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28 September, 2021

Start-up brings analytics to machines for under £180

09 June, 2021

A UK start-up claims to have slashed the cost of entry to Industry 4.0 machinery analytics to less than £180, with the launch of a cloud-based app and sensor system that, it says, can analyse the performance of any machine and can be set up in less than five minutes. The Sheffield-based company, FourJaw Manufacturing Analytics, is a spin-out from the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at the University Sheffield.

Manufacturers can connect the MachineLink system to their CNC machines in a matter of minutes. All they need is power, WiFi and access to the machine’s power cables. They can install the system themselves, avoiding costly and disruptive site visits, and helping to reduce the return-on-investment. Once running, the system provides immediate access to critical machine utilisation data including reasons for downtime and bottlenecks.

In addition to the one-off purchase of the MachineLink hardware costing £179.99, there is a choice of choice of software subscriptions starting with a free offering, called FourJaw Lite, which provides live dashboards for up to three machines. Paid-for subscriptions, starting at £59.99 per month, remove the limit on machine numbers and add historic data. An optional extra, called MachineMode, adds a tablet on each machine where operators can log reasons for downtime.

“We designed the app and hardware to be simple to install, and even simpler to use – less than four minutes for Industry 4.0,” says FourJaw’s co-founder and CEO, Chris Iveson. “This gives operators and ops managers immediate visibility of business critical data on a tablet, smartphone or laptop.

“The beauty of the system is that it can be deployed on any machine, any age, any model, anywhere at any time,” he adds. “Whether it’s a workhorse Colchester lathe or a top-end Doosan, the data flows perfectly. All for less than £200 a machine. We even offer a no-cost ‘lite’ option to trial the kit – but no one has taken us up on that offer as the standard price is seen as no-brainer.”

Iveson, formerly the AMRC’s intellectual property and commercialisation manager, set up FourJaw last year with Robin Hartley, previously a project engineer at the Centre, who is the new company's chief technology officer. While working at the AMRC, they found that many manufacturers were tired of Industry 4.0 “hype”, feeling that it was always just out of reach to them.

Hartley had developed a CNC data analytics platform to help colleagues at the Centre to measure and analyse their research. But manufacturers saw potential for the platform in their own businesses, so Iveson and Hartley set up FourJaw based on this technology.

Cutting the cost of Industry 4.0 analytics: FourJaw’s co-founders Chris Iveson (right) and Robin Hartley (in the background, left)

One early adopter is the Sheffield-based metal fabricator Edward Turner and Son, which has seen a five-fold boost to productivity in part of its operations since adopting the technology. “I am not going to spend my money on something that doesn’t work,” says managing director, Charles Turner. “If it doesn’t make a difference to my productivity and profitability I am not interested. Plug the FourJaw system in and you will get direct, recognisable benefits today rather than pie-in-the-sky promises.

‘We knew about Industry 4.0 before we met FourJaw,” Turner adds. “But, to be frank, it seemed mostly academic buzzwords and marketing from expensive majors. FourJaw stripped through that by working with people like us to understand the real world of the shopfloor, rather than solutions invented by academia.”

Another early adopter is the Chesterfield-based precision engineer, CBE+. “It’s an absolutely fabulous tech to use and has become an essential aspect of our production planning processes,” reports the company’s group operations director, Lindsay Atkins.

“We are also using it for pricing,” he adds. “Sometimes, especially with a new job, we estimate production time based on similar components, but now we can see instantly how long the job actually takes. When we find we have overestimated, we are able to reduce our costs to the customer which helps us win new contracts. The simplicity of using FourJaw’s tech has convinced us to roll it out across the shop floor. It’s literally opening our eyes to see things for the first time.”

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