Production Insights, Part 2: Continuous Improvement

Sept. 24, 2013
A former production manager at Pepsi Bottling Ventures shares his experience in turning production trending, OEE and visualization data into a continuous improvement cycle.

In Part 1 of this Production Insights series, I detailed a discussion on the use of production trending tools, downtime tracking systems and visualization reporting I had with Chris Bacon, former production manager at Pepsi Bottling Ventures who now works as a operations productivity analyst at ISS Productivity.

Key to maintaining the ‘horizon to the windshield’ view of the operation Chris contends is necessary for any business decision-maker in manufacturing is the ability to take your proven technology tools and processes and leverage them for a continuous improvement cycle.  The continuous improvement cycle is “not a means to an end,” he says, “but rather, the refinement phase to continually lower operating costs and drive organization growth and profitability.”

Using an example from his own experience, Chris points out that by using the same downtime tracking system installed at the Pepsi Bottling Venture operation he worked at, he was able to streamline the SMED (Single Minute Exchange of Dies) initiatives necessary to reduce format changeover time.

“Having machine centers and their states of operation (running, stopped, etc.) archived in the background, it allowed our team to review the data to identify trends for time-reduction opportunities,” Chris says. “With multiple machine centers in the process, it would have taken many months to gauge those improvement opportunities using traditional SMED techniques, such as a clipboard, stopwatch, or SMED worksheet.

“Now we could identify which machine centers took the longest and where to focus those improvement efforts, creating a more streamlined and time-effective process. And with relevant information from our own data sources, we reduced our format changeover times by over 64 percent, creating increased operating capacity and flexibility.”

One current technology Chris views as being “an ideal culmination of visibility, validation, and training” is virtualization. Chris says that by running a virtual system parallel to an online system managing the manufacturing process, employees can make changes on the virtual system and assess if the changes promote improvements—such as yield, quality, and lower operating costs—to understand the cause-and-effect impact on the operation.

“This helps with the immediate need for communication and feedback, while providing relevant offline training to reduce errors and frustrations across all levels of the organization,” Chris says, “as well as potentially identifying new best practices.”

Chris points out that another benefit of the virtual environment involves the ability to perform safety training as well.” By rendering your facility in the virtualization system, employees can open valves, disregard lock-out/tag-out procedures, etc., and have safe visualization of the ramifications of bypassing or marginalizing these necessary safety initiatives,” he says.

Once you have combined operational visibility with a workforce aligned to use visualization technologies for continuous improvement, the opportunity for tremendous operational growth exists. To make this happen, Chris says it is critical to ensure you are “integrating the right technology at the right progression for your operation, working with all departments and stakeholders involved. This means you must clearly define your goals, engage and develop your workforce and continue to refine the operation to provide organizational value and long-term growth and success.”

About the Author

David Greenfield, editor in chief | Editor in Chief

David Greenfield joined Automation World in June 2011. Bringing a wealth of industry knowledge and media experience to his position, David’s contributions can be found in AW’s print and online editions and custom projects. Earlier in his career, David was Editorial Director of Design News at UBM Electronics, and prior to joining UBM, he was Editorial Director of Control Engineering at Reed Business Information, where he also worked on Manufacturing Business Technology as Publisher. 

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