Editor’s note: This is part three of a four-part series on understanding and implementing overall equipment effectiveness strategy. This series is sponsored by SafetyChain Software.

While delivering safe food is a leading priority for food companies, this must be done in a way that satisfies customer needs and makes sense from a business standpoint. 

According to Roger Woehl, chief technical officer for SafetyChain Software, marrying all of these key components together can be supported by implementing an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) strategy as a part of an overall approach to production and quality. 

“To do this, it is important OEE is not treated as a one-point solution for a specific area of efficiency within a plant and instead incorporates the three segregated areas of OEE: Availability, Performance and Quality,” says Woehl. “When implementing change, we must always consider the bigger ramifications and how it fits into the greater plan of food safety and quality.”

For example, a low hanging fruit of making operations more efficient is it reduces machine downtime. As that time is reduced, throughput can then be focused on. While this may increase the number of units produced per shift, what happened to quality once production was stepped up? 

“A business is not going to be effective if they can only do one or two of the OEE areas well – it must be a whole integrated approach to be a safe and profitable business,” says Woehl. 

To create an integrated OEE process, following a structured game plan will help keep businesses moving forward without compromising any key components of safety and quality, he adds. 

Here are four steps to forming an OEE game plan: 

Step One: Reinforce PreOp inspections

“OEE will track equipment effectiveness, but there are processes and procedures that need to be done even before you turn on the equipment, such as PreOp readiness. All these things should be integrated and seamless in the overall process,” says Woehl. 

To improve the efficiency of this process, Woehl recommends companies ditch paper and implement real-time data reporting technology that will give managers full visibility of the line. 

“When things like compliance checks are automated, issues are flagged up immediately to supervisors and can be dealt with quickly and efficiently,” says Woehl. “Good OEE really starts with starting the machine on time and the visibility to all the steps before that.”

Step Two: Pre-kick off huddle 

As part of the plan to improve OEE, everyone responsible for productivity should have received training on how to identify factors that impede this and built them into a checklist. Prior to kicking off production, these materials should be reviewed, and any tasks required to improve productivity should be set based on what they day’s objective is. Once these have been identified, everyone working the shift should be gathered together to go through these together.  

“For example, if you’re concentrating on minimizing downtime, you need to look at past issues and create a strategy to address these gaps to achieve the daily goal,” explains Woehl. “It is then really important that everyone on the team knows what the target is, the overall strategy and their role in achieving it.”

Step Three: Obtain real-time visibility into productivity metrics 

The key to driving productivity is to keep everyone alerted at what is happening at specific points along the line at any time with real-time data. 

“This allows us to shift the questions from ‘what is our OEE?’ to ‘why is that our OEE?’ ” says Woehl. 

For example, if the OEE target was 84 percent and the actual score was 80 percent, real-time data allows supervisors to trace product back through the line and identify the root cause of the inefficiency. 

“Understanding the ‘why?’ in as short as time as possible is critical to know what is going on,” he says. “The faster you have it, the faster you can adapt, and the faster you can improve efficiency.”

Step Four: Establish an improvements committee 

Last, but one of the most important steps, is to establish a working group to analyze data and assess which changes are going to have the most impact on OEE. 

“This committee needs to have multiple perspectives so the ramifications of these actions can thoroughly be assessed ahead of time. This can include people upline in inventory, packaging, maintenance teams and people on the line,” says Woehl. “Getting everyone involved is key to getting the best perspective and then figuring out what changes can be done.”

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