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Advantech’s IoT SaaS Platform Empowers Canadian Packaging Factory with Smart Applications

01/01/2024
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Although upgrading to smart factories is already necessary for manufacturers to maintain their competitiveness, many of them remain hesitant to make the transition because of various challenges, including the high cost and difficulty of IoT implementation and need for dedicated maintenance staff. With Advantech’s WISE IoT Platform subscription-based services, factories can now purchase services directly from the cloud and use ready-made I.Apps that make it easier to intelligentize their work processes. The digital transformation of a Canadian packaging factory Nefab is a prime example of how the iFactory/Andon I.App can be directly implemented from Advantech’s WISE-Marketplace to help intelligentize production processes with remote assistance from Advantech’s engineering team.

Adding iFactory Solutions optimizes existing digital transformation efforts

Nefab is a multinational enterprise that provides global industrial packing services and supplies. The company is constantly promoting its digital transformation in order to optimize its services across the supply chain and maintain international competitiveness. Although Nefab has already implemented an ERP, MES, and other systems, many deficiencies remain in their process management. Ihen Tsai, iFactory Product Manager at Advantech, elaborated that before implementing iFactory solutions, factory operators’ only indicator of a situation or problem with equipment was through the use of light stacks. If a production line is short of materials and requires replenishment from the warehouse, however, light stack systems are inefficient because they do not clearly indicate where the problem is. This requires operators to place multiple phone calls or locate relevant personnel to replenish materials. However, if staff become distracted by other work duties, this can cause delayed schedules, process inefficiency, and lower productivity.

Advantech’s iFactory/Andon I.App solved these operation process problems for Nefab. “By digitizing information in the operation process, the system clearly identifies what problems need to be solved in their operations, as well as where those problems are,” Mr. Tsai explained. The Andon I.App provides workstation reporting on production anomalies, assistance requests, key production event records (e.g., changeover and QC inspections), and ticket tracking, all of which ensure on-schedule production. 

For example, where materials such as wood panels and cardboard are required for packaging large items (e.g., pianos and furniture), the type and color of materials use to produce the packaging must be consistent. Normally, the wood is cut into panels and subject to further processing, a process during which material shortages are common. This interrupts operations as staff need to contact the warehouse for replenishment. This waiting time delays the entire production process. However, by implementing the Andon I.App, Nefab has reduced waiting times and minimized handling errors.

Achieving significant enhancements in productivity and cost saving

Nefab obtained significant benefits from implementing the iFactory/Andon I.App. For example, problem resolution times were reduced by up to 50%, problem frequency was reduced by almost 80%, and productivity was increased by 7%–8%. Additionally, the solution’s ability to help reduce costs can be further enhanced in the future with the implementation of Advantech’s Maintenance I.App, a solution that assists with equipment maintenance tracking and scheduling.

In the past, Advantech usually collaborated with domain-focused system integrators to assist manufactures with their IoT system implementation. Now, Nefab was able to purchase services directly from Advantech’s WISE-Marketplace, and Advantech’s engineering team in Taiwan was able to help them implement the Andon I.App via the cloud. This assistance included aiding Nefab with optimizing the user interface, providing staff training, and working with Advantech PMs to define reporting requirements and management processes in order to realize smart factory operations. Advantech’s efficient and professional assistance meant that the iFactory solution was fully implemented in less than three months.

iFactory, the ultimate solution for smart manufacturing

In the US, a baked goods manufacturer has also adopted Advantech’s iFactory Solutions, such as OEE and Andon, to implement more comprehensive and smarter production management at its factory in China at the end of 2022 and its Indonesia plant in 2023 Q1, with future collaboration on implementing SPC currently under discussion. This further demonstrates the viability of Advantech’s IoT subscription-based services as a solution that can help businesses in different industries make the transition to smart manufacturing.

Mr. Tsai emphasized the following three factors for effective factory management: availability, productivity, and quality. Advantech has developed six iFactory I.Apps based on these three factors. These include OEE, Andon, and Maintenance, which are mainly used to improve equipment availability; Shop Floor and eManual, which help optimize on-site operations and reporting processes to improve efficiency and productivity; and SPC, which uses statistics and AI to optimize quality. Mr. Tsai emphasized that enterprises can successively implement these I.Apps according to their needs.

The use of cloud-based systems for IoT applications has become a widespread practice, and the implementation of IoT systems that effectively leverage cloud and edge technologies will be key for manufacturers to achieve success in the era of intelligentization. With 40 years of extensive experience in software and hardware solutions and IoT cloud services, Advantech is the ideal partner for manufacturers who are making the transition to Industry 4.0. Mr. Tsai recommends that manufacturers leverage Advantech’s IoT SaaS services to advance factory operations toward Industry 4.0. 

Case Study Benefits 

1. Reduced waiting times and handling errors 

 2. Shortened operating times by 10%–20%, resulting in increased productivity 

 3. Fewer problems has increased reliability and reduced downtime

Solution and Benefits 

iFactory Solutions are a suite of solutions that can help factories improve OEE, reliability, energy efficiency, productivity, and safety while reducing emissions and maintenance costs. IIoT and iFactory I.Apps can help connect machines and equipment to logistics systems and facilitate the direct management of WIP components, creating a real-time lean manufacturing ecosystem that is more efficient and flexible for manufacturers.