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Alarming Improvements Make It Better

DANT/E (don’-tay) is a software module integrated into the manufacturing execution system (MES) at Murata Power Solutions (Mansfield, Mass.). Murata Power Systems makes power systems, including power supplies, dc-dc converters, meters and a range of allied electronic products.

An acronym for data archiving notification and tracking – electronic, DANT/E reports in real time across all current manufacturing activity, comparing target performance against actual.

“As work orders move through operations, we know within a few seconds if product fails in some way. DANT/E issues an alarm and the line stops until corrective action is taken,” says Steven Kaplan, global MES administrator. “The trigger point is situational. It’s usually based on a particular operation, family of operations, or even a contributory operation. The alarm delivery is also situational – automatic email or text message, a visual alarm or a phone call, and it is sent directly to whichever group has been tagged to respond.”

A recent DANT/E alarm involved a vendor-supplied component with wrong electrical resistance values, despite being marked with the correct value. “Without DANT/E, we could easily have made 800 out-of-spec assemblies,” Kaplan says. “We would have found the problem eventually, but this way, we had no costly rework. With DANT/E, we knew of the problem within minutes of the first inline functional test, and production halted.”

Production and quality assurance (QA) personnel then determined the lot number of the bad parts and pulled all the reels containing them. Good parts were substituted, and production restarted within a few minutes. But DANT/E alarms go well beyond immediate fire-fighting, so the system initiated a follow-up to the vendor, asking what happened, and more importantly, what the vendor will be doing to prevent future occurrence.

At the same time, alarms enter production historical data, setting flags for weekly reviews chaired by the company’s director of quality. “We can’t just say, ‘found a problem and made a quick change,’ ” Kaplan explains. “Every alarm requires a closing action, documented and signed off by every department involved, whether that’s a CAT [corrective action traveler], material review board action, vendor review or engineering change.”

And DANT/E data becomes part of future work orders. “It tells us that the last time we did a given operation, DANT/E 1793 occurred for such-and-such a reason,” Kaplan says. “We have a permanent memory of areas we want to watch, and we have a direct view on whether the corrective action solved all the problems.”

Setpoints begin in historical data, but nearly all of the setpoints call for improvement. “If our historian tells us that we had 90 percent first pass yield, the initial setpoint will be 92 percent,” Kaplan says. “Fall below that, and the alarm goes off. The system is integral to our continuous improvement program, and there is no status quo. We’re constantly raising the bar, constantly looking for that zero parts-per-thousand failure rate.”

Murata’s MES initially developed by Portico Technology Partners (Naperville, Ill.) as a custom system fine-tuned to Murata’s needs, is now maintained and extended in-house. The DANT/E add-on was one of the in-house projects.

Dave Gehman is an Automation World Contributing Editor.

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