Spring forward, or fall back

We want to take full advantage of this bright time in our industry. We want to maximize our time and seize the opportunity.
By Bob Vavra, CFE Media April 16, 2018
The history of Daylight Savings Time is a pretty fascinating one. The idea of Daylight Savings Time first took hold in Europe before ultimately migrating to other countries, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere.
U.S. law says that, unless your state can opt out for some reason, clocks are set ahead by one hour at 2 a.m. on the second Sunday in March. On the first Sunday in November at 2 a.m., clocks are set back one hour. It’s not the same rules everywhere, of course: in the European Union, for example, Daylight Savings Time starts on the last Sunday in March at 1 a.m. and ends at 1 a.m. on the last Sunday in October. 
If the logistics are confusing, the concept is a simple one: allocate more daylight in the evenings during the summer, when days are longer. While some see Daylight Savings Time as an energy solution, and others decry it as an unnecessary inconvenience, one truism is that it allows us to enjoy more daylight on a summer evening, when the weather is nicer. We even have a memorable phrase to help know how and when to adjust our clocks: “Spring Forward; Fall Back.” 
It’s now springtime in manufacturing, and that phrase should take on more urgency as we prepare for accelerated growth in the overall economy and in our sector. We want to take full advantage of this bright time in our industry. We want to maximize our time and seize the opportunity. 
To spring ahead at this time means to look at how to improve operational processes and upgrade equipment. In this month’s issue, we take a look at how and why to retrofit a press; it’s a great article and worth spending some time with, but it also should spark a discussion within your plant about which equipment to repair, which to retrofit, and which needs to be replaced. You probably already have a good idea into which category your equipment falls; now would be the time to turn that knowledge into action.
Training is another discipline that should come into the light. As you examine your operations, you can find the places where a little tighter adherence to best practices might improve efficiency with little or no capital costs. A major overhaul in operations often isn’t the answer; a few tweaks here and there can make a big difference.
No matter the strategy you employ, manufacturing needs to seize on the advantages and opportunities today, as well as lay the groundwork for the manufacturing challenges to come. As lot sizes get smaller, logistics becomes more of an imperative to meet consumer demands and data management becomes pervasive on the plant floor, the pressures to run a tight operation also become more acute. It’s easier to run a tight ship before the storms show up; the phrase “batten down the hatches” literally means securing the hatches so the ship doesn’t take on water. 
To make Plant Engineering continually useful, we need to provide information not just about the best practices for our readers, but also talk as much as possible about the return on investment of those efforts. Getting the chance to upgrade a plant with capital improvements requires capital expenditures, and those decisions are made using a different set of metrics.
This is something the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is designed to help achieve: a defined and understandable set of data that shows how equipment is running today and how it is likely to run in the future. IIoT will help plant personnel in all departments shed some daylight on how the plant operates so as to forestall plant shutdowns or disruptions. That’s the kind of daylight saving that everyone from the C-Suite to the plant floor can relate to.
It is time to spring forward in manufacturing, but at this critical juncture in our economic rebirth, my concern is that some will choose to do nothing. In the end, they will fall back, and that will simply waste this great chance we have. 

Bob Vavra, content manager, CFE Media, bvavra@cfemedia.com.