Capitalize on OEE without Additional Capital Investment

Look at your line again to determine whether time-tested methods can help you improve OEE.

Richard A. Bahr
President & CEO
MGS Machine Corp.

Most new packaging equipment can improve your line’s Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) compared with that of existing, less modern lines. In almost every case, machine manufacturers have stepped up their offerings in machine diagnostics, rapid/repeatable changeovers, and flexibility. Sure, all manufacturers’ offerings are not the same, but you will find most new equipment to be more efficient than past machines.

Richard A. Bahr

But when the purse strings of capital continue to be reluctantly loosened, how can a firm increase packaging line OEE without replacing major pieces of the line?

First, let’s start with what OEE really is. OEE is a manufacturing metric. Dating back to Deming and Crosby’s “Cost of Quality,” manufacturing has been in continuous pursuit of improving its current state of operation. We want to get the most out of what we have. Once we’ve achieved that, we want even more. OEE is a method for determining capacity as it compares to utilization of equipment.

The main offender in many operations is insufficient training. Don’t take for granted that your operators are working smartly just because they seem to work hard. Watch your line and document the root causes of each stoppage. Are materials loaded incorrectly? How effectively and quickly do operators clear jams and get the line back up to full operation?

When training, it’s not enough to tell operators what to do. Follow it with hands-on time while you observe their actions and give them feedback. Engaging people through actively involved training improves retention. Training aids using pictures and a few words of encouragement laminated within sight may help.

An investment (although it’s not “capital”) in having your OEM supplier visit and provide a training refresher can also be worthwhile. Ask for an agenda in advance. If you have some flexibility, you may be able to split the trip with another customer, reducing both of your costs.

Line stoppages based on packaging materials can be addressed without additional capital outlays. Does the line stop because it runs out of materials or because of web changes? On-line refills are frequently possible. Check with your suppliers and ask for their assistance.

It may seem like a simple thing, but be sure each piece of equipment on the line is in sync with its downstream partner. Too often downstream equipment is not operating at a high enough rate to “pull” product to it. Pushing product downstream will result in increased stoppages and unnecessary downtime. Although it seems counterintuitive, I’ve seen examples in which slowing down upstream machines had the effect of increasing overall throughput. This can occur because the overall efficiency of the line is increased.

Examine the space between equipment on the line and the surge sensors just prior to entering each machine. Test these for proper function and location. Whenever possible, separate machines to provide room for product surge so sudden and frequent stopping is reduced.

This last suggestion does involve a little capital, although considerably less than a complete packaging line. In cases where upstream primary packaging equipment is particularly sensitive to stoppages, consider adding a buffering unit between this and the downstream packaging equipment. This will bring primary packaging equipment to a controlled stop or, even better, eliminate the line stoppage occurring downstream without ever stopping the upstream portion of the line. If you keep good metrics on your line, you may be able to model your savings and justify the purchase.

To register for a complementary OEE worksheet from MGS Machine, please scan this QR code, which directs viewers to MGS Machine’s URL.

These suggestions are not novel. But how many of these are currently being practiced in your operation? I challenge you to select one or two items and consider putting them into practice.

OEE improvement without increasing capital costs is the most sensible first step to take in operational improvement as we emerge from the current recession.

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