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Listen to your Process to Win!

Paul C. Susalla, Corporate Manufacturing Technology Advancement Director, Parker Hannifin Corporation
Paul C. Susalla, Corporate Manufacturing Technology Advancement Director, Parker Hannifin Corporation

Paul C. Susalla, Corporate Manufacturing Technology Advancement Director, Parker Hannifin Corporation

You are a world-class manufacturer of your goods. Why then is your competition so close at your heels, or worse, beating you? What do they know that you don’t?

The key to success is gaining that last bit of efficiency; making the most of your equipment, tooling, labor, and maintenance activities. You do this by analyzing the important data associated with everything you do in the manufacturing process. Note that this is different from collecting every known drop of data and creating a data lake. Instead, this is the process of DataDriven Manufacturing (DDM). DDM has been around for quite some time, but many don’t know what it is or how to use it. It is the discipline of collecting data, analyzing it to create valuable information leading to decisions based on facts to improve manufacturing processes. By “listening” to your processes and equipment, you will discover where you can improve your efficiency. 

Production Monitoring DDM is the acquisition and analysis of machine and unitlevel production data. This is where Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is calculated. By understanding machine conditions like blocked, starved, out-of-automatic-mode, and offline; improvements can be made to the flow of units through the plant. If there are parallel processes and they are not equally utilized, there are efficiencies to be gained in their transport or in the proceeding or subsequent operations. Similarly, comparing machines for out-of-automatic-mode will lead to improvements in preventative, predictive, and prescriptive maintenance. 

Process Monitoring DDM is undertaken primarily for the improvement of quality and consistency. Every process is based in physics and has an underlying transfer function (The output Y is a function of the input x’s). As the inputs are monitored and controlled to desired values, the quality of the product improves. Consider a process where energy absorption is required to change a characteristic of a material surface. It is known that to create an acceptable transformation the energy level must be consistent. However, the base material has an impact on the absorptivity and varies from lot to lot. By monitoring, the energy supply can be adjusted via a feedback loop to minimize the variation in the final product.This strategy works very well on both discrete and continuous processes, which can have a “human in the loop” or be fully autonomous.

Condition Monitoring DDM speaks to the machine and tooling aspects of the business. By listening to signals from the equipment; machine life can be extended, unintended downtime can be avoided, and necessary maintenance planned. Tool life also can be extended to the practical limit while avoiding breakage and machine crashes. Monitor the appropriate temperatures, flows, torques, forces, vibrations, etc., and understand their roles in the transfer functions of healthy equipment and tooling. As this valuable information (transformed from the data) progresses in a direction known to be unhealthy, changes and corrections can be made to avoid undesirable situations. Additionally, by monitoring machine conditions and then calling for a person to intervene (if not done automatically), labor is minimized by not performing scheduled checks of all the equipment in the plant.

The top challenges in decision making for plant management and engineering are the lack of accessible data and the response time of analysis. Data on paper makes real-time analytics all but impossible. Historical analysis and product tracking information, although possible, are seldom undertaken due to the time and effort required and are often hampered by the lack of visualization.

Many companies are popping up who are more than willing to take your money to put overarching systems into your factories. But be conscious of the fact that no one knows your processes better than you. At Parker Hannifin, we employ our own sensors and “Voice of the Machine” products to gain the desired data. We have found that intelligent yet simple implementations are often the best approach forward. They will provide quick wins with fast return on investment AND increase your staff’s understanding so that you can later tackle bigger and bigger implementations.

DDM is a proven method to take manufacturing to the next level of efficiency. It is also harmonious with Lean and Six Sigma principles, Kaizen activities, and Shikumi (holistic system-based Lean transformation). What better way to gain the insight and knowledge needed to direct activities and then confirm improvement?

Make the strides in quality, cost, and delivery by listening to your process to know the information necessary to make the right decisions. Listen! Your equipment and process are full of ways to improve your business!

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