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Automation 101: Work smarter, not harder, with intelligence overhead

As sensor-based smart building systems, like intelligent LED lighting networks, have gained popularity, much has been made of the huge energy and maintenance cost savings they can provide to the organizations that install them. In addition to the uniquely valuable overhead vantage point offered by connected lighting, an often overlooked benefit of all sensor-based systems is their ability to streamline and automate. From automatically adjusting temperatures within a warehouse or workspace to turning lights on or off depending on occupancy, smart building systems can now manage many of the time consuming day-to-day tasks that have traditionally fallen into the hands of facilities personnel.

Streamline a facility manager’s job and the benefits extend far beyond their daily to-do list, allowing them to take a step back and focus on more strategic initiatives for the organization and inject new levels of value into the organization across several key areas. Here are just a few ways that building intelligence can help your team work smarter.

Occupancy tracking

One of the most useful ways intelligent systems help streamline day-to-day tasks is through occupancy tracking. By gathering and delivering insights into the ways people are (or aren’t) moving within a space, organizations are able to hand over the reins to intelligent systems and automate a variety of tasks, ranging from simple things like adjusting lighting and temperature levels within a specific area when someone enters or exits, to more complex tasks like security monitoring that sends out alerts when someone enters a restricted location.

Further, tracking occupancy provides insights into traffic and usage patterns throughout the warehouse or factory floor. Smart building systems can gather this information with such granularity that facility personnel can monitor specific pieces of equipment, noting when they are and are not being used by employees throughout the day. Insight into these patterns allows organizations to adjust staffing or scheduled usage. Take, for example, an intelligent LED system above a major piece of equipment in a manufacturing facility. The system can provide insight into occupancy patterns around that machine, and data may reveal that a number of people are not only around the system, but stagnantly waiting to use it during the first shift, while that same machine is nearly untouched during the second shift. This data gives facility personnel insight into potential overstaffing of a certain job function or a suboptimal workflow that are causing people to get hung up. From there, management can make an informed decision to change scheduling patterns or workflow so that people are not wasting time while they wait for the machine to be free.

Equipment performance and maintenance tracking

For many working within a factory or industrial environment, a portion of their day is devoted to checking and manually assessing how equipment is operating, thus ensuring that production lines are running smoothly and equipment is not malfunctioning. Intelligent systems are able to take over this often time-consuming task, automatically collecting and aggregating data and flagging abnormalities.

This information not only creates a more efficient floor, but also delivers for facilities and operations managers the time and data they need to make key decisions about the way the facility is running, providing alerts as to when equipment malfunction is most likely to take place, and scheduling preventative maintenance for off-hours. Consider the machine mentioned in the above example, working constantly for hours at a time with a long queue of employees. The manager may conclude a second, very expensive machine is needed to handle the workload, or that costly repairs could help it get back into peak-performance mode. However, with the data provided through building intelligence systems, facility personnel can recognize that the problem is simply associated with usage, and thus make the necessary changes, saving the organization thousands of dollars — or more — and reducing the amount of production time lost due to inefficiencies and equipment malfunction or breakdown.

Asset tracking

Keeping track of the myriad assets that pass through a facility in a day can also be a time consuming endeavor for facility personnel. From making sure product is moving through the space the way it is supposed to, to ensuring pieces of necessary equipment — things as large as forklifts and as small as ladders — are not lost, hours can be spent just making sure everything is in the proper place at the proper time, and making corrections when it is not.

To round out the example of the once-overused piece of equipment — if a product is making its way through production and goes through that piece of equipment but then is misplaced by an employee or falls off of a forklift on its way to the loading dock, the time that was saved by ensuring that equipment was running smoothly no longer matters. Hours may be spent searching for this one item that has simply been misplaced. However, with intelligent systems, organizations have the ability to attach sensors that act as beacons to these pieces of product, giving them the ability to know exactly where an item is at any minute, ensuring that processes run smoothly from end to end and benefitting the business as a whole.

Though many people consider intelligent systems as a way to save a company money, from reducing energy costs to streamlining processes, the benefits go much further than that. For facility personnel especially, these systems can automate a variety of tasks that often eat up entire chunks of the manager’s time, and offer both the insight and the opportunity necessary to contribute to the business in more strategic ways.

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