For hundreds of years, stonemasons have used their hands, backs and tools to impose their will on unyielding materials. These days, those tools are intelligent devices — specialized machines and modeling software that take much of the physical labor out of the equation. That allows companies, such as Calverton, N.Y.-based Lido Stone Works to produce more stone creations in less time with greater accuracy than ever.
“I’m a third-generation stone worker, and until recently I was still doing it by hand,” says Eliot Mazzocca, owner and president of Lido Stone Works. “I know all the difficulties involved in creating this element for someone’s environment; now, a machine does it with finesse and ease, using the tools I would have picked up myself.”
Mazzocca realized the immediate potential of the Internet of Things by connecting his stone-working machines to the technical experts who built them, located more than 4,000 miles away. The resulting intelligent system creates a real-time feedback loop of data; utilizing that data has allowed Lido to increase productivity and profits and reduce machine downtime.
In August 2012, Italian equipment manufacturer Breton Spa and Lido began installing an intelligent system, called Ubiquity, designed by industrial automation pioneer ASEM and based on Windows Embedded, the Windows Azure platform, SQL Server, and the Windows Server and Windows operating systems.
Before Lido automated its diagnostics and communications through the Ubiquity system, technicians from Breton would find themselves on a plane bound for New York to sort out design challenges and other difficulties, which often took a week or more to resolve. With round-the-clock production schedules and tight deadlines, the delays could be costly, to say the least.
Today, Lido operates a connected factory that allows Mazzocca and the support team at Breton to communicate seamlessly, with instantaneous insight into processes and challenges. Breton’s staff can get to work on a problem immediately, right from their offices in Italy — an efficiency that not only spares Lido disastrous downtime, but also saves the Italian service provider a substantial amount in travel expenses.
“We cut our annual travel costs by about €400,000 by using ASEM remote-assistance software running on Windows Embedded,” says Denis Soldan, director of After-Sales Department at Breton. “But for us, the ability to provide good service is even more important.”
“During the course of any project, there are problems,” says Mazzocca. “The machine will stop. There might be an alarm. But with the Ubiquity system, it’s already talking to Breton’s support technicians in Europe. Within a few minutes or less, it’s corrected and on you go. It’s a huge benefit that anytime Breton needs access, they can get right in and start working on the machine in real time.” Processes for acquiring and tracking raw materials and inventory have also been vastly improved. Lido sources natural materials from quarries all over the globe to fabricate, build and install sculptures, fireplaces, fountains, floors and architectural accents for some of the world’s top architectural design firms. Considering the expense of locating and shipping stone from faraway locales, it’s critical to get the materials and quantities right.
Connecting those sourcing processes with Lido’s headquarters and representatives at the job site, Mazzocca says, ensures that everyone is on the same page before expensive purchasing and shipping decisions are made.
“We communicate with quarries around the world, places where procuring materials can be so difficult, and a connected device can mean the difference between getting the right product and the wrong product,” Mazzocca says. “The connected device allows us to be on the jobsite, with a client, and give them the ability to approve a product that’s still halfway around the world.”
The system allows Lido to track those materials throughout the warehousing and production lifecycle. Under its previous system, Lido lacked communication between inventory and production and was under continual pressure to reconcile the two, a process that took a four-person team a week to complete. Windows Embedded Handheld-based devices tied into the database have vastly improved the company’s inventory process. Now, one person can complete inventory in a single day.
“With an intelligent system from Breton and Microsoft, we’re able to work more effectively with smaller crews for a variety of tasks and keep handwork to a minimum,” says Mazzocca. “We’ve increased productivity by at least 30 percent.”
That productivity increase has allowed Lido to take on more business while adhering to high standards for quality. Mazzocca notes, “Before we implemented the new solution based on Windows Embedded, we employed 60 people, and now we have 100.”
More people producing at a higher rate also means more revenue. In 2012, before the solution was implemented, Lido brought in $10 million. This year, the company expects to gross more than $13.5 million — a 30 percent increase.
For Lido, perhaps the biggest benefit is yet to come. With an intelligent system that connects design, manufacturing and inventory processes, the company is just beginning to realize its potential.
“In the past, I could only dream of doing what we’re able to do with machines today,” says Mazzocca. “With the manufacturing solution from Breton and Microsoft we can create new roadways and be creative and different. It empowers us to celebrate new visions in stone — there’s nothing we can’t do.”
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