Finding the key to productivity improvement

13 May 2018

Suzanne Gill reports on the productivity conundrum facing the food industry and looks at an OEE tool which can identify areas in the food factory where improvements can be made.

The UK’s productivity figures do not make for comfortable reading. Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that the UK produces no more in an hour of work today than it did in 2007. Indeed, productivity has fallen in every quarter since 2008, with the UK now 18% below its 2007 high.

For the food processing industry the lack of productivity is having a negative effect on profitability and until this issue is addressed it will be difficult for the UK food sector to remain competitive with other, more productive regions across the globe.

One route to increased productivity is through improved production performance and this requires the collection of line data to help determine Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), a best practices metric which is able to identify the percentage of planned production time that is truly productive. It can be used to track the elimination of waste from production assets to increase productivity.

“Continuous improvement managers and production managers in the food sector need to take data and turn it into meaningful information to help root out the cause of inefficiencies,” said John Roberts, director at Idhammar. “Often this data is being collected anyway to meet food traceability demands.” Roberts believes that the easiest way to turn data into useful information is to run it through optimised OEE software to gain a valuable insight into problem areas across the plant.

Such a solution is offered by Idhammar’s OEE System which is able to automatically manipulate raw data and turn it into graphical visualisations, providing the basis for real-time analysis and reporting. The data can be held locally on site or remotely in the cloud. “Of course, security of data will always be a vital concern,” said Roberts. Idhammar systems are ISO 27000 accredited. This is a rigorous information security management systems standard which the company adheres to because of its work for the Environment Agency where this standard is a prerequisite.

The easiest way to collect data for Idhammar OEE is via a tablet or smart device if the plant already has wifi installed, or via hard-wired data capture devices. A simple solution, for example, could be a sensor placed at the end of a line to count products as they leave. This can provide valuable information about the rate at which products are being made. Even such a simple setup will also be able to give near real time information about the reasons for line stoppages.

Inputting data manually
Data can even be input manually into Idhammar OEE if automated solutions are not an option to make it possible to periodically identify where line stoppages are occurring. “Industry needs to grasp the nettle and look for small productivity improvements wherever they can across the plant,” said Roberts.

Within days of installing Idhammar OEE one food industry customer was able to very quickly identify that it was losing up to 30 minutes of productivity on every shift due to the fact that a small conveyor needing to be lifted up and down for staff to gain access to the line.

At a beverage production plant information from Idhammar OEE was used to embark on an OEE improvement project, which resulted in its being able to cut out weekend shifts while also increasing productivity. “Getting to that point, however, did require a great deal of hard work and manpower.

Idhammar OEE provides the information but it is still up to the company to act on this to achieve the possible efficiency and productivity improvements,” said Roberts. Idhammar is working with another food customer in the UK, as a part of a wider global campaign to implement world class manufacturing, to help it completely eradicate line stops. “We are developing software to help the company achieve this goal. It requires detailed analysis of every stoppage of longer than five minutes so we need to capture data about the product on the line as well as shift information to allow for analysis of all the relevant data. Acting on the information provided by Idhammar OEE the company then needs to take steps to ensure that the causes of any downtime are not repeated. This could require line setup changes or staff training, for example. This analysis happens for every single breakdown, helping the company move towards its zero downtime target.

OEM benefits
Idhammar OEE can also offer benefits to OEMs supplying the food industry. One packaging equipment company, for example, which provides both the machinery and the raw materials for production of drinks containers, wanted to be able to measure and improve the performance of its equipment in-situ at customer sites.

It is important that complex filling machines are correctly operated and maintained in order to ensure they operate at peak performance. In certain circumstances the company is contractually obliged to ensure machine performance, so it needed to be able to verify that the customer was correctly using and maintaining the machinery.

Idhammar OEE offers omnipresent software embedded in the equipment to monitor all of the company’s machines globally, providing data about how customers are utilising the machines. The software is now being installed in all new filling machines and the customer is retrofitting it into existing equipment to provide it with information to demonstrate whether or not the machinery is being deployed and maintained properly.

“For this company, having data about the performance of the machine allows them to track critical control points (CCPs) to identify any circumstances where the machine has been running outside of its recommended limits which can result in poor performance,” said Roberts.

In conclusion, Roberts said: "While the deployment of robust, fully functional OEE software will be an important step towards operational improvement, crucially it will be the absence of accurate and reliable, real-time data that will undoubtedly prevent line operators and management from making informed decisions quickly. Don’t get caught in the data gap."

Contact Details and Archive...

Print this page | E-mail this page