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The efficiency equation

Author : Phil Gillard

01 August 2011

Why OEE is typically the second step on the road to efficiency for bottling and packaging plants

It is generally acknowledged that the first step towards plant efficiency is to do the practical things, typically instigated by lean six sigma consultants. OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) is most effective when it is used to support, reinforce and further improve on this first step.

However, there is sometimes a lack of understanding about its operation, objectives and outcomes, both generically and in an application specific context. Here, Phil Gillard, general manager of SolutionsPT, analyses the potential for the technique to be applied in bottling and filling plants.

OEE is much more than an equation. Used correctly it is a mechanism to focus a collaborative approach to efficient plant operation. It’s important to clearly understand the formula that underpins OEE and how it can be expressed as a management measure.

The equation is simple; A (Availability) x P (Performance) x Q (Quality) = OEE. Availability is measured as actual production time divided by planned production time, performance as actual output divided by theoretical potential output and quality as good units produced divided by the total amount of units.

At SolutionsPT a typical objective for a bottling and filling industry OEE project might be “To provide a paperless real-time OEE Solution to engage all levels of personnel in a program of continuous Improvement to deliver capacity, efficiency and cultural benefits”. For successful implementation the constituent parts of the OEE equation are owned by; maintenance (availability), operations (performance), quality (quality) and everybody (OEE).

Let’s presume our filling line consists of a filler, capper, labeller, cartoner, check weigher and case packer with support technology, such as an industrial robot and a vision system.

Within this overall purpose we might define a capacity objective as understanding where the bottling or filling line is today and establishing what further capacity it could provide. Equally, the objective might be to decide how different products affect the overall line output and efficiency. Irrespective of the specifics, it’s crucial that the objectives are owned by the complete team. Our role as consultants and software providers is to facilitate this decision making process.

In this context, an efficiency objective could be as simple as finding a way to measure performance from day to day or putting in place a method that allows easy access to information. Equally it could be more complex, such as providing real time information to identify bottlenecks or understanding the effect of micro stoppages.

A cultural objective could be to spend less time on paperwork and more in the production area, or to support more effective capital budget planning. Used correctly OEE has the ability to unite all levels and rolls, in an organisation, in a continuous improvement programme.

In a bottling or filling line environment, these objectives could deliver benefits ranging from identifying labelling issues to identifying fillers that are running slowly due to production bottlenecks. Other common objectives would be to reduce the downtime resulting from changeover or monitoring the process parameters that affect quality.

In order to achieve objectives like these, one has to understand the common challenges that an OEE project will encounter. They can range from the logistical, such as different PLC vendors, lack of PLC communications or lack of standard designs across the plant, to generating engagement in the process amongst operations staff.

By understanding potential challenges one can prepare for and overcome them. At SolutionsPT, we use a process called DRIVE, which stands for Discover, ROI (Return in Investment), Implement, Value and Enable, to achieve this. The process also combats the inherent difficulty in sustaining improvements once made. It uses a series of consultative workshops focusing on the manufacturer’s goals and success criteria to establish objectives, outcomes and value.

Irrespective of what you call the process you use to take your OEE system from its early stages through to delivery, it’s vital that when the system is installed the results are owned and acted upon by the shop floor team. If you can achieve this, not only will you have taken your first step on the road to effective OEE, but you will have also laid the groundwork for future business process improvement and better workflow practices.


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