How lineside systems contribute to Industry 4.0 efforts

Digital transformation across the entire supply chain is critical to competing in the market today. So any digital manufacturing strategy must be linked to the overall value chain strategy. The digital strategy can leverage technologies such as IoT (cloud) networking, smart machines, artificial intelligence, automation, and predictive and prescriptive analytics of big data to achieve a goal.

Nowadays, organizations worldwide are using their large amounts of data to solve problems and continuously improve operations. The challenge is to effectively extract the right data from operations and build analytics which provide valuable feedback to drive improvement.

Lineside systems are one of the digital tools available for this data extraction process. Some specialist lineside system suppliers partner with manufacturers to provide these systems, specialist knowledge, hardware and software. Lineside systems undoubtedly bring many advantages to those who employ them, viewing them as a critical enabler in driving improvement using data and getting ahead of the competition.



A capital investment in new technology and data management must ensure acceptable returns on investment, and should therefore be based on an improvement strategy along with specific operations improvement goals. For example, Industry 4.0 efforts are underwritten by a group operations strategy and resulting site-specific digital strategies.

The “factory of the future” will be highly automated, largely robotic, have smart machines, make extensive use of big data analytics and intelligent feedback loops, and be highly efficient. Human-machine-interfaces (HMI) will be employed to drive efficiency and the highest level of quality. Completely manual processes will eventually disappear.


The cost of installing lineside systems is offset by ensuring the right data is extracted. Worthless data will only clog up systems and create unnecessary work.


Industry 4.0 Original equipment manufacturers design production equipment and integrated, continuous production lines to meet their manufacturing clients’ needs. In a fast-digitizing world, modern production lines are supplied with state-of-the-art PLC control systems with high levels of sensor-based condition and operational performance monitoring already built into the equipment.

However, the operational data needs to be extracted from the machine or production line control system to be integrated with other systems, for example the MES or ERP system, as well as provide the right data for further analysis. Once the data is extracted from the operational equipment, effective analysis and use thereof is critical. The cost of installing lineside systems is offset by ensuring the right data is extracted. Worthless data will only clog up systems and create unnecessary work. Once the most relevant data sets are available, they can be analyzed or fed into other systems to provide more effective operations management or operational improvement. Data linked to key performance indicators (KPIs) tied to the improvement strategy will lead to the most effective use of big data.


What lineside systems do

Firstly, some mobile lineside system solutions allow sensors to be fitted to provide temporary data from a production line or machine. These systems are used for extracting data for a short period of time, trying to identify specific issues relating to a focused improvement initiative or initial loss and waste analysis. This data will provide proof of a problem and the data needed for effective root cause analysis. Once the issue is resolved, it provides evidence of improvement and perhaps highlights opportunities for further improvement.

Certain lineside systems can be fitted permanently to a single machine in a process to monitor ongoing performance and do analytics for improvement. The most widely used application of lineside systems is when fitted to an entire production line. This type of system will provide operational data for the whole line and allow real-time measurement and analysis of line data for determining ongoing OEE levels, for example. Data can be extracted for the whole line or for specific machines or processes only. The lineside system feeds live data via the cloud, which allows for real-time analysis and reporting in graphs and charts at a shop floor level for operators (or to production supervisors and/or managers). Most lineside systems also allow for operating parameters to be built into the analytics package for comparison with actual line output. These comparisons can be graphed into visual dashboards for teams and managers.

Lineside systems provide critical operational data for use in:

  • loss and waste analysis
  • short interval control exercises
  • large process improvement projects
  • daily operations meetings
  • daily problem-solving
  • predictive or prescriptive data analytics

Coupled to the physical machine sensor hardware and data collection systems involved in lineside systems, these suppliers also develop and install analytical software which allows for effective data analysis, comparison to standards and customised dashboard design. The lineside system thus plays a crucial role in visual management efforts by providing the data, analytics and dashboards for generating digital visual graphics of line performance and improvement actions by managers and teams. The organization can then position digital boards in strategic places for teams and managers to monitor performance in real time. Operating limits and standards are built into the graphics with pre-determined triggers built in to assist teams to stay within the operating standards. They will also be able to identify negative trends and react before any unacceptable limits are exceeded.


The lineside system thus plays a crucial role in visual management efforts by providing the data, analytics and dashboards for generating digital visual graphics of line performance and improvement actions by managers and teams.


Many organizations are embarking on key partnerships with lineside system experts or suppliers who are plugging the gap between machine control systems and extracting critical data for analytics and visual dashboards.


How lineside systems integrate with TRACC

The current version of the TRACC Integrative Improvement System refers to using lineside systems to assist in data collection and analysis for continuous improvement efforts. Specific references have been built into the Operations Alignment, Focused Improvement and Visual Management TRACCs.

In operations alignment, lineside systems assist in providing technology solutions which can be added to existing production equipment or lines to support site improvement processes. The organization must consider future technology requirements to improve data integrity and accessibility, for example, for the manufacturing execution system, and document these requirements. A lineside system is a part of this data integrity improvement process.

When an organization sets up daily operations review meetings, lineside systems will provide the real-time live data needed to review and analyze performance, and allow for effective problem-solving at the DOR level. If it is necessary to run a short interval control (SIC) exercise, the lineside system will provide data, dashboards and analytics to enable an effective SIC.

If the operation needs to run a loss and waste analysis, the lineside system provides an effective method to measure and quantify the losses. Once improvement actions are implemented, they can confirm the positive impact via the improved output data.

The organization must also consider the use of IoT to network sites, production lines and compare operational data for performance. Lineside systems have this networking capability via their cloud-based systems. Integrated analysis software and data-sharing is critical for group success and internal benchmarking of best practices and related performance improvement. Maximize the real-time data acquisition and processing capacity of the plant, feed data into an IoT network, and ensure data analytics are employed across the whole group. This will create automated control feedback loops to optimize production output at all plants.

When it comes to focused improvement and running specific operations improvement projects, the lineside system provides a tool for managing the elements of the DMAIC process; specifically, in gathering machine data (measure), doing analytics for root cause analysis (analyze) and then tracking data, in real time, after implementation of the solution to gauge the desired impact (implement and control). The system can also provide data for daily problem-solving exercises in teams and for analysis in the daily operations meeting. Most importantly, the lineside system provides the required data for analysis and effective problem-solving.

In the visual management best practices, visualising machine data means identifying processes or machines where performance information is critical to the line or team KPIs. If the operation wants to display this performance data digitally, lineside systems provide the key enabling tool.

Dashboards should be implemented throughout the site and KPIs should be monitored in near real time. Lineside systems provide the real-time data for specific KPIs, and the related software enables the building of visual dashboards for specific KPIs. This is the key link to supporting the improvement strategy.



Finally, the organization should review the expanded manufacturing system architecture that now includes an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform and systems such as lineside. The senior operations managers should liaise with IT leaders on what new technologies and functionalities are required to enhance collaboration and integration across production lines and sites. This approach allows them to exploit the capabilities of smart machines and advanced analytics to provide improvement opportunities and gain competitive advantages in the production value chains.