Central plant monitoring to increase availability

Machine downtime or even a shutdown is still a worst-case scenario in manufacturing. It is therefore obvious that maintenance is one of the elementary adjusting screws for making production more efficient and reducing costs. Unplanned plant downtimes are still one of the main cost drivers, as they are often detected too late. In addition, there is almost always a lack of defect descriptions that show the problem in a dedicated way. As a result, additional time and capacity must be spent looking for the cause of the problem – because until this is known, neither the right measures can be determined nor the right maintenance contact alerted. By identifying and eliminating unplanned plant shutdowns more quickly, daily production can be increased by an average of ten percent.
However, central plant monitoring does not only offer real added value in the event of a shutdown. Even without shutdowns, process deviations can be detected more quickly, for example in the case of creeping deterioration due to longer cycle times or slowly increasing energy consumption. The possibility of target/actual comparisons of relevant process values, such as piece counts, cycle times or energy values in real time, provide direct information about unwanted deviations.

Competitive advantage thanks to central plant monitoring

Unplanned plant shutdowns will always occur. However, reducing the frequency or mitigating the effects saves money.
A plant shutdown inevitably leads to production backlogs and a reduction in the number of pieces at the end of the day. These can often only be countered with overtime or the provision of reserve capacity. These costs often add up to a staggering amount. All the more reason to keep the number of plant shutdowns as low as possible – and in the worst-case scenario – at least to act efficiently and save costs.
Companies that implement the following four parameters will be better prepared and create a true competitive advantage:

1. Real-time data collection

The availability of data creates transparency and is therefore a real added value for many processes. To be able to respond to ad hoc scenarios, the key to success lies in real-time acquisition. This means that not only can a failure be communicated directly, but the cause can also be displayed. This significantly increases the ability to act and the speed of reaction and implementation.

2. Fast communication flow

In the event of an unplanned plant shutdown, various groups of people and sub-processes are affected. Continuous and, above all, fast communication to all parties involved is essential to limit the damage and maintain the highest possible efficiency despite the outage. For example, communication can take place via notifications on the smartwatches of the relevant maintenance personnel. This effectively creates a near real-time flow of information, regardless of where the employee is at the time of the incident.

3. Intelligent analytics & comprehensible reporting

Learning from problems is the best approach to improvement. With the help of intelligent analysis methods and reporting, optimization potentials can be identified and recurring problems can be eliminated in the long term. This enables us to act and react even better in the future – in line with the continuous improvement process (CIP).

4 Central control station as plant-wide “control tower”

Central plant monitoring enables a far-sighted view through overall transparency of the complete production process. With horizontal data integration, not only one specific plant or a limited area can be viewed. Through the visualization and monitoring of the entire, partially interlinked process, an analysis of process correlations, as well as the effects of individual production problems can be seen.

Higher production efficiency through intelligent software

The module for centralized plant availability in our MES software solution Legato Sapient enables machine connectivity for data acquisition in real time – and this for both homogeneous and heterogeneous machine parks across different communication variants. Regardless of which manufacturer the production machines are made by, over 2,000 machines can be connected in a single system.

Based on this machine connection, process values and fault messages, among other things, can be recorded and visualized in real time. The user frontend can be accessed via a standard web browser and is therefore independent of whether the information is required in the control station, via large displays, on mobile devices or on the PC. The status of the plant, the production line or a machine can thus be queried in real time at any time and from anywhere.The graphical visualization makes it easier to identify problems, for example by schematically coloring production areas or individual plants depending on the status quo.

In the event of a shutdown, maintenance is automatically notified via a call system or information on a smartwatch, and automatic escalation ensures that an employee addresses the problem.

Thanks to the recording of process values such as quantities, cycle times or even energy values in combination with continuous monitoring by means of defined target and limit values, the software solution enables optimized production efficiency beyond the case of a malfunction. Just as in the case of a shutdown, the system provides information about irregularities and deviations, thus offering not only monitoring but also the basis for optimized decision-making. This ensures that you get the best out of your production.

The advantages of central plant monitoring at a glance

  • Greater transparency throughout the production process
  • Reduction of downtimes
  • Faster detection of plant downtimes
  • Automatic notification system in case of downtime
  • Increased output, thanks to the possibility of target/actual comparisons


The IT/OT Connector is the heart of the real-time data acquisition from the plant control systems (PLCs). Both data acquisition and production control are performed via this component.
Once the data has been acquired via the IT/OT Connector, it is processed further or displayed in the web visualization.

In the case of plant monitoring, there are generally two use cases: On the one hand, the detection and elimination of creeping process deteriorations, for example when cycle times slowly deteriorate, and on the other, the rapid detection and elimination of plant shutdowns.

Graphic visualizations are often used to detect plant shutdowns, whether as a large display in production (ANDON), in the control station, or in a maintenance office.


Graphical visualization of process layouts for “error-guided drilldowns”

Depending on the application, different levels/depths of detail are used. Within a plant, we typically distinguish between four levels:

Level 1:

The following picture shows, as a so-called plant overview, the top level with colored representation of the individual areas. The color code represents the target/actual comparison of quantities and thus provides an optimal overview of the performance within the production areas. This layout is typically used by production or plant managers.

In terms of an error-guided drilldown, clicking in one of the areas takes you to the next level down.

Level 2:

The following image is then typically the display level for a production or maintenance manager of a unit or segment. In this case, the corresponding segment is shown subdivided by areas, with the rectangular boxes each representing the “issuing” plant of an area, and the round shapes each visualizing the various buffers, including fill level and limit values. This view already contains quite a lot of relevant “vital values” of the individual areas, such as “what kind of fault is present” or piece count achievement (target/actual comparison).

In the sense of an error-guided drilldown, clicking in one of the areas takes you to another sublevel.

Level 3:

The following image is then typically the display level for a line operator or foreman. In this case, the corresponding production area is displayed subdivided by equipment, with the rectangular boxes representing the equipment and the round shapes again visualizing the buffers. The display of the information is continuous to the parent view.

In terms of an error-guided drilldown, clicking on one of the plants then takes you to the plant overview.

Ebene 4:

The following screen is then typically the display level for a plant manager. In this case, the corresponding plant is displayed with its robots. In addition to the robots, other relevant status information from safety gates or light barriers is visualized.

In the sense of an error-guided drilldown, clicking on the “red” robot takes the user to the view of the current faults.
Here, all relevant details of a fault are displayed in a tabular view, whereby the level of detail can be set user-specifically.

Visualization and evaluation of process deviations

Even if a plant shutdown has not yet occurred, there is still a risk that the process is slowly getting “out of control”. Legato Sapient helps to detect process deviations at an early stage.

With the help of the following dashboard, such process deviations can be detected at an early stage. In the upper right section, deviations can be detected based on the piece count history (if the current actual piece count is running below the current target piece count).

For more detailed analyses in relation to the piece counts, the diagram is zoomed in at the time of the deviation and a click opens the sidebar with further analyses. In the following, the associated disturbances for the selected period (zoom area in the diagram) are shown:

The user frontend contains numerous possibilities for interactions with the presented data and thus a high flexibility for detailed analyses is guaranteed.