Manufacturing Line Optimization at Rich Products

A leader in the Operations Department at Buffalo, NY-based Rich Products, James Whalen, used Tuesday morning's Food and Beverage session to describe how his firm—a maker of desserts, seafood, doughs and toppings used primarily in food service and in-store bakery channels—has been implementing Manufacturing Line Optimization (MLO) on 110 lines at 20 plants.

Rich Products Operations Development Leader James Whalen described how his company has been implementing Manufacturing Line Opti
Rich Products Operations Development Leader James Whalen described how his company has been implementing Manufacturing Line Opti

The biggest problem with MLO, said Whalen, is that you're the corporate guy telling on-site people that you're the expert, that you're there to help them. But he also made it clear that increased productivity is an absolute necessity these days. As his manager put it to him, "We've gone as far as we can with hard work and discipline. We need new tools."

The tool they opted for is MLO, and it's powered by Invensys's Wonderware Performance software, whose capabilities provide a software solution for collecting, tracking and communicating real-time equipment performance and efficiency information. Observations from his talk included these:

 The plants had highly engaged workers, but Rich Products needed to engage them from the neck up if MLO had any chance of succeeding.

The many Rich plants all had strengths of one kind or another, but they behaved too independently one from the other, each like its own little fiefdom.

"We wanted better and more frequent data. You can't drive improvement across the organization otherwise."

Here are the six key pitfalls you can expect to encounter if you set out to implement MLO:

- We don't have enough time.
- Front-line people in the plant are disengaged.
- Training is ineffective.
- Cross functional support is inadequate.
- The wrong projects are selected-pick ones that have a chance to succeed.
- Inadequate organizational focus-senior-level support is difficult to get when priorities change frequently.

Front-line buy-in is crucial. Don't rely exclusively on a champion from the corporate office. But at the same time, don't let the front-line people do it on their own. It won't get done. Or, like a rubber band, it will stretch back to its original pre-MLO condition. The goal is a good champion from the corporate office combined with buy-in from the front-line people in the plant.

70 percent of today's manufactured goods will be obsolete in six years. That places tremendous stress on manufacturing efficiency because new products are constantly on their way in. But this must be coped with. It is the way the world is going and it isn't going to change. And oh, by the way, it makes MLO more important than ever.

In the North American marketplace, the only way a company like Rich Products can gain market share is by taking it from someone else. The heady days of growth seen in the 1980s are a thing of the past. Once again, this is why optimal productivity must be pursued relentlessly.

ADKAR is an MLO acronym capturing all the things that are essential:

- Awareness of the need for change
- Desire to participate
- Knowledge of how to effect change
- Ability to effect change
- Reinforcement, recognition, and auditing are essential

Be proactive with resistance. You will encounter it.

By implementing Wonderware Performance software, Rich Products went from a place where data was captured manually on paper and reports were "cadaverous" to being a place where data collection is a technology-enabled function that produces clear, actionable reports and easy-to-do analytics. Root Cause Analysis is now much clearer.

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