, stoppages, changeovers, or anything that makes a machine stop. Write the time, the date, the reason, and how long it took to restart. Oh, and if you have any scrap from a startup, write that down by pounds and material type on another form.

In its day, this method was helpful because it was the beginning of modern-day data collection. It helped usher in process improvement methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma, and it definitely kept the makers of clipboards in business.

Clamped Forms, Clamped Data

The universal clipboard symbolizes systemizing production data to facilitate better understanding and decision-making. They were on the front of the machine, and they held a lot of data - sort of. They were collected by an army of administrative staff who then went and made the data make sense long after these events were recorded.

While manually collected data enabled many changes, the tight spring-loaded clamp became a symbol for the clamping down of the very data that it was supposed to empower. Even then, most of us knew there had to be a better way.

Secrets Your Clipboard Keeps

As technology forged ahead, companies tried to add other tools to the mix to rev up the data collected on the clipboard. Standalone software was added ad hoc to departments that wanted to organize the clipboard data.

This software wasn't always compatible with the software from other departments, so reports and outputs had to be rationalized between departments before they could be of use. These reports often needed to be manually entered into yet another computer, so they found themselves on another clipboard.

It became clear that the clipboard was hiding secrets - secrets that needed to be unlocked to progress and improve. Here are a few of the secrets your clipboard likely holds:

  1. They Have a Lot of Errors – People make mistakes. Sometimes the data is just wrong because someone responsible for writing it down was busy trying to get their machine back up and running.
  2. They’re Biased – People interpret things in different ways. On a clipboard, a downtime reason from shift B may differ from shift A's, even though they had the same cause.
  3. They Have a lot of Numbers – In haste, 99669 is quickly listed as 66996. Of course, that's only one of an infinite number of transpositions.
  4. They’re Very Busy – Clipboards hang out on the front of machines unless they’re left in the breakroom where they may miss a number, or two, or six, before someone comes back for them or starts a whole new form on another clipboard.
  5. They Love Chaos – Downtime reason 1: broken clip. Downtime reason 2: jammed spindle. Downtime reason 3: question mark - it just stopped. Clipboards host chaos like it's a New Year's Eve party.

Your Connected Data Will Never Keep Secrets

With a smart manufacturing platform, you can rely on one immutable truth: what your clipboard won't tell you, your data will. Smart manufacturing software removes the secrets and lies of the clipboard and replaces them with clear, unambiguous, data-driven, actionable insights.

The Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform™ links to IIoT systems to ensure that data flows without bias, omission, error, or chaos. With accurate data driven by cloud-based advanced analytics, you can automate business processes and track data automatically.

Imagine connecting your enterprise systems ranging from MES and ERPs to quality and supply chain management solutions so that all your tools can access a single version of the truth using standardized and contextualized data. It’s the way to unlocking total visibility to monitor production by machine, spindle, shift, or operator and identify reasons for downtime at or near real-time.

If you're tired of searching for the secrets your clipboards hide from you, contact Plex to unlock the power of your machine data and put it to work in driving your business to new heights.

About the Author

Plex Team

Plex Systems, Inc., a Rockwell Automation company, is the leader in cloud-delivered smart manufacturing solutions, empowering the world’s manufacturers to make awesome products. Our platform gives manufacturers the ability to connect, automate, track and analyze every aspect of their business to drive transformation. The Plex Smart Manufacturing Platform includes solutions for manufacturing execution (MES), ERP, quality, supply chain planning and management, Industrial IoT and analytics to connect people, systems, machines, and supply chains, enabling them to lead with precision, efficiency and agility.