What is Data Logging and Why Is It Important?

What is data logging?

Data logging is the collection and recording of information and data from around your production process.  Data is usually collected automatically, but there may also be the need for manual input points where staff can input data or add relevant comments to explain the reason for downtime, faults, or change of operator.

Within any production line there are large quantities of data that can be logged. The data that you decide to collect for your production process should be data that is going to be useful to you in informing developments and improvements within your production.  Examples of the type of data that is often collected include:

  • Quantity of parts made
  • Accuracy of parts made
  • Cycle time
  • Faults
  • Downtime
  • Reason for downtime
  • Run Time
  • Job changes
  • Operator changes

Data can be collected automatically by sensors within the production line that are set to monitor the production process.  The data that these sensors collect is then harnessed and recorded in a central PLC/PC based controller. This logged data can then be combined, recalculated, plotted on graphs, displayed on dashboards, compared to previous data and used to inform business decisions in relation to staff, product and production.

All of this data can be viewed from your PC or Smartphone enabling you to closely monitor your production line from anywhere at any time; you can even monitor your process from home on your smartphone via the cloud.  There is no longer the need to walk around the factory floor to see what is happening.


Why log data?

Many companies have lots of machinery within their production process but do not log the interaction between them or their running time and down time.  This means that making business decisions in relation to production can be very difficult as there is no data to work on. Without a data logging system it is very difficult to obtain the necessary information for you to know exactly what is happening in your production process.  Questions such as: ‘Why did the operator stop the machine?’, ‘Why did the machine operator not take any product off the machine for the last 15 minutes?’, and ‘Why was there a product fault?’ are all very difficult to answer without the relevant data.

Logging data provides you with the necessary information to make educated and informed decisions in relation to improving your production process and efficiency.  It enables you to pick up on areas of the production line or staff that are bottlenecks within the process.  Having collected the relevant data, you can then implement changes to eliminate the bottlenecks as well as having the option to set staff bonuses based on throughput and production speed.

Data logging is essential if you wish to get your factory up to I4 standards as it is necessary to have your complete production process connected and logged so that data is easily accessible.


The pitfalls of data logging

One of the largest pitfalls of data logging is collecting too much data.  Having too much data can mean that no data gets used at all as when there’s a lot of data it becomes cumbersome to pull out the data you really need.  It is therefore very important to be very focused on what data you need to collect and what you are going to use this data for.  It is important to think carefully as to what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to use the data that you collect to improve your production.


How to implement

As with any type of automation, you need to start with the end goal in mind and ensure your production monitoring system is built to suit your end goal.  If for instance you are wishing to just monitor the end of a production line, you can have some sensors installed around the end of the line to monitor quality, quantity and speed.

It is important to get staff buy in on a production monitoring scheme, and this can be achieved by introducing a bonus scheme based on the results from the data you collect, as well as enforcing the use of the system.


Use the data

If you don’t use the data you collect, production monitoring can easily become a wasted investment. As a production manager this data is very useful in identifying bottlenecks and faults within your process.  Having identified a fault or bottleneck, you can then implement change and monitor the data to check that the changes you have implemented have worked. It is then possible to back up why you have implement change when discussing with your staff or managers as you have the data available to prove your point. e.g. We have implemented these changes because the data showed this machine was a bottleneck/down for 5% of the time, due to an issue. Since we have identified and sorted this issue we have seen a 5% increase in production from that machine bringing £20,000 more revenue to the business per month.

Data can also be used for staff motivation schemes. Last week I was at a factory where we had installed a production monitoring system.  Part way through the afternoon one of the factory workers suddenly began leaping around and shouting for glee because he had hit his bonus target and his dashboard had gone green ahead of all the other factory staff. Actions like this are infectious!  Enthusiasm breeds enthusiasm!  Having a scoreboard drives employee engagement as your staff can tell if they are winning or losing. Think about it; If you were watching a few kids having a football match at your local recreation ground from a distance, do you reckon you could tell if they were keeping score or not, just from the way they were playing? The answer is definitely YES! If you went to a football match but there were no scoreboards and you didn’t know the score, would you be as enthused about the game? Would you be giving the same level of support? When an employee knows what they are working towards it adds a sense of purpose to their work.  They become motivated by the scoreboard and start to take ownership for their part in the score, a positive culture starts to develop in the company.


For more information on production monitoring and data logging, contact our automation consultants on 01223 499488, or if you would prefer, get Instant Pricing for Production Monitoring and Data Logging Systems now.

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