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A window into lean production

Plant floor and management visibility of OEE data provides European packager with better inventory control and a reduction in raw material use.
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“The key to factory floor control is good visibility,” says John Leiber, president of Factivity Inc. “This provides a window into all of your production and factory floor activities.” And this window, in turn, facilitates what he calls “a systemized and controlled approach to lean production management.”

Factivity (www.factivity.com) says it delivers such a window through its manufacturing execution system (MES) software that is designed to provide usable data to factory floor personnel through touchscreen technology, including an Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) component. As evidence of its capability to provide this window, Factivity notes that International Plastic Packaging Corp. is using the software for that reason.

Headquartered in Europe, International Plastic Packaging chose to implement the Factivity Workbench MES shop floor system, beginning the rollout with its plant in Ohio. The company’s main goal was better factory floor visibility and control, and its primary measure for improvement was OEE.

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Management first put together an internal set of measurement guidelines for the three main OEE components: performance, availability and quality. In this they were in line with best practices regarding OEE, since comparisons between different machines, lines or plants are nearly impossible without strict uniformity in the measurement methodology. The company also elected to capture labor data associated with each machine so there was a strong tie-in to the people on the floor for accountability and labor-focused process improvement.

One of the biggest hurdles was to make all managers in all locations comfortable with the underlying measures of OEE. For example, the OEE performance measurement differed from the company’s previous efficiency measurement, and without strong leadership there would be a natural tendency for managers to slide back to what they were most familiar with.

Once past the acceptance of uniform measures, the company installed the Factivity floor touchscreen system. It allows operators to quickly sign in and out of jobs as well as record reason codes for scrap and downtime. OEE data can now be viewed on screens on the plant floor. The data is also available on iPads for viewing by supervisors and production management.

The company has rolled out the system in more than a dozen of its locations worldwide, and is reporting positive results. The German operation reports benefits including improved timeliness and accuracy of data to help in making needed adjustments to production during shifts. The system also allowed better understanding of where the costs were in the process, laying the groundwork for sensible cost cutting efforts.

The company’s U.K. operations give high marks to the increased visibility into all machine operations, including the ability to view current status information on a large color monitor. This helped lead to a significant cultural change: greater involvement of machine operators with the results of the process. In addition, the U.K. facility reported benefits like faster maintenance response time in cases where a machine goes down, because now operators can alert maintenance to these conditions instantly.

As for the Ohio operation, which has been running the system the longest, it now reports better inventory control and a reduction in raw material use."

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