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

While the concept of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) is straightforward, the rollout can cause huge disruptions if not done strategically. 

Below, Roger Woehl, Chief Technical Officer for SafetyChain Software, outlines five key areas of focus when successfully rolling out OEE: 

Define goals
The first part of implementing any OEE improvement plan is for a business to set clear goals of what it wants to achieve and any potential consequences it may have on other areas of production. 

“OEE is not meant to improve one single point of production. It must consider machine availability, output performance and the product quality to maximize throughput,” says Woehl. 

If the goal is to increase the number of units produced per shift, then consideration must be made to what that does to the quality and safety of end products. 

“A company may find that turning up the speed of production actually has far greater negative impacts on the overall business by jeopardizing quality or safety standards,” he says. “They may meet safety compliance standards but increase product rejections due to failed quality specifications. By analyzing all the data together, they can make a calculated decision on whether or not their goal makes economic sense.” 

Automate your data source
The biggest opportunity to improve OEE is to automate data by capturing real-time events with sensors that feed data into a centralized analysis platform. 

“Manual data is only as good as the person recording it and what they are physically able to capture,” says Woehl. “What tends to happen is that micro-events aren’t caught, like if a machine is temporarily down for two minutes.”

While not recording production gaps like that is common on paper, they can accumulate into a larger output problem and may signal a bigger issue in production that needs to be addressed. 

“Real-time data captures these small micro-events and allows operators to trace back to where the root of the problem is,” explains Woehl. “This allows for a fast and efficient improvement of OEE.”

Rollout line by line
Before implementing new operating systems, Woehl recommends a pilot program be formed with a small group of people to trial and adjust new processes before implementing them broadscale. 

“The main advantage of the pilot process is to work out the kinks and to figure out what works best for the business,” he says. “One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is attempting to improve everything all at once. This can cause huge disruptions and headaches.”

Instead, he advises new processes are rolled out one line at a time, and for practices to be made broadscale as soon as a company has reached a level of control for handling all the continuous adjustments for improvement.

Essential to the success of this process is bringing people onto the pilot program team who will buy into implementing change and will not badmouth the process as they work through issues, he says. 

“When implementing change into a business and introducing new technologies, it is really important for everyone involved to be on board with making it work. This starts with your pilot team supporting the goals and a commitment to help carry that support throughout the business,” he says. 

Develop a continuous improvement program
“The idea of continuous improvement is an important theme in the food industry. You can’t always be perfect, but you can work to continuously improve,” says Woehl. 

According to him, improvement is most quickly seen when a company establishes an attainable threshold and tackles it in small, incremental steps. 

“Let’s say a company wants to reduce its downtime from a shift that is currently 1 hour and 45 minutes. The first goal would be to shave off 15 minutes. To achieve that, we would look at all the different areas contributing to downtime and pick one to improve,” he says. “In this case, the area of focus was reducing the changeover time of product packaging materials. We can then zero in on that one process and look for ways to improve it.” 

Once the first identified area has become more efficient, Woehl says to pick another area to shave an additional 15 minutes off. 

“Setting realistic goals that can be accomplished in small bite-sized chunks will allow a company to improve OEE much quicker than if it tries to address multiple areas all at the same time,” he says. 

Cost analysis
Once a company starts seeing the monetary benefits of improving OEE, it must continue to monitor production to maintain performance. 

“OEE is like tuning up a race car. A one-time tune-up will get it running well, but only for a certain amount of time. If you want it to operate at its best continuously, then it is going to require regular adjustments,” says Woehl. “If a company invests the time and tools necessary to improve OEE and then discontinues monitoring production once they reach their target, OEE will eventually decline.” 

To justify investment into improving and maintaining OEE, Woehl says to look at the return seen within a specific time window, such as three months, and then consider the cost of lost production if it were allowed to decline. 

“When looking at pure OEE – which considers machine availability, performance and product quality – it can be used as a huge competitive advantage. Having accurate, real-time data that takes into account the entire business picture allows a company to find what type of production model is right for them and opportunities to improve output efficiency,” says Woehl.  

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