Maximizing efficiency

9 November 2007

Michael Hill, director of InfoServe365, offers a means to making more of your business

According to the user manual for my car, I can expect it to deliver, on average, around 33 miles per gallon and that's about what I get. I speculate that if my car delivered anything less than that, say 15-20 per cent down, I would want to find out why, I might check for leaks, or perhaps mention it to the garage at the next service.

At say 30 per cent or 40 per cent down, I would take my car to the garage to ask them to look at it because it has really poor fuel economy.

Pouring cash into an underperforming car would be simply unacceptable - a waste of money.

At this point in my considerations, British industry confuses me. Many companies will typically operate with manufacturing efficiency levels of around 30-35 per cent of their capacity. That's 65-70 per cent down on the theoretical maximum for their plant, and they have done so for some time. Yet they don't take the opportunity to investigate and remedy the situation seriously.

The obvious question is why aren't people taking a really close look at their operations - their machinery, its availability and efficiency, their logistics systems, their personnel, their energy consumption? Why do they consider it acceptable to perform at these low efficiency levels whilst watching business haemorrhaging to Eastern Europe and the Far East?

Perhaps they don't understand the massive positive effect that achieving a 10 per cent improvement in their productivity will have on their profitability, or maybe they are just not sure where to begin?

Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) is the measure of a company's production efficiency. Realistically, I suppose most companies probably don't know their OEE. Most acknowledge they have room for improvement and a number are making some effort to improve their productivity.

One company that has taken a big step in improving its operational efficiency is Macclesfield based paper converter Conversion Co.

Alex Ledbury, the company's production manager, comments: “We recognize that in order to maintain our competitiveness we need to optimize our product quality and our per unit production costs. Establishing and continually improving our OEE is central to our strategy”.

Fundamental to all OEE calculations are three elements: machine availability (and reliability), product quality and machine utilization. At the heart of Conversion Co's OEE improvement activity is the acquisition and analysis of manufacturing performance data relating to each of these elements. The method most commonly employed is the traditional ‘clipboard note taking’. Here, operators make comments against a fixed period time chart while they run the machine. This method is unanimously considered to be laborious, cumbersome, unreliable and open to abuse.

To address these data credibility issues, Conversion Co chose the automatic data collection and reporting package available from InfoServe365. This system monitors and reports an operation's manufacturing performance and production efficiency, showing the operational status “live and on-line”. Data is provided and analyzed, and critical events and factory OEE figures are reported automatically.

Alex Ledbury comments: “Since being installed on our Maxson sheeting line, the InfoServe365 system has been automatically collecting our data directly from the machine's control system. Also our operators have a touchscreen interface where they can quickly select stop reasons from a menu when the control system does not automatically know the cause”.

He adds; “Being a web based service, I can access all the features from any internet connected PC, either at work or at home. I retrieve my production activity reports the same way; they are produced automatically and show me exactly what our output has been over the past days, weeks and months.”

He continues: “The InfoServe365 system provides us with operational clarity and it identifies the most significant influences on our productivity, both good and bad. Having this information always to hand is already providing us with opportunities to make significant improvements to our operational efficiency.

“The next planned stage in the system's integration is to interface InfoServe365 with our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. This will enable us to populate the machine control system with works order instructions; it will speed up our machine set-up times and eliminate human data input errors.”

Best In Class Performance
Plant Throughput - 96%
Overall Equipment Effectiveness - 92%
On-time Delivery - 97%
Source - Aberdeen Group


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