By Neeraj Periwal
Security cameras have long been used in many different business settings to protect against theft and keep an eye out for suspicious behavior.
Only fairly recently, though, have manufacturers recognized the unique value cameras can bring to warehouses, distribution centers, and factory floors.
Besides obvious applications like monitoring for the theft of valuable raw materials, here are a few innovative ways manufacturers can use cameras to improve their processes and make their operations more efficient.
1. Safely monitor automated machinery in demanding production environments
Advanced manufacturing operations, especially those that involve converting raw materials into finished goods, often involve extreme temperatures, loud noise, and dangerously fast-moving machinery. It’s important for businesses to not only track the reliable and efficient operation of this (usually automated) equipment, but also ensure the safety of employees on the plant floor.
Thanks to ruggedized cameras built to withstand challenging conditions, manufacturers can keep a close eye on machinery from afar, minimizing employees’ direct exposure to potentially hazardous equipment. In addition to real-time monitoring, staff in the control room can review previously recorded video footage. This can help them identify patterns (say, if a piece of equipment struggles with a certain type of material time and time again) and make changes quickly to fix issues.
2. Keep workers on the same page
The more sophisticated a manufacturer’s operations, the harder it is for employees to stay in sync. Because those working in manufacturing environments have to lend their undivided attention to their surroundings, it’s harder for them to remain connected to other employees, even those in the same building.
Strategically positioning cameras and hooking them up to video monitors placed where employees can see them can help workers stay on top of activity around the facility. For example, at a food distribution center, employees inside the building can remotely watch as delivery trucks approach and then work together to help unload and transport the food. Setting up configurable video walls can help workers monitor the footage from multiple cameras placed around a facility.
By empowering lower-level employees to work together more seamlessly, cameras can ease management burdens and help eliminate information silos.
3. Monitor the product journey across different sites
As manufacturers expand their operations and increase the number and size of their facilities, monitoring activities across multiple sites becomes increasingly difficult. Goods often travel from one location to the next, making it important for manufacturers to track product loss and delivery delays. Cameras placed in and around plants make monitoring and tracking goods simple and straightforward for workers, as well as plant managers.
Of course, it’s not as simple as mounting a few cameras: The footage from those cameras needs to be easily accessible from anywhere. If video is only accessible at the site itself, it can’t be efficiently shared across different locations and users. The best way to accomplish cross-site sharing is to ensure the video can be viewed through a secure portal accessible from any Internet-connected device.
4. Watch for product loss and accidents in the supply chain
Wasted resources are the bane of any manufacturer’s operations, whether it’s raw materials or time. While increases in manufacturing automation have certainly helped to standardize operations and minimize waste caused by user error, humans still play a crucial role in many processes. Cameras can help manufacturing staff easily monitor for product loss and catch accidents before they affect operations downstream.
The food manufacturing space experiences some form of product loss on a fairly regular basis. With high volumes of product being processed regularly, even a small amount of loss can have a substantial financial impact. Just ask Noosa Yoghurt, a purveyor of flavored yogurt. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KcIu432xEA At the company’s Bellvue, Colorado facility, cameras deployed on the plant floor help staff look out for incidents of spilled or contaminated milk. According to Network Technician Brandon Colter, these cameras helped the company save at least a few thousand dollars less than a year after the initial deployment.
Neeraj Periwal manages content at Cisco Meraki.