Manufacturing Data as a Motivation and Empowerment Tool

The more understanding an operator has about his impact on the process and, ultimately, the performance of the line, shift, and plant, the more likely the operator is to make better decisions.

Brian Briggs, Avid Solutions Inc.
Brian Briggs, Avid Solutions Inc.

One of the often-overlooked aspects of a manufacturing execution system (MES) is its use as a motivational tool. Many of us now have digital reader boards, information kiosks, or other methods of providing production and safety information to our employees to keep them informed on a day-to-day basis. With the addition of an MES in your manufacturing facility, many additional key performance indicators (KPIs) can be exposed and available for distribution across your enterprise.

Empowering an employee to review data and perform on-the-spot analysis can have many benefits, including giving some ownership of the process to the operator.

Following is a sample of the important metrics that can be exposed to your operators via an MES:

Operational Metrics

  • Yield;
  • Suppliers’ incoming quality;
  • On-time delivery to commitment;
  • Inventory turnover: The number of times the average investment in inventory is sold each year; and
  • Manufacturing cost as a percentage of revenue: A ratio of total manufacturing costs to the overall revenues produced by a manufacturing plant or business unit.

Performance Metrics

  • Changeover: The time between product changes;
  • Manufacturing cycle time: A calculation of the time it takes to create product from work order release to finished good production;
  • Percent of planned vs. emergency downtime; and
  • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).

Imagine the possibilities of an operator receiving near real time updates of lab tests to measure against the material they are currently processing. Production and plant management can review quality data against current throughput volumes and make adjustments and decisions without having to wait until the end of a run or shift to adjust as needed.

I have seen the beneficial results of doing this through my work as a systems integrator. For instance, at a cheese plant producing 40–50 vats of curd per day, yield is tracked and adjustments to ingredients, temperatures, and step duration for in-process vats are made in near real time to hit yield targets on a constant basis.

In another example, we were able to use MES data to implement performance tracking within 13 separate oriented strand board (OSB) plants. Reviewing MES data with performance KPIs such as OEE and statistical process control (SPC), we found that operators were habitually running materials through the press with much higher levels of wafers, wax, and resin than needed to ensure the panels would meet quality specifications. After showing the MES data directly to these operators and working with them to make the necessary adjustments, we were able to produce panels that achieved the same quality specifications using significantly fewer raw materials. At the end of the project, our estimated ROI for each plant was approximately $750,000 annually.

While opening up this information to an operator can play an important part in optimizing direct production activities, it should also be noted that by opening up this data across a facility, campus, and even the entire enterprise, the benefits can cascade out to touch all aspects of your business.

Brian Briggs is a consultant with Avid Solutions Inc. Information Solutions. Avid Solutions Inc. is a certified member of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Avid Solutions, visit their profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.

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