Factory Automation
Batch Processing
Process Automation
Packaging Automation
On the Edge
Factory & Machine Automation Playbook cover
This one-of-a-kind Factory Automation Playbook is packed with best practices, practical tips and pitfalls to avoid on a wide range of topics, from defining project objectives to selecting components to implementing technologies that can make your automated systems smarter and more productive.


OEE Goes Real Time

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Plants find efficiencies through dynamic or real-time measurement of equipment effectiveness.

Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) metrics are coming in handy during this recession. OEE is a set of measurements that tracks the availability, performance and quality output of plant equipment.

More and more, plants are turning to OEE to get increased efficiencies from their existing equipment. The rationale for measuring OEE is varied. Some seek to extend the life of existing equipment; others want to reduce costs during the recession. The overriding goal is to increase production without investing in more equipment or personnel. Recently, plants have turned to real-time OEE so they can make efficiency adjustments while the equipment is running. Some are adding a new dimension—energy consumption metrics—to the classic OEE measurements of equipment availability, performance and quality.

Simplest KPI

OEE is an individual component of a plant’s overall measurement of key performance indicators (KPI). “OEE is the simplest KPI there is. It measures how much stuff I made that I can sell vs. how much I could have made if I did everything right,” says Todd Smith, product manager for Rockwell Software, at vendor Rockwell Automation Inc., Milwaukee. “If you’re not measuring that, you’re out of business.”

Ultimately, OEE helps plant operators fine-tune their equipment to improve production. “The goal of OEE is get more products out of the door. You try to find the hidden capacity to increase the amount of production without having to invest,” says Tim Goyette, senior software engineer at Production Process, a company in Londonderry, N.H., that offers tools to track OEE. “If you’re getting 80 percent quality, you want to find out where that other 20 percent is and figure out how to improve that 80 percent number.”

As companies strive to lift their OEE metrics, improvements get difficult as efficiency rises. “It’s easier to take your line from 50 percent OEE to 75 percent,” says Yves Dufort, head of the food and beverage vertical at automation software supplier Wonderware, in Lake Forest, Calif. “It’s a lot harder to take 75 percent to 85 percent. Only Toyota is getting to that 85 percent.”

He notes that effective OEE tracking involves more than getting the equipment to run smoothly. “When I was at Labatt Brewing Co., one shift would run 600 to 700 bottles per minute all day flawlessly. But another line would run 1,000 bottles per minute,” says Dufort. “It took the supervisor to see that the performance rate was off. They found out it was a filter that was slowing down the entire line.”

OEE reveals the efficiency of each single piece of equipment rather than looking at the whole plant. The idea is that the plant will be more efficient if each individual piece of equipment is running optimally. “With OEE, we’re looking at the bottom up, not the entire plant. We look at a single piece of machinery,” says Alan Cone, product manager for HMI at Siemens Energy & Automation Inc., an Alpharetta, Ga.-based supplier. “Do I have to slow my line down to refill the hopper? How do I solve that? Add a machine? Do I need to bring in half my shift early so they can pick up production instead of drinking coffee for half an hour?”


Make it actionable

The difference between OEE metrics delivered in delayed reports and real-time OEE is often the difference that lets operators respond to the metrics. “If you find you missed your mark two weeks ago, th