Digital Shop Floor – Stepping stone towards Industry 4.0

Digital Shop Floor – Stepping stone towards Industry 4.0
Admin 30 Dec, 2020

The word ‘digital’ has been in the vocabulary of industries for some time now. A Digital Factory is a comprehensive network of tools and methods that are connected through integrated data management. The goal of these interconnected systems is the continuous operation, evaluation, and improvement of processes in the industry for greater business value. In any factory, the shop floor is the heart of all the activity. A digital shop floor is a step towards creating a smart factory and ushering in the era of Industry 4.0 for your manufacturing business. In this blog, we will discuss what are the key objectives of a Digital Shop Floor and the basics of establishing it.

Need for a Digital Shop Floor
The digital shop floor helps in answering many pertinent questions that manufacturers might have for making their processes more efficient and profitable. With multiple tasks involved in the manufacturing process, each with its own unique requirements, the operations on the shop floor can be complex and difficult to monitor. Furthermore, the evaluation and improvement of processes without the right data from the shop floor is nearly impossible to achieve with conventional systems. The Digital Shop Floor has 3 main objectives that help in enhancing processes and creating greater profits for business.

1. Transparency
Information is the centerpiece of digital transformation, and honest information can only come from transparency. Whether it is related to the health of processes and machines or manufacturing and maintenance schedules, the digital shop floor monitors the state of machines, machine performance, and condition. All this information is collected in real-time and is accessible anywhere, anytime. This gives transparency for all activities on the shop floor for informed decision making.

2. Connectivity
Be it legacy or new machines, being online enables digital connectivity and makes a shop floor digital. But monitoring only machines presents only a fraction of the picture. What goes around the machines is as important as what goes inside the machine. Human activity is one of the central driving forces of the digital shop floor. In a digital shop floor, the activities of workers or people operating. maintaining, or repairing the machines needs to also be accounted for. Connectivity needs to be not only between machines but also between humans and machines for monitoring human action along with machine performance.

A connected shop floor enables humans to make informed decisions in real-time. It improves visibility throughout the value stream, making it possible to identify and target improvements. So what this means is that workers aren’t just digitally connected. In reality, they also have the ability to draw on their years of experience in manufacturing to shape production in meaningful and impactful ways.

KNEO provides an effective solution for connected systems with the Smart Digital Assistant, an intelligent operator machine interface hardware to log data around machine.

3. Integration
In a connected shop floor, there is horizontal connectivity between all machines, sensors, utilities, and also people operating on the shop floor. But this connectivity gathers information that needs to enable decisions throughout the organization. The key feature of the digital shop floor is the integration of various systems and processes to prevent siloes of information. A digital shop floor can be integrated with existing and popular enterprise software solutions like ERP, MES and scheduling software. This allows vertical integration of the digital shop floor and free flow of information throughout the organization between departments and management levels.

KNEO’s MAPP IIOT can be easily integrated with most enterprise software solutions to allow an integrated digital shop floor.

How to Create a Digital Shop Floor
Let’s have a look at the step-by-step process to get you started on your journey to digital transformation with a digital shop floor.



1. Paperless Operations
The first step of going digital on your shop floor is to eliminate the use of paper or manual data collection methods. These types of data collection methods are often unreliable, redundant, and time-consuming. Data is not collected or updated automatically. With manual data collection, the workers are not connected to processes, and production data cannot be made available in real-time for an up-to-date picture. Asking a few straightforward questions for your shop floor is a good way to start.

  • Are you using paper forms to collect data?
  • How much time and resources do you devote to manual data collection?
  • Are your operators following paperwork instructions to perform changeovers or maintenance?
  • How many versions of paperwork instructions are circulating at any given time?
  • Does production data live on whiteboards?

KNEO’s MAPP Platform with its several modules and smart hardware solutions helps digitize
paper-based operations.

2. Digitize Legacy Machines
Shop floor machines can be useful for many years and replacing them might not be the wisest idea for your operations. With new smart sensors and IIOT devices, it is possible to connect legacy machines online. This enables digitization without having to change equipment or operations.

KNEO has developed several smart solutions, including hardware modules for rapid and efficient

3. Bring Humans in the Loop
As mentioned in the earlier section, people working on the shop floor are an integral part of the manufacturing process. It is important to connect them to record human activity that goes on the shop floor. Manufacturers can use on-machine terminals to give operators the ability to log downtime and the reasons for it as well. This not only helps in monitoring activities that are occurring outside normal parameters but may also be useful in keeping personnel accountable. The trick is to understand what role humans play in your processes.

KNEO’s Smart Digital Assistant is designed exactly to take care of this aspect of digitization.

4. Don’t just think about your machines
While machines can provide some of the biggest opportunities for process improvement, the shop floor is interlinked with many processes beyond machines and personnel. For example, a production run may have a higher-than-usual rate of defects, but the root cause may not be on the shop floor but further down the value chain, like the inventory. In such cases, it doesn’t matter if all of your machines have perfect OEE if they run into bottlenecks further downstream. A digital shop floor can automatically enable visibility at each step of the manufacturing process including.

  • Tracking inventory
  • Recording product genealogy
  • Optimizing job routing
  • Tracking WiP
  • Replenishing materials

KNEO’s MAPP Trail and MAPP Adept modules offer Traceability and Scheduling solutions with closed loop machine feedback that help in this aspect of Digitization.

5. Create a Single Source of Truth
The trouble with conventional data collection is that it can result in duplication of records and is time-consuming. With smart methods of data collection on a digital shop floor, it is possible to streamline the data collection process and visualize it with the help of dashboards. It becomes easier to comprehend data and prevents incorrect or faulty data records from providing misleading information.

KNEO’s MAPP Eye module enables the creation of customized dashboards quickly and is web-based, allowing them to be accessed from anywhere.


Today’s manufacturing facilities are faced with the challenge of accepting change to keep up with the competition. A crucial step towards this is a digital shop floor which is a step towards complete digital transformation. With a digital shop floor, manufacturers can expect to create value through enhanced business processes and performance. It would be right to say that a digital shop floor is a stepping stone towards Industry 4.0.