Demystifying Digital Operations: Why OEE isn’t the Only Tool You Need

Discover how emerging digital IoT platforms can help orchestrate operator and equipment to effectively bridge the OEE diagnosis-to-action gap.

Rafael Amaral, Chief Technology Officer, Nukon
Rafael Amaral, Chief Technology Officer, Nukon

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is widely accepted in the manufacturing industry as a ‘must-have’ for operational effectiveness and improvement. It’s a crucial element for improving manufacturing operations, and a powerful diagnostic tool in identifying performance issues on the shop floor.

OEE is an important improvement metric that tells us the “why” behind equipment-based losses that destroy value.

It helps to answer questions like:

  • Why is our equipment failing?
  • Why aren’t we reaching our desired capacity?
  • Why aren’t we producing enough quality product?

However, it’s a mistake to assume OEE is a complete solution to your manufacturing problems. While we might know why equipment is failing, it doesn’t guarantee behavioral changes or adherence to a desired process execution.

This leaves a gap between diagnosis and action on the shop floor. By focusing on the machine, an OEE solution fails to see the end-to-end production process (which includes the in-between equipment) 

Emerging digital IoT platforms can help to orchestrate operator and equipment, ensuring tasks are completed in synergy with what's happening with the equipment. It effectively bridges the ‘OEE diagnosis to action’ gap, accounting for machine and human factors, while answering questions such as:

  • What can we change in our processes to reduce waste, and increase productivity and quality?
  • How can we reduce, monitor, or predict equipment failure? 
  • How can we orchestrate and synchronize our operators with our machines?
  • Can we anticipate or at least lessen the impact of issues in quality?

These additional digital tools, which help make a smart manufacturing operation, can support task management and fill critical areas where OEE falls short – with an ability to measure delegation, completion, and conformance of tasks across the organization. 

Demystifying OEE alone for optimizing digital manufacturing operations
OEE is considered the most crucial improvement metric used in Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), but there’s no perfect OEE score.

Each manufacturer’s unique operational goals are different, and a lower or higher OEE score doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s not uncommon for operations to adopt OEE, analyze the numbers for a few months, and then wonder – what’s next? 

OEE has value for manufacturers but shouldn’t be considered a silver bullet for solving problems. Instead, OEE should be seen for what it is: a diagnostic tool for root cause analysis, illuminating inefficiencies within your manufacturing operations.   

People drive performance
Implementing OEE can be complicated and finding the “perfect” OEE daunting. Manufacturers can fall into the trap of focusing on the wrong factors that drive operational performance.

While equipment plays a crucial role in all manufacturing operations, people are the drivers of operational performance. In a 2017 Vanson Bourne study, it was identified that 23% of all unplanned downtime in manufacturing was the result of human error. 

You should educate staff on OEE best practices to ensure a smoother transition on the shop floor – but there is a cost-effective, easier way to implement OEE all while understanding the human element. 

Digital manufacturing operations and OEE
According to Deloitte, smart factory initiatives will triple the productivity of the manufacturing workforce over the next decade. Smart manufacturing – or paperless digital manufacturing operations – are easier than ever to achieve, supported by established and emerging IoT and Industry 4.0 technologies. 

Here’s where a real-time digital factory platform such as TilliT adds value – providing a foundation to solve issues initially diagnosed by even the most basic OEE, building to something more powerful. With TilliT, supervisors and operators have task management tools to gain forward-looking insights and real-time visibility of everything happening in the factory. 

This enables them to identify root causes of inefficiency and reduce downtime by guiding the operation via an execution workflow, synchronizing machine performance with operator activity, and alerting to non-conformances in real-time before they accumulate and become problematic.

Once the operators move to a paperless factory and are submitting tasks using TilliT, adding a form to get the reason code of an equipment stoppage becomes effortless. From there, OEE comes out of the box, easy.

You don’t need a complicated OEE solution. Digitalizing operations can be achieved in a simple, scalable, cost-effective way to maximize overall operational efficiency by intertwining a people-first focus with OEE.

Rafael Amaral is the Chief Technology Officer at TilliT, a SAGE Group company. SAGE is a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about SAGE Group, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

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