Accurate Performance Measurement: The Cornerstone of Manufacturing Intelligence

March 10, 2011
Manufacturing Intelligence solutions provide a framework for turning plant-floor data into actionable information that can be used to reduce costs and optimize production efficiency

The key to sustaining profitability and competitiveness is keeping equipment and labor costs as low as possible without limiting flexibility or compromising product quality. To do this, many companies seek more and better performance from their existing processes and systems. While many companies have enormous potential for improvement in plant performance, they’re often challenged with acquiring the data needed to enable these improvement.

One “best-practice” methodology for performance measurement is overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). Simply put, OEE pits overall plant capability against actual performance. It’s established by determining overall capacity and planned production time, and then calculating loss due to downtime (availability), speed loss (performance) or throughput loss (quality).

As a real-time measurement system, OEE provides a window to analyze out-of-the-ordinary issues and establishes a framework for reducing inefficiencies and driving improvements across the entire manufacturing process. While the concept is not new, recent advancements in integrated manufacturing intelligence systems have expanded the performance capabilities of this powerful measurement tool.

Though today’s plant-floor systems generate valuable business intelligence, the biggest challenge has been organizing the massive amounts of data in a way that makes sense and is useful. Historically, plant operators have spent an inordinate amount of time recording downtime events and causes, and then explaining these reports to management. This manual approach is not only time-consuming, but often leads to inaccurate or “best-guess” reporting of production slowdowns or stoppages.

New software tools and advanced organization and reporting techniques can play a crucial role in helping companies overcome this hurdle. By capturing information digitally in real-time, an entire history of a production shift is available in a format that allows for easy access and interpretation. Moreover, with an automated process, operators are able to spend less time on non-value added reporting activities and more on cost-efficiency and productivity-oriented tasks.

FactoryTalk Metrics from Rockwell Automation is critical to providing accurate, measurable and actionable information from plant-floor equipment. In addition to monitoring equipment and providing timely information about machine performance, FactoryTalk Metrics tracks event history on the equipment to help operators understand weakness for failures in performance. As a result, manufacturers are able to achieve lower overhead and manufacturing costs, better manage capacity and extend the useful life of existing capital equipment. The off-the-shelf software is quickly and easily configurable, compatible with virtually any PLC or HMI, and leverages common Microsoft reporting technology.

Once the key production information is captured, FactoryTalk VantagePoint EMI software from Rockwell Automation is uniquely designed to help maximize its usability. FactoryTalk VantagePoint EMI connects to multiple data sources – real-time, historical, relational and transactional – to create a single resource that can access, aggregate and correlate information via a Web browser. Based on a unified production model (UPM), FactoryTalk VantagePoint supports timely enterprise decision-making by providing a cohesive view of seemingly disparate manufacturing data and giving a context for relationships among equipment, product, materials and people. Out-of-the box functionality is available in hours, and among the published reports, trends and dashboards available for decision-making are:
- Key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Alarm and event reports
- Control loop reports
- Device and equipment reports
- Reports on batches, production runs and shifts

Access to this information enables everyone across the plant to better monitor and manage productivity in real time, and make more informed decisions about business priorities, such as product quality, equipment utilization and global supply-chain management to help reduce costs and increase productivity.

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