The source of the Flow

Gábor Fehér – Founder & CEO of FloWide | June 15, 2021

How to collect location data to optimise your shop floors?

Many companies are tentative when making the first steps towards digitising their production. The fears associated with industry 4.0 are twofold. One, they are considered resource-heavy investments that also require new kinds of expertise not at hand in many teams. Two, few tools make measuring ROI a real possibility. However, this does not have to be the case.

At FloWide, we believe that location data is the best first step towards industry 4.0 and digitised production. Why? Simply put, every production line on earth already has massive amounts of location data flowing through it – the catch is, not everyone notices it’s there. These data flows are like underground rivers.

The FloWide process is built around understanding where things are and how they move around your shop floor because this is where it can easily tap into existing knowledge and existing systems. The result is a system that requires minimal up-front investment and makes ROIs measurable through the power of simulation.


Simulating the Flow

Lean engineers and various members of your team already have a deep understanding of what goes on your shop floor. They know the inventory, the takt times, the bottlenecks. Simulation builds on this knowledge to create an exact digital twin of your manufacturing line. This is when imagination comes into play – what happens when changes are made? The simulated results are available immediately, without any costly and risky changes being made to production. The ROI of digitisation and optimisation efforts suddenly becomes not only measurable but foreseeable, even plannable.

FloWide provides a platform that enables simulation and provides a simplified, guided and online way to implement the system. We break down problems into Carriers, Zones, Resources and Items and define how these elements move and interact with each other based on online consultations. Digital twins are accessible in the cloud and easy to manipulate through low-code python apps.

Scanning the Flow for more info

Identifying parts, products, raw materials or any physical object with bar codes is now a de-facto standard in manufacturing. This itself is a reservoir of location data. FloWide’s ScannerTag can be attached to any USB scanning device to bring that information to the surface.

ScannerTag does not interfere with existing processes but creates more data. Imagine a riven branching into two around an island. One branch is simply left to flow without being used for anything – everyday scanning. Meanwhile, a turbine on the other branch power a small village nearby, simply using what’s already there for something else – exactly what scanner tag does. Once that sniffed data is available, it can also be added to your digital twin to create even more precise simulations and measurements.


Plugging the Flow or pulling the plug?

In some cases, it is vital to understand that a specific device or select materials are in place. In these scenarios, physical proof is the safest tool at your disposal. To put it differently, sometimes you have to plug a leak to ensure water can build up. FloWide’s CartTag does just that in the form of a physical connector that provides live input to passive electronic keys located at fixed locations on your shop floor.

When an asset arrives at a keyhole, a physical connection is created – like when you put the plug in a bath – which is fed back into the location system in real-time. Pulling the plug is just as important, of course, that’s how you know everything has carried on flowing – down the drain or along the production line.

Installing CartTags and keys at locations offers a secure way to ensure automated location data is accurate in safety-critical situations. The solution is also another source of location data that can be used to measure and further your optimisation efforts.


Controlling the Flow – UWB RTLS or the indoor GPS

Sometimes you need an overhead view of the situation. Traffic control experts in aviation and shipping rely on radar and GPS to collect exact location data and keep people and goods safe in the ant colony we call transportation. Ultra-wide-band RTLS is the indoor equivalent.

All FloWide hardware is based on cutting edge UWB radio technology that enables location measurements at sub-metre accuracy. The system requires several fixed point radio units called anchors to be placed above shopfloors. As with GPS, if at least 5 of these anchors are within 70m of the area of interest, accurate real-time position information will be reported.


Going with the Flow

Location data can be found everywhere, and only minimal investments are needed to begin using it effectively. FloWide deployments are innately scalable. They can grow from a simple simulation supported by a handful of ScannerTags to an immense indoor GPS covering shopfloors spanning tens of thousands of square metres and thousands of constantly moving tags.

Even better, the risks of the deployment are minimal. No changes have to be made to existing processes until plans have been simulated, measured, and the efficiency confirmed. The age of early adopters and tentative first steps towards industry 4.0 is over. It’s time to go with the Flow.