Fastenal Boosts Uptime by 100 Hours per Month with MachineMetrics on AWS

Executive Summary

Fastenal, the largest fastener distributor in North America, may have started as a job shop, but the company has since grown to be a major supplier of industrial, construction, and safety products, with over 2,600 branch locations globally. As Fastenal grew, it sought a better way to track machine efficiency to improve understanding around downtime, utilization, and quality issues. By implementing MachineMetrics, which leverages Amazon Web Services (AWS), Fastenal has gained efficiencies and achieved an 11 percent increase in machine utilization at its Winona, MN facility.

Limited visibility into machine utilization slows production

As Fastenal moved away from custom manufacturing and scaled batch size, the company needed a more sophisticated way to understand and optimize machine utilization. Though Fastenal had implemented software for machine monitoring, it was not user-friendly and made running reports difficult, said Vice President of Manufacturing at Fastenal, Tim Borkowski. “The truth is, technology has changed, and with the variation of controls on our more modern machines, our monitoring needed to change as well,” Borkowski said. The company lacked insights into utilization between shifts, productivity spikes, and why machines went down or faults occurred. “Having to wait for an individual to come back from that shift to gather specifics on various issues was very frustrating,” said Fastenal Operations Manager of Precision Machining Joe Garteski. “Sometimes we would have to wait 16 hours before an operator came back on shift to speak with them to understand why a machine was down or why a specific fault occurred.”

“What immediately caught our eye from MachineMetrics was the simplicity of use and the availability of real-time information.”

- Joe Garteski, Operations Manager of Precision Machining, Fastenal

MachineMetrics on AWS enables real-time insights into jobs

With MachineMetrics on AWS, Fastenal was able to collect production data from the entire production floor, then apply that data to monitor machine conditions and track the progress of jobs. MachineMetrics leveraged AWS services to consolidate machine data in one place, then make it accessible anywhere and ready for analysis. Using the data streaming service Amazon Kinesis, MachineMetrics delivered real-time information to floor operators so they could monitor roughly 3,000 jobs per month. AWS Lambda, which provides serverless compute, ensured the streaming data was formatted, contextualized, and available for immediate consumption through the user dashboard. “What immediately caught our eye from MachineMetrics was the simplicity of use and the availability of real-time information,” Garteski said.

Greater transparency leads to major gains in production

MachineMetrics brought a new level of transparency to Fastenal, which enabled major gains in production efficiency. After just three months of running the platform, the company ran 305 hours faster and was able to boost production by 100 hours each month. During that time, Fastenal produced 150,000 more parts and took on 50 additional jobs. “Manufacturers like Fastenal do not have the time to rebuild the wheel from scratch; they need results that go right to the bottom line starting from day one,” said MachineMetrics Vice President of Marketing, Graham Immerman. “Leveraging powerful AWS services as the foundation of our platform allows us to accelerate that value attainment for our customers. By focusing our efforts on development and innovation, we can continue to deliver our secure, high-performing, resilient, scalable platform for machine data and applications.”

Finding what is broken in our system is essential to lean improvement, and MachineMetrics gives us that starting point to do exactly that.”

- Tim Borkowski, Vice President of Manufacturing, Fastenal

Dashboard views on the floor eliminate questions around machine downtime

As part of the implementation, Fastenal mounted real-time dashboards on the production floor for at-a-glance views of jobs. This way, operators can quickly assess whether machines are performing at or below expectations to help them optimize job scheduling. “Thanks to the tablets, we can attribute machine downtime to specific reasons and know for sure why they’ve occurred,” Borkowski said. “There’s no more educated guessing or finger pointing. There’s a solid reason behind everything and every decision we make.”

Improved reporting lays the groundwork for process improvements

Analytics reporting allowed managers to not only track efficiency and identify production bottlenecks, but it also helped measure the effect of process improvements. “Within the process improvement side of things, we look at downtime reasons and quality reasons, and the more time we spend on this, the more we can use our continuous improvement processes,” Borkowski said. “Finding what is broken in our system is essential to lean improvement, and MachineMetrics gives us that starting point to do exactly that.”


About Fastenal

Fastenal is the largest fastener distributor in North America. Based in Minnesota, Fastenal provides companies with the fasteners, tools, and supplies they need to manufacture products, build structures, protect personnel, and maintain facilities and equipment.

About MachineMetrics

MachineMetrics’ intuitive and flexible machine data platform easily collects and analyzes data from any piece of manufacturing equipment to deliver powerful, actionable insights for factory workers in a matter of minutes, driving decisions that go right to the bottom line from day one.

Published June 2021