August 31, 2016

Blackbird Story – Simple data collection changes the way we work

By Jesper Bartholdy Senior Consultant (Translated by Blackbird ApS)

Simple data collection improves production process.

Royal Unibrew and Premiere Is made success with Factbird.


emendo A/S, a Danish consulting firm, has been providing consultation to a wide range of international companies in Europe and the United States and has extensive experience in lean manufacturing. Over the last 10 years, emendo has supported a wide range of manufacturers to improve production processes. During this process, there was often frustration over not being able to obtain reliable production data, and the frustration become even bigger when customers got to know how difficult and costly it is to install a data collection system at their production sites. During one of the optimization projects at a filling line at the Danish brewery Royal Unibrew, the consultants at emendo decided to develop better technology for collecting and visualizing production data – Factbird.

Factbird was developed for Royal Unibrew and Blackbird ApS was founded to bring this new technology to the world.  Factbird, makes it quick and inexpensive start collecting and visualizing production process data. Factbird does not require anything beyond a power supply and works independently without having to connect with existing PLCs and SCADA systems. Thus the production data can be available less than an hour after the product package is opened. A Factbird utilizes an industrial sensor that measures actual production (for example, the number of units produced, or temperature of materials) and sends data to a “cloud server” over the mobile network via a SIM card mounted inside the Factbird.

Factbird has been on the market for less than a year, but is already used by over 20 companies on lines for medicine filing, food production and industrial components.


Clear improvement in productivity at Royal Unibrew.

One of Factbird’s first applications was at Royal Unibrew, where they were facing the problem of a filling line running under capacity with a lot of stops on the line.  There was a perception that if the line speed was increased, there would be more stops and thus less output.

Royal Unibrew installed a Factbird on the filling line. Within 2 hours, they were already looking at the data from the filling line on web browsers. The installation was quick and did not require the line to stop producing!

The data showed how many bottles has been produced minute by minute, how many stops occurred and how long each stop lasted. After collecting data, “present state” was clarified – it was obvious that the line wasn’t running up to its specified speed. After several adjustments they were able to increase the line speed up to its specified value. It was expected that there would be many more stops at this higher speed – perhaps so many that the total production volume would fall. However, to everyone’s surprise, it was found out that in most cases the number and the length of the stops were not affected by the increased speed. That is, the collective perception turned out not to be true. The result was that Unibrew started running the line at maximum speed, and consequently the output was increased.

After this first successful usage of Factbird’s data, continued improvements on the production lines were pursued.  Factbird enabled them to be able to instantly confirm if changes or adjustments had the desired effect. Enhancement workshops were organized and improvements were continuously implemented on the filling line. Royal Unibrew was able to speed up the filling line while reducing the number of stops and making the line significantly more stable.

Royal Unibrew still uses Factbird on the filling line monitoring the line every day. Line speed is continuously measured and stops and the stop causes are registered. Using Factbird’s stop cause analysis tools, stops are continuously analyzed and problems are eliminated.

Keld Norup Lauridsen, the production manager at Royal Unibrew, says that it has been decided that all production lines in Faxe factory will be equipped with Factbird in October 2016.


Real time production data, anywhere anytime

Factbird collects production data and send to a cloud server 24/7, and the users can see the data from anywhere, anytime. The users can monitor the production status on smartphones, tablets and computers. The users can quickly obtain an overview of how production has been running, allowing production managers to have more efficient dialogs with shop floor staff. For example, instead of asking an operator how the production has been running for last 24 hours and getting the answer ”Fine”, they can now initiate the dialogue by saying “I can see that the line has run fine for the last 24 hours, but it looks like there was a short stop on the line around midnight. Is there any problem we need to solve?”. In other words, Factbird enables management to have a much more proactive approach to production control.

The proactive approach is exactly what Mette Geisler (Production Manager at Premiere Is) uses her Factbird for. She says:

“I have used Factbird mainly to identify the number of stops and its duration, and the time of start and stop on the line. “Factbird” has become an important tool to start my day at work. In seconds, I can get an overview how the production has been running for the last 24 hours. – Once I have checked my Factbird and read the team’s journal, I am well prepared for the status meetings.

The first Factbird was installed on our most flexible line that can produce ice cream bars, waffle cones, and ice cream boats – flexibility could cause problems. On that line, Factbird helped us to analyze downtime and the stop causes to eliminate the small errors and it is now running with significantly lower waste. My team managers also use Factbird for their daily work. For us, it is important that the production is on time. There is no point in having a whole team ready with waffle cones and packaging material if no ice cream has been produced. Factbird shows us clearly when we started to produce ice cream, and enables us to plan the production process in the best possible way.

We continue to use Factbird and we look forward to using stop cause registration so we can be even better at producing ice creams” says Mette Geisler.

Many of Factbird’s customers have experienced that their perceptions of the production processes has changed after seeing their production data visualized by Factbird. For example, one customer had the perception that their production line was running almost constantly, but Factbird data showed that the line was running only half of the time. Another customer thought the production was always bad every Monday, but data from Factbird showed that there was a major start-up problem on Monday morning, but it was running stable rest of the day.


Production Data Collection – Future Potential

There is a great potential to optimize production by collecting, analyzing and acting on production data. Continuous optimization of production processes means more to countries with high labor costs, such as Europe and US than the countries with low labor costs. A Factbird is a powerful, affordable and simple tool for manufactures to improve productivity and stay competitive in the global market.

Factbird continues to be developed in collaboration with customers and there will be more and more new features coming up to help manufactures to optimize production process. 

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