Measure to Control

In order to control something, you need to measure it. OK, this is an old saying, but it’s one that must be constantly reinforced.

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This works for processes, machines and management. One of the cool things about automation we’ve noticed and developed over the past several years lies beyond simply controlling a motion. The automation system accumulates gigabytes of data measuring the process as well.

Analysis of all that information—and then presentation in ways that operators, engineers and managers can use to manage operations—is the crucial element. One calculation and visualization tool that sees growing use is Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). It is simply a number that is the product of three factors—the ratios of actual-to-optimal performance, actual-to-optimal availability, and actual-to-optimal quality.

The uncertainty factor that inhibits the usefulness of OEE lies in how accurately the data going into the three ratios is recorded and assigned. Automation helps standardize the definitions, making comparisons of machine to machine, line to line and plant to plant more meaningful. So, check out Greg Farnum’s article on OEE in this issue and let me know how you are using this metric.

>> At this year’s Automation Conference, Pepsi Bottling Ventures gave a presentation on how it improved its uptime by 21 percent. Read how they did it. Visit

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