Gaining the edge in today’s competitive market requires intelligence derived from data and the ability to act upon information to improve processes and machine performance.
Measuring the Data
If you’re a fabricator you understand the value of measuring a process and the continuous improvement of that process. Each company inevitably develops its own unique processes and must continue to improve them over time. Why is process improvement so important? Because a company’s unique “process” is one of the key competitive differentiators that each company has and must continuously improve upon to remain profitable and viable. An efficient process helps to keep a fabrication company and its products profitable. Process improvements cannot exist without measurements. Continuous improvement of a process requires accurate information and data, both to validate and to further enhance the process.
The best way to measure the production process is to use statistical data. Measured over a specific period of time, this data can determine where the hidden opportunities might be. Today’s modern metal cutting and bending machines are capable of communicating production data directly to software that will segment the data into these subsets for analysis. From the time a metal cutting or metal bending machine is operational, it begins to produce production data. Each system message or error message is effectively a subset of that machine’s processes along with the production data.
Measures in Real-time
Real-time measures are based on data communicated by production machines and centrally collected for analysis. Standard measures can be compared against actual measures to determine if the process is on track or not. Problems can be identified and corrections can be made immediately in real-time before that process is completed.
Real-time data and the inter-connectivity of machines with web-enabled devices such as web cameras, tablets, and smartphones enable managers to monitor systems in real-time regardless of their locations. These “real-time” capabilities are just some of the benefits of Industry 4.0, based on the interconnectivity of machines and their ability to communicate data in real-time.
Using Objective Measures
If a competitor can deliver better quality parts, more efficiently and with a faster delivery time, this becomes a risk to your business and also the potential loss of a customer. The way to avert this is to establish measures or “proactive triggers.” Basically, objective decision-making based on facts, thus eliminating subjective analysis. Regardless of the age of the machine, these measures can be accomplished either by manual analysis or by OEE analysis. Once the triggers are tripped by performance degradation and increased maintenance costs, the equipment is no longer viable to sustain competitiveness.
With OEE data, companies can identify improvement opportunities through analysis and where predictive measures can be implemented to offset unplanned downtimes. All of this data enables managers to monitor their processes and their equipment and make the proper decisions in real-time.
Using Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)
Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) provides the metrics for managers to see the true performance of their machines and where are the areas for improvement. While job tracking software provides information on jobs as they move from one machine to the next, the finite data on the performance of the machine requires information from each machine and analyzed by performance metrics such as with OEE calculations.
Modern CNC equipment has the ability to provide real-time data that can be used by smart manufacturing software systems that provide intelligence for manufacturers to continuously improve their processes. Smart manufacturing software enables users to visualize the OEE metrics through graphical interfaces that drive continuous improvement efforts in the manufacturing process. It is through these objective measurements that fabricators can improve their processes to remain competitive and profitable.
Continuous improvement just like continuous innovation is how leading-edge companies continue to grow and expand. It’s not about how the process is today but the vision of how it could be, given advancements in technology.
By Frank Arteaga, Regional Director of Marketing, Bystronic Inc., Hoffman Estates, IL