You Have Downtime. But Why?



Factory downtime. You have it, and you think you’re tracking it. You’re counting the downtime minutes anyway, and you kind of know why things were down. Well, you know why things were down when you find out a week later. If in fact you believe the note you got on the downtime, which seems different than the explanation you got from two other departments.

Like most organizations in the packaging sector, you might point to one of three ways you log downtime, no doubt with a grimace on your face, recognizing that you’ve got an incomplete picture.

If it’s not an operator walking up to a human machine interface (HMI) or personal computer to log downtime reasons, you’re using handwritten forms and spreadsheets to document events, times and reasons. Short of that, you purport that your manufacturing execution software (MES) package is logging most of what you need, even though you know that’s not entirely true.

Sensor-based technology and software has made it much easier to “count” the minutes you’re down and where, but, advances to help you understand “why” and the root causes of downtime have been slow to evolve. With the advent of mobile technology and discrete software as it starts to eat the packaging sector, it’s possible to log the data required to truly get to the causes of downtime in a semi-automated fashion.

It’s not that the power of context has been underestimated over the last twenty years by equipment providers, but, the consequences of having operators or supervisors walk to a personal computer, HMI, or paper based station to enter information on downtime or other operational events hasn’t been appreciated by designers. (check out our previous blog
here titled “3 Day Long Experiments That Show the Power of Downtime Context)

It’s an approach that doesn’t suit their workflow, much less drive out real-time intelligence that management needs to understand downtime reasons.

Of course, it’s easy to place the blame on an operator for not logging downtime reasons effectively, but, consider the screens and log forms operators have to use, which were designed as an afterthought. Very little appreciation has been given to user experience by best in class designers in this market, dramatically affecting adoptability of any system to track downtime context, and ultimately impacting results you could get.

And with a lack of true downtime context, finger pointing starts, while management enjoys five different explanations about the root cause, and week old, barely legible paper notes with a few thoughts on the cause.

This is commonplace in the packaging sector, but it doesn’t have to be.

The root causes of unplanned factory downtime can be logged effectively as the downtime event is occurring, or immediately after by leveraging modern mobile applications, just like the ones you use in your personal life. This information can be shared either in real-time, or immediately after on a web-enabled dashboard, and annotated as appropriate after the fact by supervisors and managers who review the factory downtime events.

The most progressive packaging organizations have mobile apps configured to track unplanned, unidentified factory downtime over the course of a shift, leading to the identification of specific, measurable performance improvement project that can be applied globally across an organization, even in cases where sophisticated MES systems are deployed.

The good news is, there are cheap and cheerful ways to experiment with mobile solutions to improve the downtime context you receive today.

Here are a three simple experiments you can run to explore the power of a discrete, context-first system.

Ignore Your Existing Systems for Tracking Altogether

Test a hypothesis that you can deploy a discrete, semi-automated system that is web enabled and wirelessly connected, to collect critical information on context and events that create issues in your factory. The goal here is to collect more powerful diagnostic data than you can by aggregating fault codes or other data on an MES system, allowing you to get to the root of your problems effectively and rapidly, without having to leverage your existing cumbersome systems. Remember, this is a moment-in-time experiment, to prove the power of the context so that you can make changes to your existing systems and internal processes.

Put in a Context-First System and After it Works, Integrate (Not Before)

It’s natural to rush to connect all of your disparate systems, but don’t rush this time. Test a hypothesis that you can implement a system to retrieve better context on events that lead to factory issues, and that this data will be so powerful that you’d rather move forward with a “Context-First” system. After that, you’ll look to integrate with that system at a later date if possible, streaming machine data into the contextual system and not the other way around.

Pick a Context-First Project and Calculate the Financial Impact of It

This one is simple. Pick a project to address an issue that you know is costing you money (think downtime or rework), given a lack of context. Deploy a discrete system to help you collect data, and review the data at the end of the project relative to the project goals. Now calculate the financial impact of what you’ve learned. Test our hypothesis that putting context ahead of a system driving only machine data, isn’t always a “garbage-in” and “garbage-out” scenario.


Click here for a Free Trial


7 Reasons Your Factory Won’t Improve in 2016


It’s 2016 and you want to shake things up this year. You’re active on all the right performance improvement forums, you’re reading all the right articles, and you’re deeply connected to the continuous improvement community. You’ve reached out to specialists, you’re getting great suggestions, and making big plans. (Click here to read our previous blog “Get Creative with Continuous Improvement”)

This year you’ve got pressure to produce more, faster, and with fewer resources. And, you’re capable of it. The pessimist would say that you’ve got to own up to the fact that you’ve got problems. The optimist? Well, it’s pretty clear to them that you’ve got great promise this year.

If you’re truly going to shake things up in 2016, you’ll have to think differently. More so, you need to take a long look in the mirror. It’s a new year after all, and if you’re going to achieve your goals, your behaviour has to change.

Take the pessimists view for a moment (just like we did when we wrote the blog title), and do it so that you can see that pessimism coming in 2016, outflank it, and improve your decision making.

This could be your year. You really might improve things. Or, not.

Here are our top 7 reasons you won’t change a thing this year:

1. You’re still asking people to check back in 6 months: Sound familiar? Somebody wants to help you solve a problem. You’re not entirely sure it will work, but it might. You could try it. Might be better to try it a couple of quarters from now though. Maybe you should put it off until next year.

C’mon. Scope out a small project right away. Get your feet wet. Might be a small investment of your resources to get a small win, and you can scale up from there later. There is likely a low cost way to try something that brings a return quickly.

2. You just don’t have anything in your capital budget: You just didn’t budget for what you’re being presented with as an opportunity, and, you know you’ll get push back on it if you bring it forward. It might actually be a good idea, but it’ll be the same old story when you bring it up.

What if you could build a business case with a vendor to get buy in? Worst case scenario, it gets bumped into another budget cycle, but, there may be a way to squeeze some of it in sooner than you expect if the return on investment is quick, and you can prove it.

3. You don’t want to find problems you can’t fix: Great. You’ve identified a performance issue on the floor, and you don’t have the capital or resources available to correct the issue. This probably shouldn’t be escalated to management or executive levels. You really should have seen this coming sooner, and it’s your neck potentially if you point it out.

This is one of the reasons most packing organizations fail to achieve their desired overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and their full potential. Which is crazy. So, your next move is changing your culture and with any luck, evolving your processes. A massive effort. Or, finding a new job. The organizations who win this year are investing in performance improvement, which means investing in culture, people, and process.

4. You just have too many projects going on to consider something else: You just implemented a manufacturing execution software (MES) package. It’s going to dramatically affect your OEE (that’s probably true). You’ve got a nice new dashboard, with lots of data feeding in. You’re tracking everything. The ship has sailed on improvement for the year. You’ve got what you need. Now it’s all execution and monitoring.

Are you going to stop there? Your new system can’t track everything, and, in some cases, you’re looking at vanity metrics. Those metrics that make you feel good, and as though you’re in control. You need to think like you were thinking when you bought that MES system in the first place. You had a problem to solve, and you got it done. You’ve still got problems. And great promise. Identify them and start fishing again for solutions.

5. You just finished up a huge project and your team is still tweaking things: You just installed a new line or a piece of equipment and it’s going to dramatically improve things, as long as you hit your performance targets as you ramp up. Any resources you have available, are going to be deployed there, and that’s it.

This is a sure sign that you’ve got no real model for identifying performance improvement projects on a continuous basis. Your eyes and ears on the floor likely know the reasons for your most significant downtime, on your old lines and equipment, and your new stuff. Sure, it makes sense to ramp that new stuff up. But, there is more you can do and should do.

6. You’re too busy for another assessment: Your factory has been assessed, again and again. You’ve got more recommendations than you know what to do with, and finite resources. Most of the people with improvement suggestions are just selling stuff anyway, and their line audits normally come with little proof that their performance guarantees will ever come to fruition.

You know who’s worth listening to in your industry and if you’re not certain, you’ve got a network to find out whose assessments matter. Call the ones who know how to improve your factory and get them in. They might be the people you didn’t buy from because they were higher cost than the other vendor. Or, somebody who has moved on from the company you bought equipment from because they were bright. Maybe it’s the folks you visit at the trade show, because you respect them. Almost everyone of them would help if you asked.

7. You’re just not so sure about the industrial internet just yet: You’ve read it all and you’re getting a bit tired of hearing about it. You know it might involve the cloud, connected devices and equipment, mobile, and big data, whatever that means. It doesn’t sound like something management, or your IT department might embrace.

Seriously? You know that everybody else in the packaging sector is embracing this, right? Certainly, there are some challenges, but, every single organization of every size in the CPG world has a host of solutions available to them from a variety of vendors that can save them big money, rapidly. Those solutions are available today. Believe the hype, assess the risks, and assess the tremendous opportunities.

So, when is it a good time to improve in 2016? Today.

Speak with one of our Continuous Improvement Specialists.

Click here for a Free Trial