User Spotlight

"PlantRun has revolutionised how we monitor OEE..”
Stuart Pearce
Operations Manager
Presspart Manufacturing
Click to read more.
The efficiency of machine operators can often be the most significant factor in improving manufacturing performance. Being able to track and analyse operator efficiency is crucial to this improvement.

Removing paperwork and transitioning to full paperless manufacturing is a goal for many companies and a crucial step towards digitalisation, the smart factory and Industry 4.0. Every organisation will be at a different stage in this ‘journey’ but there are some common elements.

The problem with paper

Organisations collect data, whether it is operational or regulatory, not for the data itself but for the information the data can provide. Whether data is collected and stored to paper or transcribed to software the following problems are suffered:
  • Inaccuracy
  • Cost
  • Lack of Visibility
  • Data islands


Errors are easily introduced when using paper based data collection, especially if it is subjective and relies, for example, on someone’s perception of time. How long was that machine stopped for? Transcribing paper based data to software introduces yet more errors and further increases costs due to the time taken to input the data. Inaccurate data is virtually worthless as the information it provides cannot be relied upon. Any action taken based on that information is likely to be wasted, adding to the overall cost. Efficiency improvements will be limited by the accuracy of the data collected.


Firstly, the cost of paper, ink etc. Paper and ink is not in itself expensive, making it easy to implement data collection with, so is one of the main reasons it is used
Storage is more expensive. You need to keep all that paper somewhere. Regulatory documents may need to be stored for years and in some case require specialised storage facilities so that the original documents do not deteriorate. Much more costly is the time taken by staff to collect and process the data. Even if you consider they are already being paid for their time they could be doing something more value added. If you do a simple cost calculation of the time taken it can easily run to many thousands of Pounds per year.

Lack of Visibility

Retrieving paper based data, and therefore the information it can provide, is often difficult to impossible. If the data is transcribed to software it takes time for someone to do this so there is always a lag before the information is available. The information to manage operations efficiently is not available when it is needed and it is common practice to be reacting to yesterday’s problems rather than responding to todays.

Data Islands

Over time, companies use a variety of applications and tools to support daily operational activities such as design and modification management, quality, production planning, sales, etc. This is how isolated ‘data islands’ are created, that are not shared or well maintained. Data collected for different reasons, in different formats. For example, production data is stored in a spreadsheet, on a laptop, without connection with other departments. Quality data is stored in another database and the rest of the organization cannot access it. If the data is not easily available to those who need it within the organization, then people will waste an unnecessary amount of time searching for that data.
Without a clearly defined central data source the chance of accessing the wrong version of that data increases significantly. The end result of data islands is that decisions can be made based on incorrect data, at every level of the organisation. Data islands are often based on different applications, files types, databases etc. so it is not straight forward to integrate them together.

How to remove paperwork?

The ideal solution is to remove the manual element of data collection altogether. If at all possible data should come directly from source, digitally. For example, if the data is from a manufacturing asset such as a machine, the data can be taken directly from the machine PLC, control system or by the addition of a low cost sensor. If it is not practical to eliminate manual interaction then devices such as barcodes and RFID tags can be used to ensure high accuracy and minimise interaction.

Where manual data entry is necessary then this should be done directly to an interface such as PC, touchscreen, tablet, smartphone or specialised hardware etc. In this way the data becomes digital instantly and easily retrievable. These types of interface not only allow data entry but can also provide feedback to the user regarding their performance and access to any other information they may need to do their job more effectively. For example, work instructions, training materials, schematics, checklists. Once data is captured digitally it becomes available enterprise wide enabling better management decision making.

Flexible systems like PlantRun are designed to provide this functionality, can act as a central database or be integrated with other enterprise systems including ERP, MES and CMMS to eliminate data islands. Let’s take a look at some typical examples.

Production Data Capture

Production data capture often relies on production staff filling out paper based forms at shift end, then these records being transcribed to spreadsheets. PlantRun is specifically designed to eliminate manual data collection by automatically capturing data from the manufacturing assets and making it available in an electronic format to other enterprise systems, and allow for full paperless manufacturing. The use of barcode scanners and RFID readers also removes operator errors and improves the quality of the data

Utilities Usage

By installing IP based meters to your utility supplies PlantRun can monitor energy usage of your electricity, gas, steam, compressed air, water etc. This eliminates the need for paper based meter reading. Add meters to each manufacturing asset and it becomes possible to determine energy consumption for each run or batch of product. Manufacturing sectors can also receive government support for energy saving initiatives in the form of grants.

Process Data Capture

In a similar way to energy usage any type of process data can also be monitored by the addition of suitable sensors or meters. This could be anything that is crucial to your manufacturing process such as temperature, humidity, pressure, flow, pH, level etc. This data can be captured, reported, analysed or even be used for control of the manufacturing process itself.

Health and Safety Checklists

Regulatory and compliance documentation is becoming an increasing requirement for manufacturers. The need for ever stricter health and safety practices means that pre-operational checklists are often mandatory. Management, storage and retrieval of paper based checklists is not ideal.

Again PlantRun systems can eliminate paper based checklists with questions displayed on interfaces at each asset. Making checklists digital has several benefits;
  • Checklist formats can be managed centrally making it easy to edit or amend checklist questions
  • Checklist questions can be randomised automatically.
  • Incorrect completion of checklists can be flagged up for training purposes.
  • Machine operation can be disabled unless specific questions are answered correctly

Work Instructions

PlantRun systems have been used to eliminate paper based work instructions by providing operator touch screen interfaces that can show e.g. assembly details, digitally and allow the operator to step through them page by page. By pulling files from a central database not only does this remove paper, it also ensures that the correct version of the work instruction is always being used.

Custom Data Capture

Just about any paper based data capture can be eliminated with a flexible system like PlantRun. A recent example is for gas calibration tracking. The usage of specialist gases and calibration of equipment that uses them was a paper based management exercise for a leading engine manufacturer. Provision of a touch screen interface in the gas bottle storage area and barcode capability for scanning gas bottles in and out meant that paper forms were replaced with a digital database that allows fast retrieval of accurate data and the ability to automatically trigger requests for new bottles from their suppliers.

Going paperless…

Going fully paperless, removing paperwork, manual interactions, integrating data islands requires clarity, investment and commitment from higher management downwards. It can be a planned implementation over time using in house resources or more often with a partner that has expertise in database and systems integration. Going paperless can be postponed but it cannot be put off indefinitely as your competitors are responding to the same market conditions. The sooner you start the sooner you will reap the many benefits.
Thermal imaging, thermography and non contact temperature monitoring has become indispensable tool in many industries. Support for thermal imaging cameras and line scanners enables automated data capture directly by PlantRun.

The current competitive environment is characterized by a progressive pressure on margins due to increasing material/resource costs and customer expectations for lower prices, higher quality and faster deliveries. Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) can help to counter this pressure by providing an insight into the causes of equipment problems, low productivity and quality yield.

PlantRun offers cost effective retro-fit conveyor monitoring systems to measure capacity, throughput, speed, run-time, blocked time, downtime and more.

Throughput of items or weight, speed and runtime only requires connection to a suitable sensor, which may already be pre-fitted to the conveyor. With the addition of an operator interface further information can be captured such as specific product or load type, batch ID, reasons for downtime, scrap etc.

Pre-start, pre-use or pre-production checks that require completion before operating a machine or asset can now be automated using PlantRun. Checking the asset and area for hazards, correct set up, provision of PPE etc can minimise the risks to your staff and ensure due diligence.

Checklists can be displayed on a PC, touch screen or tablet at the asset (or at any convenient location) when the operator logs on. The operation of the asset can be disabled, until the checklist has been completed. 

The completed checklist is stored directly to digital format allowing easy retrieval and analysis and reporting.
  • Checklists questions and answers can be randomised if required.
  • Allows assets to be secured by password and privilege
  • Stop workers without the correct training operating machines or equipment
  • Paperless work instructions and procedures can also be displayed
  • Access to assets can be controlled centrally
  • Assets that are unfit for use can be disabled remotely
To find out more contact us for further information
A manufacturing traceability system is enabling 3M to track critical input materials and components used in the production of respirators and particulate filters.

When manufacturing respirators a number of materials are fed into the process. To ensure compliance with the relevant standards it is necessary to have a process where input material batch numbers can be linked with output product.

The system replaces manual collection of input material batch numbers on to paper records. The requirement for paperless data capture was highlighted during the introduction of SAP on site.

manufacturing traceabilityIntermec CK3R mobile computers provide a convenient operator interface with touch screen for simple interaction allowing users to scan barcodes for the following:
  • Station ID
  • Operator ID (from their employee card)
  • Stock number (from the raw material ID ticket)
  • Batch number (from the raw material ID ticket)
Data is recorded to database making it available in virtual real time across the organisation on PC’s, tablets, smart phones, large screen displays in production and meeting areas etc.

As well as inputting data from barcodes, data is also captured automatically from PLC’s, including critical machine operations, pallet number, product count and product ID etc. Links to Zebra GK420 label printers enable printing of labels for pallets and boxes.

The system has been developed to work across all production areas on site including an area that is validated to FDA 21CFR Part 11 standard for electronic records and electronic signatures.

3M is a multi national corporation with global sales of over $31 billion (2017)

Having easy access to accurate manufacturing key performance indicators is vital to effective management and production efficiency.  Manufacturing KPI reporting is a major benefit of a PlantRun real-time manufacturing information system. The KPI data that is collected and stored by PlantRun can generate management reports or be displayed on manufacturing dashboards.

Reducing equipment or machine down time has an instant beneficial effect on manufacturing operational availability and output. However, without accurate information on the true amount and causes of unplanned downtime it can be difficult to identify how it can be reduced.

OEE highlights the “major losses” in the manufacturing process for focused improvement. It can then be used to measure the effect of efforts or initiatives introduced to reduce the major losses and thereby tap “hidden capacity”.

PlantRun systems continuously collect data from all monitored machines.  This information is then presented on a PC display as a 'shop floor overview', which provides an instant picture of the condition of every machine. Similarly large format overhead displays can provide relevant KPI information in production areas.

  • Minimise extended breaks, late starts, early finishes
  • Reduce overtime, shifts, manning levels
  • Increase competition and motivation

Measuring and improving operator efficiency of machines and equipment on the shopfloor can have a dramatic effect on manufacturing productivity and output.

Few manufacturers would admit to manufacturing unprofitable products even if they knew it. However, if you are manufacturing a range of products chances are that one or more could be unprofitable, unless you can accurately quantify the on costs of making each product line.

A manufacturing bottleneck is a constraint or choke point that limits production output.  Many manufacturing operations suffer from bottlenecks caused by one or more machines and the bottleneck may change depending upon the actual product being manufactured. Identifying and managing manufacturing bottlenecks can have a major impact on output and profits.

Are your machines stopped when they should be running?

Save 15 to 30 minutes per shift per operator? That’s what 41% of current users report*

Poor time keeping, operators starting late, taking extra time during breaks, finishing early and taking longer to restart a machine than they should is a typical scenario in many manufacturing companies.

Visual factory management is as it suggests the use of visual cues or aids to enable improved management of factories and manufacturing production areas.

PlantRun enables visual factory management in several ways including;

PlantRun is a real-time asset utilisation system and provides sophisticated collection, reporting and analysis of downtime – which is a major cause of lost manufacturing production.

engineer buttonPlantRun can provide highly accurate maintenance KPI’s in real-time for improved maintenance effectiveness or performance.

Quick Changeover, also referred to as Setup Reduction aims to minimise non-value added activities during production changeover and the setup processes, enabling faster, more efficient change from one product to another.

The manufacturing cost per unit or production cost per unit is often a crucial metric and can vary greatly from one production run to another depending upon the input cost variables.  An example would be when extra staffing is used to ensure rapid throughput at times of high demand.

Since it’s original development in Japan in the 1970’s OEE or Overall Equipment Effectiveness has become a widely used metric for measuring manufacturing efficiency.  OEE is the main tool of the Total Productive Maintenance improvement program and is used to reduce or eliminate the “Six Big Losses” that limit production.

PlantRun systems automate manufacturing OEE data collection, reporting and analysis eliminating the problems and costs associated with collecting and processing OEE data manually.

Short Interval Control (SIC) is a powerful method for improving production efficiency by focusing attention on major losses and forecasting risks over short time spans.

Accurate production line monitoring enables you to maximise efficiency, capacity, improve management as well as inform and motivate your staff.

SmartView gives you mobile business intelligence allowing you to remotely access your manufacturing operational kpi data directly from any mobile device.

ipad iphone

Acting as a mobile dashboard SmartView displays real time metrics directly from your PlantRun system allowing you to view the critical information you need for the smooth running of your business, whenever, wherever.

Increase Output, Reduce Downtime, Improve Quality, Cut Costs, Maximise Profits - Under One Year Payback Typical

In complex and competitive global markets today, is more vital than ever to maximise the effective use of manufacturing equipment. Improving shopfloor management and operational visibility is now a requirement for leading manufacturers and the status quo no longer justifiable.

Increase Output, Reduce Downtime, Improve Quality, Cut Costs, Maximise Profits - Under One Year Payback Typical

Accurate real time manufacturing data is crucial to maximising production efficiency, improving shopfloor management and manufacturing cost reduction.

PlantRun is not a planning and scheduling system but aids production planning and scheduling as each new production run or batch is identified by a unique user defined batch reference. The information for that run or batch, including start and end times and all relevant monitored parameters, can then be stored in the system database against that unique batch reference.

PlantRun has specialised facilities that enable manufacturing knowledge management through its use as a central knowledge base and as a manufacturing expert system.

Problem, breakdown or stoppage? Call for assistance at the push of a button.

Andon is a Japanese term for a system used in manufacturing to alert when there is a production problem in order to minimise any effect on output.

With PlantRun this alert can be made by pressing a button on the operator interface at the asset or may be activated automatically when a system alarm is triggered.

Get accurate live production counting from all your manufacturing assets - machines, lines, work cells, and manual operations - with PlantRun.

Reducing machine downtime has an instant beneficial effect on manufacturing production efficiency and output. However, without accurate information on the real amount and the causes of downtime it can sometimes be a difficult to see how machine downtime can be reduced.

PlantRun systems act as a manufacturing notification system by distributing information whenever and wherever it is needed, based on events and alarms, to enable smoother running of your production operations.

The primary aim is to provide faster response to and minimise production issues.

Real time monitoring of machine speeds provides two main benefits for improved efficiency.

Firstly, it is possible to accurately monitor speeds against target levels for each machine and alert when they are performing out of range.  In particular small variations in machine speed often go unnoticed by operators whereas a monitoring system can immediately alert the need for corrective action to be taken.

Data capture using barcode systems offers enormous benefits for manufacturers. Data capture is faster, more accurate and mistakes are minimized.

With a barcoding system you can easily obtain information that would be difficult or impossible to obtain otherwise. Faster access to information enables better management, better decision-making allowing you to gain advantages over the competition.

PlantRun is a highly effective and adaptable machine monitoring system. Although designed for automating manufacturing production data collection PlantRun can also be used for capturing any other required parameters or for specialised applications.
Machine monitoring is a broad term that means different things to different people. We have over 30 years expertise in applying software solutions to machine monitoring applications and we will be pleased to discuss your requirement whatever it is.

Cost effective, expandable and futureproof

production monitoring displaysHaving accurate information at production level is crucial to drive manufacturing efficiency and lean and continuous improvement initiatives. PlantRun provides cost effective real-time production monitoring to enable you to;
  • Optimize the use of current capacity 

  • Reduce production costs

  • Reduce inventory

  • Increase visibility across departments

  • Improve customer response time

  • Payback typically less than 12 months

(Yes, you can track your manual operations)

If your manufacturing operation includes manual production PlantRun can be used to monitor and track performance, including OEE, in a similar way to any other asset.