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OEE Improvement Success Story

A UK-based company acquired a high-speed manufacturing line for the assembly and testing of an existing product in order to reduce costs and decommission older, slower equipment, and to free up valuable plant floor space for production of a new product.

simulation, plant layout diagram 

Challenge

The company approached us for help in increasing the daily output and performance consistency of their new high-speed manufacturing line. Establishing a high confidence level in the new equipment was the first step in a cascading plan that ultimately facilitated the launch of a new product. Unwilling to take the risk that they could resolve the sub-optimal performance issues on time, they asked us to complement the company’s operational team.

Approach

Within hours of observing the activities on the plant floor, we were able to determine two things: all of the company’s employees were clear on their objectives, and dozens of improvement projects were underway. We suspected that multi-tasking a large number of projects in a poorly coordinated manner was preventing the company from achieving the desired line output.

We learned that the cost reduction projects were championed by the Production Department and most were already implemented. Those fell in two categories: labor or materials reduction. Engineering owned the OEE improvement projects but because of “fire-fighting,” most were behind schedule. One of the delayed projects was fault data collection on the manufacturing execution system (MES). 

As a result, analysis was performed through direct observation of the line.  Lost time associated with flow balancing was initially ignored and we focused on the areas where the line operators were spending most of their time. The majority of primary stoppages were because of part handling errors.  A root cause analysis suggested that components introduced to the line at various assembly points were behaving differently from the original product design.

Performance losses were further exacerbated by very lean staffing of the line, a result of one of the other many projects underway. While the company’s staffing plan appeared to be appropriate for normal operating conditions, it was still being evaluated.  Adding labour back onto the line was met with resistance even with the acknowledgement that the current conditions were unusual.

Result

We provided the customer with a proposal for the support and tools to manage and increase OEE and to restore their own confidence in meeting performance objectives. The proposal included:

  • Providing embedded engineering technicians to:
    • support the line modifications required for the new components
    • provide training for skills lost with the recent labour reductions
  • Providing engineering resources to accelerate the MES implementation
  • Creating a line simulation model to predict and optimize the labor requirements