Kraft cites savings gained through focus on OEE

At a February 26 Rockwell Automation Food and Beverage Forum in Itasca, IL, Walt Staehle of Kraft Foods presented a compelling overview of that firm’s recent efforts to maximize operating efficiency across all 48 of its plants in North America.

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Staehle is director of manufacturing execution and shop floor information systems at Kraft.

The mission described by Staehle is a five-year program, with Rockwell Automation as partner, focused on raising Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE). By year two, the program had yielded "sustainable savings of $14.6 million," said Staehle.

A cornerstone of the Kraft initiative is optimizing asset performance. One example of the success Kraft has had in this area is in its Capri Sun operations. Faced with surging demand for this popular product, Kraft contemplated buying additional lines. But instead the firm found ways to make its existing assets more efficient and productive. "We generated huge additional capacity with the same assets and the same people," said Staehle. "It was a great use of the OEE tool."

Other insights and tips on operational efficiencies delivered by Staehle included these:

*Reliability, predictability, and uniformity are crucial. "You can’t have a stable supply chain if you’re not reliable and predictable. If a line does 150 cases/min one week and 450 the next, how do you map that to demand signals from the market?"

*"You want to reduce variability across multiple plants. Assets are assets. They should perform uniformly across plants. The marshmallow pump in Plant A and the one in Plant B should be measured uniformly. There should be no more customized views, from plant to plant, on how to manage the asset base."

*"Real-time data is important. What kind of supply chain do you have without a real-time view of the shop floor? But data by itself means nothing. Someone has to look at it and say ‘Aha!’ Information into action should be the goal."

*"Never underestimate the value of alignment and collaboration. ‘Cross-functional’ is an overused word, but it’s terribly important."

*"Best practice needs to be easily shared, and that requires an agreement on terms. What is a choke point, where does an asset begin and end, what does availability mean—these must be agreed upon."

*"Support is crucial. There must be leadership, commitment, a willingness to upset the applecart. If the top of the house can’t support this initiative, it’s doomed. Leaders must be able to articulate the goals, to get up in front of people in a room and say, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do and here’s why.’"

*"Ownership is essential. People must feel it’s their work, not something Corporate came in and dropped on their heads. If I’m on the line, I have to be able to say, ‘This is mine.’"

*"Crewing must be properly managed. Keep in mind, too, that the average hourly worker receives a lot of training over a 15-year career. Why would you want to let that person go? Anybody can cut costs by letting people go. But leadership means making people better, not letting them go."

*"Capital avoidance is what you aim for, as we did with Capri Sun. We had real-time data saying we could generate extra capacity instead of installing new lines. So we converted that information into action."

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