What is the “Active Utilization” for Workstations in Your Factory? 90%-100%? Probably Not True.

What is Active Utilization?

Ecogate on-demand dust/fume collection systems make sense only if the active utilization of the workstations is below 100%. That is because if we can close at least 20% of the total drops, we will achieve 50% fan operation savings based on the Fan Law of physics.

But when we ask a plant or shift manager about their workstation utilization, they typically assume that the utilization of their busy machines, especially of CNC machines, is 90 to 100% of the shift time. Were it really so - which usually it isn’t, it would make no sense to use the Ecogate system - for everyone else, it is a no-brainer to install Ecogate Solution.

This assumption is easy to make because the operator may be working with the CNC machine the entire shift time - however, we are looking for a more specific utilization value: the so-called active utilization. By definition, “active utilization” is the only time when dust/fume/mist collection is necessary - if there’s no particle extraction necessary then there’s no reason to waste fan power to extract at that particular workstation.

To look at the “active utilization”, we can subtract the time when the material is loaded or unloaded to the machine, when the machine is programmed, cleaned, maintained, or simply not used. All the times listed are times that the machine is not producing dust (or any other particles) which in turn means it does not require dust extraction. Imagine doing this for every single machine in your factory floor. We can see how quickly big savings can be achievable from day one.

Big Factory Case Study

We recently installed HOBO Motor On/Off data loggers for one week on the busiest workstations at a large woodworking facility producing high-volume furniture. For privacy reasons, we've left out identifying details and are only looking at the values.

Can you guess what the active utilization of these most frequently used machines was? Guessing 80% of shift time? That wouldn't be a bad guess considering that the factory's management team guessed it to be around 90%. The actual average of active utilization of the six busiest machines was 23.9% of the shift. This is data from a big factory with workstations that have huge output. Imagine, how many other factories are guessing wrong and therefore losing money every month - is your factory losing money?


Machine #1

Machine #2

Machine #3

Machine #4

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This result is consistent with our long-term monitoring of production facilities. You can see research results about average active utilization in different industries here.

Sure there are some workstations that are cutting material nearly 100% of the shift, but these are exceptions; the overall average cutting utilization of the entire factory is much lower.

Users of Ecogate Smart systems receive an overview of workstation utilization every month. You can see an example here. If you’re not using concrete data to monitor the active utilization of your workstations, just like the big factories, you are likely to overestimate utilization and miss out on huge savings.

The dust/fume collecting systems are usually using the largest motors at factories, and they run the entire shift time. For the smart manager, this represents “low hanging fruit” in decreasing electricity consumption in your facility. Many utility companies offer cash incentives for installing energy-saving equipment. This is an investment that begins paying for itself from day one and could even secure you a rebate shortly after it’s installation - immediate gratification. As the electricity costs increase - as well as supply chain costs - having Ecogate will only become more valuable.

Using Data Loggers

To monitor your workstations to get the actual utilization, you may use HOBO Motor On/Off data loggers. To learn more about this process, click here. Having the data can help make a capital decision a no-brainer decision.

Author, Ales Litomisky

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