Building a business case for 4K in manufacturing

Posted March 01st, 2016 by Frank Crouwel

Manufacturing production area4K resolution cameras are likely to see strong demand in UK manufacturing plants.

For some years now, UK manufacturers have been migrating their industrial automation systems from a range of proprietary transmission protocols like Profibus and DeviceNet, to IP-based systems transmitting data across Ethernet infrastructures.

This move has opened up the potential for IP Video systems to be used to monitor the performance, condition and safety record of the robots, production line machines and devices (and the employees that work alongside them).

Hand-held and fixed thermal cameras are already heavily used in plants to monitor the temperature of devices and the materials being produced. Cameras are also used in Machine Vision systems for inspection of specific aspects of a product during manufacture. However, as the relentless quest for increased efficiency and productivity continues, we see a clear opportunity for 4K cameras right across UK manufacturing plants.

There is an increasing focus in plants, now that most manufacturing systems are networked, to bring together all the data being generated by plants’ input, logic, output, safety and other sensing devices. This data is being fed into SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition), MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems which help order, cross-tabulate and visualise that data.

By analysing these ‘big data’ sets, operations managers are better able to understand constraints and points of vulnerability which stand in the way of plants’ drives for increased efficiencies. This appears to be the vision for ‘Industry 4.0’ as some now call it. So how can 4K-based video systems support this vision and how can mangers build a solid business case for deploying 4K systems to help monitor production lines and distribution centres?

In the surveillance world, the case for 4K has already been made. Put simply 4K cameras deliver four times higher resolution and four times more pixels than the predecessor technology – HD. The fact that 4K delivers many more pixels on target also means that increasingly sophisticated video content analytics software, can do a far more effective and accurate job which itself unlocks efficiencies – reducing false positives for example.

This fact creates an increasing likelihood of identifying a villain or reading a car number plate. This increased accuracy means that manned guarding teams can do a much better job, focusing on the real threats rather than false alarms. More than this, because 4K cameras deliver far more visual information and pixel density, it also means that up to four times less cameras are needed (than HD equivalents) to do the same job. For new video implementations requiring quite a few cameras, this makes a massive difference to the installation cost. These savings more than counteract the small increases in cost per camera and help deliver rapid return on the new investment.

But how do some of these benefits translate onto the factory floor? Take the example of the production line that is about 60 feet long, where condition monitoring of key process control devices (servo drives for example) is required by the new IP video system – demanding 80 pixels per foot image specification to assess this. The number of pixels across the image required to cover the production line is 5,120. So in order to cover that area with HD cameras (delivering 1920 x 1080 pixels), you would need three cameras (5120/1920 = 2.7 cameras).

Sony SNC-VM772R - 4K IP cameraHowever, if you instead specified the use of Ultra HD 4K cameras (delivering 3840 x 2160 pixels) like the new Sony VM772R, you would be able to cover the whole production line and associated components with just two cameras (5120/3840 = 1.33). With 4K, this reduction in the number of cameras can be replicated across all applications. For example, there would be clear value in deploying 4K cameras to monitor and send an alert together with a visual record of any member of staff or visitor walking outside the designated safe pathways which run the length of all plants and dispatch areas.

Let’s examine in more detail how 4K cameras could be used to help reinforce Health & Safety controls in plants. They could be used alongside safety control systems such as safety light curtains. So that when a safety curtain have to be put into manual/mute mode in order to complete a maintenance task, make an adjustment to the set-up of a machine, or facilitate manual loading fresh raw material; it would make clear sense to have a high resolution visual record of this safety risk event. During mute operation, live video covering the area could be re-laid onto managers’ HMIs in real-time. Recordings of such events could be stored and referred back to for staff (re) training purposes; or in the worst case scenario, used in Court in cases of industrial accidents.

High resolution video surveillance systems could potentially assist manufacturers which find themselves on the wrong side of a ‘slip and fall’ or other ‘accident at work’ claim. As industrial accident settlements have risen in recent years so have the number and aggressive ‘ambulance chasing’ tactics of law firms – stoking up the potential for large accident and negligence claims. In the States slip and fall claims have been recorded as high as $15m, so they are definitely business critical.

The same cameras could be used for monitoring of staff activity to a level of detail where managers are much more able to intervene early enough to prevent accidents and resulting down-time. Furthermore, 4K-based video records which verify identity indisputably, could be used to verify workers’ time and attendance records. In one US manufacturing plant which deployed a new high resolution video system, supervisors documented a 20 per cent increase in productivity from better monitoring of the shop floor, warehouse and delivery areas.

In addition, as concerns around product counterfeiting and contamination grow – particularly for food and pharmaceutical manufacturers – the need for monitoring systems to ‘track and trace’ products through the manufacturing, packaging and distribution right through to the dispensary or retailer, grows in tandem.

Packet of pillsThe EU’s Falsified Medicines Directive places very significant demands on pharma businesses which require prescriptive labelling and close monitoring of drugs from end to end. Clearly video recording of various stages of production could add value and help spot points of weakness. 4K cameras could also be used to detect hygiene or contaminant risks in food and drug production.

Finally, by bringing together 4K, video analytics and ‘big data’, it becomes possible to accelerate ROI in a more consistent manner. 4K video data, combined with these technologies will enable data gathered from various devices to form a powerful source of business intelligence.

So to get rapid return on investment in 4K video systems, managers will still need to focus their deployment in areas where they see the highest risk of losses or most chance of productivity gains.

In summary, we believe a strong business case can be built for deploying 4K video systems in plants where there is/are:

  • Significant risks to staff safety
  • Most need to monitor production lines
  • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) regimes are being tightened (supporting predictive maintenance for example)
  • New hygiene or traceability standards need reinforcing and monitoring

Larger organisations may well be able to build business cases faster because they can share the benefits of the new high quality video data across teams and departments working to meet different, but nonetheless all valuable, key performance indicators.

So it is conceivable that your heads of operations, health and safety, maintenance, delivery/dispatch and quality control can all derive measurable and quantifiable benefit from judicious deployment of 4K video systems. Where benefits are shared, ROI stands a strong chance of being delivered in record time.

To discuss the design and fitting of an IP-based 4K video system in your organisation, contact us or for supply-only, browse our selection of 4K cameras.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *