what real-time root cause and downtime context looks like

Getting notifications on the root causes of downtime, regardless of the vintage or monitoring capabilities of your packaging equipment?

Why not?

Find out how powerful a context-first mobile app can be, whether you’re an automation supplier or a manufacturer at Pack Expo 2014 with SITEFLO and Flexicell in Booth C 5242.


Click here for a Free Trial

3 Reasons To See SITEFLO in Booth C5242 at Pack Expo Vegas

Pack Expo 2015 in Las Vegas is awash with automation, and selecting the right robotic solutions on an 800,000 square foot show floor with over 1,800 exhibitors, and 30,000 industry professionals is daunting.

To help, Flexicell, a global leader in robotic automation, has partnered with SITEFLO to offer Pack Expo attendees a working experience in their booth, so that attendees leave with more than just free swag.

Here are three reasons we think Flexicell Booth C 5242 in Central Hall will be one of the most valuable booth visits you can make at Pack Expo:

1. Flexicell and SITEFLO are offering free assessments of Pack Expo attendees packaging operations within the booth, drawing on Flexicell’s rich history of robotic picking, packaging, and palletizing experience. We’ll be documenting your operating conditions discretely and electronically on mobile devices, and providing you with a report after the show.

2. We’re building on the packing operations assessments to also provide a comparison so you can determine the potential for Flexicell solutions to dramatically improve your operations as compared to your baseline state. You can leave the show with some understanding of what kind of impact our solutions could make.

3. If we collectively decide Flexicell technology is a fit, we’re offering free on-site assessments we call Single-Shift-Continuous-Improvement Projects to identify opportunities for performance improvement in your operating environment. These are like line audits, but with more actionable intelligence than you’ve ever experienced. Think real-time streaming of data as we complete our assessments on site, and robust reporting to help quantify your biggest problem areas.

To complete the assessments, Flexicell
(http://www.flexicell.com) has partnered with SITEFLO (http://www.mysiteflo.com), industry leading producers of performance improvement mobile applications for the packaging sector.

The future of robotic packaging and palletizing systems is here. Work with Flexicell and SITEFLO to make the right automation choices.

For more information on our approach, and to find out more about how we can work with you to affect OEE, reduce downtime, improve performance, and make better automation choices, here’s a 2 minute video clip of what you can expect from the Flexicell / SITEFLO partnership:


6 Steps A Specialist Takes to Save CPG’s $1M+


6 Steps A Specialist Takes to Save CPG's $1M+


Performance specialists view improvement in factories differently. You know such specialists as agents, solution sellers, original equipment manufacturers, lean and six-sigma practitioners or your continuous improvement leader.

The standouts prioritize problem identification and value added solutions over product sales and implementation. Then they deliver unparalleled insight regardless of your installed base of equipment, which is in many cases disconnected, with data collection, tracking, and software systems that don’t relate. You know them because they care about downtime, OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), rework, and they’re continuous improvement afficianados.

Consider the Value Added Solutions Project Workflow, published by Illinois based performance specialists RV Evans, as a roadmap which walks their potential customers through a specialists approach to providing value.

It’s a simple 6 step process, that can lead to the identification of $1M+ opportunities within days, and it takes the identification of performance improvement well beyond the idea of simply completing a line audit, and selling equipment, services, and consumables.Step 1: Site Needs Analysis

Invite the performance specialist into your environment to conduct a plant tour, for a comprehensive review of packaging and other operations. The great ones will work with you to share audit data, or identify process improvement areas using a survey. In partnership with the specialist, prioritize the opportunities for improvement collaboratively, and review your desired outcomes.

Step 2: Solutions Identification

Consider the value added solution proposed by the partner, and the impact it has on the most painful elements of your process or operation, and work with them them to either scope out a system or product demonstration, or, to move forward with a non-system or product related solution.

This is a key distinguishing factor. The specialist not simply focused on equipment, services, or consumables sales is concerned with value, and may suggest you proceed directly to a value added solution analysis.

Step 3: Trial / Demo / Testing

During the trial, demonstration, and testing phases, expect real-time data from your performance specialist on performance relative to your existing business processes or factory assets.

Mobile devices can to be configured so that it’s clear what information field based partners or on-site employees at a factory need to collected throughout the trial period.

It’s important to consider the variables that indicate that your product is performing, and to consider other factory variables that need to be tracked to show a correlation between your equipment or consumable and overall improvement.
Equally as important is ensuring that any personnel monitoring the trial from your organization has access to a real-time view of the trial on a dashboard.

During the trial, you should be receiving real-time diagnotics from the factory. This is possible when you deploy a discrete, mobile solution with your performance specialist.Step 4: Value Added Solution Analysis

Other value added solutions based on the specialist analysis should be presented, over simply recommendations for asset, equipment, or consumables based solutions, and should be brought forward either before the trial or demo process, or following the trial based on the additional observations. Measurable benefits can and should be articulated.There will inevitably be events that occur that affect the trial, such as unplanned downtime that may also factor into a value added solutions recommendation. The performance specialist can observe and record these events as well, and in some cases, when they occur downstream or upstream of a trial deployment, you can potentially link to an opportunity to address the problem.

Step 5: System Proposal

If the analysis supports the presentation of a solution to the performance improvement problems identified, expect a proposal clearly outlining measurable return on investment, and a fulfillment of your desired outcome defined in Step 1. Technical service capabilities should be evident in the proposal.Step 6: Solution Implementation

Whether you’re proceeding with a non-system or product related solution, or a system and product integration based on the specialist recommendations, expect to receive reports on the ROI of your investment with some frequency, and an analysis of the overall benefit to your operation.You can view this powerful RV Evans Workflow in a PDF format, and should expect nothing less from your performance specialists.

You can also request Step 1 of the process, a Site Needs Analysis, supported by SITEFLO.

3 Day Long Experiments That Show the Power of Downtime Context

3 Day Long Experiments That Show the Power of Downtime Context

If you’re a performance specialist whose job it is to take the manufacturing and packaging sector to new heights using continuous improvement (CI) methodologies, approaches and tools, you’re in for a tough slog.

Stymied by cultural issues, paper based tracking, or a belief that existing software systems give a factory everything they need, the barriers are enormous when it comes to pushing a performance improvement project through. The pain is common, whether you’re a plant manager, CI lead, automation supplier, equipment manufacturer, or contractor.

The reality is, most systems and processes in a factory have been designed to make root cause analysis tough, and without good context, it’s extremely difficult to identify root causes to build out performance improvement projects.

If the genesis of your CI project is a downtime or efficiency issue, you can probably sympathize. Sure, fault and error code notifications are retrievable, but you’re missing context to help you get to the root causes of issues, as software providers over the last twenty years have completely underestimated the power of context and root cause identification.

Look no further than your organization, relying on your operators or supervisors commitment to walk to a personal computer to enter information on root causes of downtime events, long after they occur. The screens they interact with were designed as an afterthought, simply streaming data in with text boxes for data entry. Very little appreciation has been given to user experience affecting adoptability of the systems, and dramatically impacting the context you get from system users.

Here are a few hypothesis you can test and challenges you can take to explore the power of a discrete, context-first system, which ultimately will challenge how you get to the root causes of downtime in your operation using new approaches.

1. Ignore Your Normal Workflow to Explore the Power of a Context-First Approach

Test our hypothesis that it’s worth putting a resource onto a time-bound, scoped out project, solely to collect root cause data associated with potential issues in your factory. Use a semi-automated system that is web enabled to collect critical information on context and events.

The goal here is to collect more powerful diagnostic data than you can by aggregating fault codes like you usually do, 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. You’ll be out the labour cost of the resource you dedicate to your project, and a little bit of your time, but, you can usually get an automation supplier to support such an effort for free.

You may even find that your natural inclination to rush to connect all of your disparate machine based systems with software doesn’t make sense after you try this. There are times where a mobile-based system to retrieve better context on events that lead to factory issues will lead to integration with that system at a later date if possible, streaming machine data into the contextual system and not the other way around.

2. Put in a Context-First System to Trial New Equipment

Test our hypothesis that you can work with your original equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) and automation suppliers to get real-time access to trial related data, including quantified outputs from the trial on the value created by new equipment or consumables you may be buying.

With a context-first system for trials, you can define success criteria before you begin a pilot and build this into your tracking efforts of the trial on site. This includes defining how long a trial will run, what objectives define a successful pilot, and what parameters will be measured throughout the pilot to gauge movement towards meeting those objectives.

Mobile devices can be configured so that it’s clear what information field based partners or on-site employees at a plant need to collect throughout the trial period. Then, you can receive real-time diagnostics from the floor. With an appropriately configured system and a powerful reporting engine, you’ll have all the intelligence you need to share successful pilot or trial results with plant management, procurement, and other decision makers.

If the trial was borne out of downtime issues, the power of context-first downtime tracking will be immediately evident.

3. Picking Your Own Context-First Project and Calculating the Financial Impact to Change How You Track Downtime

This one is simple. Pick a simple 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. One of our partners just did exactly this, to the tune of identifying $2.5M+ in unknown issues in 1 day.

To learn more about how mobile-based performance improvement systems designed with context in mind, click here.

Mobile Apps That Can Justify $1M+ in CAPEX in a Day

 Mobile Apps That Can Justify $1M+ in CAPEX in a Day
Unplanned factory downtime is frustrating, and identifying the root cause of it is even more frustrating.

Often, understanding the root causes of downtime can help identify the need for, and justify large capital expenditures, which ultimately can improve your operation by addressing a core issue.

If only management could get to that root cause.

The reality of any factory manager or supervisors week just doesn’t make this easy. Consider for a moment, what the end of their week is typically like. Management is finally getting around to reviewing reports, including those on unplanned factory downtime, only to find out that there were huge issues on a production line and they didn’t know why.An issue with something at the end of the packaging line perhaps. It caused a half a day of downtime, and management wasn’t notified. The operators simply fixed it, and kept running.

When teams are asked about the issue, they point the finger, and management gets five different explanations about the root cause. All they’ve really got to go on is week old, barely legible paper note 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 better your data is on downtime events, and the more timely the context and resolution, the more likely it might be that you can make a case to justify a significant investment in new processes, or equipment, so that the root causes are addressed appropriately.

Consider how customers are using mobile apps to address downtime issues and ultimately CAPEX problems when it comes to well used, less sophisticated machinery at the end of their packaging lines.

The progressive automation suppliers and 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 projects that can be applied globally across an organization.

For the uninitiated, specific pieces of equipment can lead to significant unknown, and unplanned downtime and can be a major source of frustration for operations personnel at the end of a production line.

In one of our customers cases, they were running efficiently upstream, and they had a small piece of technology that continually under-performed, often randomly. If you’ve experienced bottlenecks or downtime at the end of a packaging line, you know what’s next.

Usually, rework, while employees manually tape boxes, product spilling off the line, and costly unplanned downtime while you fix the head and reinstall anything that’s broken (with fingers crossed that you can fix the problem internally).

Management wasn’t notified in the aforementioned case, and technical employees on the floor simply fixed the problem as quickly as they could, without logging the impact of the problem. It wasn’t malicious, but, they weren’t trained to track these events as downtime events and didn’t make the link between CAPEX approaches to solving the problem permanently.

To get a clear indication of how often this particular asset was failing, and the factory downtime costs associated with it, management decied to use a mobile device over the course of an eight hour shift, clearly documenting the unplanned factory downtime and the root causes of the issues in real-time.

Consider the power of tracking metrics like case throughput rates, number of cases run, quantity of incorrectly taped cases, reasons for downtime, and the time to correct rework over the course of a shift, relative to a problem asset or process.

By combining this data with known financial values associated with the cost of downtime per minute, they made a case within a day to part ways with existing factory technology, replace it, and ultimately reduce downtime and rework to the tune of $1M+ in one factory as a result of a future CAPEX.

The lessons were applicable broadly, throughout the organization in multiple factories, which amplifies the potential value creation substantively.

All for the investment in a mobile application, and a days worth of a technicians time.

5 Reasons I’m Ecstatic About Version 2.0 of SITEFLO

5 Reasons I'm Ecstatic About Version 2.0 of SITEFLO


Next week, we release Version 2.0 of SITEFLO. The evolution of the product is really exciting, now laser focused as a direct result of feedback loops with our partners, customers, and the markets we were pulled into.

Version 2.0 is all about the identification, monitoring, and solving of performance problems in packaging and manufacturing sectors. It has particular relevance for the lean, six-sigma, and continuous improvement crowd, and just about anybody interested in solving asset based and process problems in highly technical operating environments.Here are the top 5 reasons I’m ecstatic about Version 2.0, and the people who built it:

1. It Was Developed by Misfits: I say this affectionately. We’ve got a team of packaging sector partners and software aficionados who are exceptionally talented at spotting and solving performance problems in packaging and manufacturing environments. Their collective level of knowledge is extremely rare, and their collaboration on this product, which meant parking many of their own interests, got all of us a focused product and service offering that is delivering big wins for all of us. They’re a unique crew, they break traditional molds, and they’re not usually married up like we have them today, but they’ve baked themselves into our product and the value our customers are creating as a result is wild. It’s humbling, and we’re quite fortunate.

2. We Did Away With Your Grandfather’s Asset Hierarchy: I know that asset hierarchy’s sound terribly boring, but this one isn’t. While asset hierarchy’s within products like ours are fairly common place, this one has features that most don’t, allowing for really granular customization of the parent and child relationships that exist within an organization and its assets, for more powerful slicing and dicing of data. When you couple that with some of the support we provide, you get access to powerful analytics.

3. Some Amazing Organizations Pre-Ordered It: Some of the largest automation suppliers, packaging and manufacturing organizations in the world are using the product today. Even better, small and medium-sized organizations are using it in a similar manner, to identify, monitor, and solve common performance problems in their operating environments. Many ordered it on the strength of Version 2.0, which was really designed by them in the first place. The feedback loop we’ve got with our customers and partners is an honest one, and it’s really effective.

4. The New Application Makes Tracking Downtime Easy: Downtime keeps our customers up at night, and Version 2.0 makes downtime tracking a breeze. Even more pleasing for me was that we released features that are proving extremely complimentary to our customers advanced manufacturing execution software, and other OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) focused products installed. Our team nailed the mobile-based nature of downtime tracking. It wasn’t easy, and use of the application for these purposes continues to identify $1M+ problems that other products miss. It’s nice to make measurable impacts alongside other products we really respect.

5. The Product and the Support We Provide Makes Problem Solvers Very Effective: This is important nuance. We’re a product based company, but we see ourselves as servicing and enabling problem solvers in highly technical work environments. These problem solvers aren’t assets on a line, and they can’t be automated out of a process or a sector by the industrial internet of things. Yes, they need better tools, but these are real people, capable of tackling the issues of global competitiveness and efficiency in packaging, broader manufacturing, and other technical sectors. When they’re given appropriate technology and exceptional support,  performance improvement and problem solving isn’t only possible, it makes an immediate impact and provides a return within days.

I sincerely hope you enjoy what our team worked so hard to create. We’re looking forward to advancing the product together with your continued support!

Brent MacDonald

3 Ways You Can Break Free of 80’s Era Automation Sales



3 Ways You Can Break Free of 80's Era Automation Sales


Still selling automation solutions into the manufacturing and packaging sector using paper? Maybe a spreadsheet is your preference, or a long form proposal in response to an RFQ. You could send a customer a couple of relevant use cases, and refer them to a testimonial on your website. Maybe a video of your solution working perfectly will seal the deal. Or, you could cold call them until they pick up the phone.

Observing the rub here?

You’re a solution seller, with an advanced system to automate an operation, and the best you can provide to prove the value of the product is your word, marketing materials, an old use case, and a spreadsheet.

Your word matters. Absolutely.

Especially in the packaging sector, where deep, long-term relationships between automation suppliers, manufacturing, and packaging operations exist, but there are global forces that make this a much more difficult world to sell solutions into. You’ve likely experienced them. Mergers and acquisitions, changing that friendly face you used to deal with. Cost pressures, driving requirements for deep cuts and competitive bidding processes. And, investments in new technology that identify whether or not the solutions you’ve sold in the past really do provide their promised value.

Then there are the new Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s), driving operations to reorganize processes, effectively creating a whole new heartbeat for their manufacturing operation that they can measure, potentially without you.

This isn’t all bad news, provided you’re retooling your automation focused organization to identify and implement performance improvement solutions and value for your customers, over your goals to sell equipment, consumables, and services.

Those trusted solution sellers who are doing so, viewed by customers as partners, have accepted these global forces by embracing new, distinct opportunities to identify problems that couldn’t be identified years ago.

Here are a few opportunities we’ve observed to provide additional value that you might be missing. Ultimately, these will set you on a path to breaking free of 80’s era automation sales tactics so that both you, and your valued customer can win as collaborative, trusted partners:

1. Help Monitor a New Line or Technology Installation: Getting a new line or any new asset to perform optimally is tremendously difficult, and to ramp up to promised value, substantive monitoring is required. Start thinking about how you can deploy monitoring resources to help with the ramp up. Right now, you’re probably not helping as much as you should be, and you’re viewing this monitoring function as a cost post-sale. Don’t, and invest in monitoring technologies.

CONSIDER DOING THIS: Bundle monitoring technology with the sale of your product. You’ll have a competitive advantage over the other guy, and you and your customer can get real-time intelligence on the ramp up, as well as the issues observed. Either your own sales partners, employees, or factory employees can be trained to help with monitoring, provided you invest in easy to use monitoring technology.

2. Offer to Challenge OEE Measurements and MES Systems: You’ve likely heard of Overall Equipment Effectiveness, or OEE, and manufacturing execution software (MES). OEE is a measurement of availability, performance, quality, and overall utilization. You’ve also likely experienced some visualization of OEE on a dashboard, likely mounted to the wall of a manufacturing operation, possibly fed by some sort of software or other factory system. Trust us when we tell you that their are factors that an existing manufacturing execution software or other system are missing, often to the tune of millions of dollars. All it takes it keen observation and the investment of a few hours of your time, and you’ll be able to spot deficiencies that correlate with dollar signs.

CONSIDER DOING THIS: Propose a “challenge” project to a customer, where you’ll provide a free line audit for a day with monitoring technology, configured to suit the operation (we call them single-shift improvement projects). Select a core issue to track performance against, like downtime. Through observation and shared intelligence, prove what’s missing when they view their existing metrics. Provide a report that makes solutions to their problems a no brainer, and you both win.

3. Do Time Bound, Real-Time Intelligence Sharing on a Problem: If you trust in your solutions, and your ability to observe, this is a great way to prove out value, and show returns even in the pre-sale phase. Select an area of the line and either evaluate the specific performance of an asset that is core to primary or secondary packaging functions, for example, or, just look upstream and downstream of this core asset and observe root causes relative to metrics that matter. If you give access to your results in real-time, you can show a customer insight that they’ve never had before with respect to technician activity, and overall utilization of factory assets.

CONSIDER DOING THIS: This is a bit different than challenging an existing system. It’s really an ask to monitor performance, potentially of an asset you helped install. You’ll want to create an opportunity to observe a variety of factors, so that you can report on your observations. The observations can be shared to start a conversation about performance improvement.

Automation supply into the manufacturing and packaging sector is still all about trust.

That, and proof of value, in real-time.

How to Identify $2.5M+ in Unknown Waste in 1 Day

How to Identify $2.5M+ in Unknown Waste in 1 Day

A couple of weeks ago, our COO, Joel Vautour, a software aficionado and not a packaging expert, spent 16 hours in a factory with one of our partners. Any chance we get to do this, we take it.

His goal was to help their team collect data using SITEFLO, and to learn more about how the partner intended to use the system to prove out the value of the solution they were selling. Truthfully, we weren’t quite sure how this motley crew was going to make out.
Here’s the email I sent to them when they were done (a slight edit to keep things confidential).* * * * *

Subject: Trial

From: Brent MacDonald <brent.macdonald@xiplinx.com>
Date: May X, 2015
To: Partners

Cc: Joel Vautour <joel.vautour@xiplinx.com>, David McNally <david.mcnally@xiplinx.com>

Guys – what a huge lift within two days to get this out. Pretty amazing that you went from stepping into the plant today to this level of analysis the next night.

I don’t know what’s crazier. That you pulled all of this off within two days, or that you sent 5 guys into the plant for 16 hours each.

Will leave the finer details on the report to you, but, it’s all pretty awesome.

Brent MacDonald

@macdonald_brent / @siteflo

* * * * *

The plant they were walking into had advanced software to track OEE, and they were working with a really progressive, technical executive who I has assumed had solved most of his problems (in case you’re not aware, OEE is Overall Equipment Effectiveness, and a measure of how well a manufacturing operation is utilized).

The goal? Collect enough data over the course of a shift that they could prove that their solution reduced downtime and rework dramatically. They also hoped to observe the operation, by tracking downtime, rework, and other waste occurrences not currently factored into their existing OEE calculations.

The result? Over $2.5M+ in unknown waste, largely attributed to rework and downtime issues, and having the wrong end-of-line packaging solution installed. They made a clear case for the solution they were selling, and even better, it was evident that they weren’t just equipment sellers. They were partners in the truest sense of the word, identifying problems that this factory didn’t know they had.

Here’s how this crew did it, step by step:

1. Got In:  Convinced the executive to let them on site for a day at no cost, and to collect head-to-head trial data using SITEFLO. Free line audits are a common way to do this, but, rather than pitch a line audit, this team pitched the executive on a Single-Shift-Continuous-Improvement project. Kind of like telling somebody you’ll blow their mind with your reporting and analysis, but all you need is a day.

2. Rolled with the Punches: When unexpected downtime hit, they weathered the storm, and stayed an extra shift. Sounds like the latter half of the trial was boring. Their solution performed so well when compared to the existing solution, that they had no downtime and rework issues to track at the end of the line.

3. Shared Trial Data in Real-Time: Team members back home, and executives could monitor the head-to-head trials on a live dashboard. Even in cases where plant wi-fi wasn’t optimal, queuing and syncing features got data back in near real-time. You could watch this trial like it was a sporting event.

4. Stood There. Stood There Some More: Honestly, there was a bit of standing around, and collecting data with a discrete, semi-automated solution, but keep reading. It was worth it.

5. Ran a Report on the Results: While they were in the plant that night, they ran a report right away and completed their analysis. The case to buy their product over the competing product was overwhelming. If this was a sporting event, a few people just won. Their existing solution provider? They lost. Big time.

6. Delivered the Report: The next day, they delivered two reports to the executive.

A) One illustrated the performance of a full production line when their solution was installed, and when the existing solution was installed. It was exceptionally detailed, but required very little time to produce.

B) The other report, called a Single-Shift-Continuous-Improvement report identified three other opportunities for continuous improvement based on their observations as experts. Value added for the executive, but, opportunities he hadn’t yet considered.

This wasn’t rocket science. It required team commitment, and extremely compelling, trustworthy data (not handwritten notes, nor excel spreadsheets).

It was as though the team had a crystal ball on site, but they didn’t. They were a second set of eyes, in a traditionally chaotic environment, where root causes to problems are rarely evident.

Expect nothing less from your automation suppliers. The great ones do it this way.

Proving Head-to-Head Equipment Trial ROI’s to Procurement

Proving Head-to-Head Equipment Trial ROI's to Procurement


Automation suppliers in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector have to run head-to-head trials everyday to prove the value of their solution over an existing or competing installation.
It’s challenging stuff, and even though the organizations we partner with almost always perform better than the other guys, they’ve historically had trouble proving out their value proposition to procurement teams.

Just last week, one of our SITEFLO customers was in a factory before bidding on an RFQ. They delivered a pleasant surprise to their prospective customer, after identifying the potential for $2.5M+ in performance improvement projects, all of which reduced downtime and rework. Their insight will affect OEE and will reduce waste significantly, as well as contribute to overall lean manufacturing objectives.

Even better, buying their equipment and consumables has a clear, measurable impact on the performance of the factory overall. A clear case can be made to procurement teams because this automation supplier can quantify that impact.

To learn more about how SITEFLO customers are getting 90% more intelligence from their head to head trials and quantifying the ROI, take a quick look at the 20 second video below.

Jellybeans and the Measure Phase of DMAIC

Jellybeans and the Measure Phase of DMAIC

Below, you’ll find a transcript of our Q & A with Matt Hansen, founder at www.statstuff.com. If you’re into lean, six-sigma, continuous improvement, or jellybeans, Matt’s website is a completely free resource, and has a bunch of free training and materials. We caught up with him last week and here’s what Matt had to say about the “irony of the measure phase of the DMAIC cycle”, and why prizes for jellybean counting competitions might help.

Before you start reading, consider one of Matt’s key questions, as you consider how you measure operations and projects.

If I had a huge jar of jellybeans, and you had to guess how many red ones were in the jar, would you measure them precisely? Or, would you take a sample? Is your answer different if your reward for the right guess is a T-shirt? What if the reward is $1,000,000? How might you want to measure now?

Brent: We’re interviewing Matt today because we really wanted to talk to him about an active post he put up on Linkedin in a Continuous Improvement and Lean and Six-Sigma group we both belong to. Essentially, Matt put a post up about the measure phase of the DMAIC cycle, but it was an active discussion and a really relevant topic for us here at SITEFLO. Welcome Matt.

Matt: Thanks for having me Brent.

Brent: Can you give me some perspective on DMAIC for the unitiaited when it comes to lean and six-sigma, and what it means?

Matt: Sure. DMAIC is 5 different phases in a process. It starts off with the define phase, which is when we try to understand a problem that we’re trying to solve. And then we move to measure phase, which is when we try to gather reliable information around the problem we’re trying to solve. After that we move to the analyze phase, which is when we’re trying to apply statistical tools and analyses to see the root cause based on the analysis of the data we gathered on the measure phase. Once we understand the root cause, we can try to figure out how we might fix it, which is when we move to the improve phase to figure out what things we can do and implement to fix the root causes. After implementation, we move on to the control phase, because we don’t want the original problem to rear its ugly head again. So, we put certain controls in place, and those controls are around solutions to prevent that problem from happening again, so we can sustain solutions. I describe the DMAIC flow as a scientific method that’s adapted to business, and It’s common sense, but it has a methodical flow.

Brent: In the Linkedin group there was a lot of discussion about tactics, and what can happen when you get to the measurement phase of the DMAIC cycle. Can you talk a bit about what tactics people employ to get good measurements?

Matt: The tactics you might use really vary from organization to organization. So, it might vary from using existing systems that they have embedded within the organization, or they might try to create new methods to collect data if they don’t have an existing system to collect information, they might have to create a manual method. And then they have to devise some way of how they’re going to gather that information. Often, we see a lot of people walking around with clipboards, or maybe with a laptop, just observing what’s going on through the process and documenting critical points that we think we want to track. We gather that compiled information to work through and analyze the data. So, it really varies. The ideal method is when we have a system in place that’s already been proven and tested, where you have reliable information at critical points within the process. Like, if you have time stamps, or other kinds of things that factor in the movement and flow of products or activities. It’s not always easy, because sometimes the problem you’re trying to fix doesn’t have a measurement, so you have to create those measurements. That’s when it gets really challenging. And when we work through those challenges and we get the data, just having the data isn’t enough. My experience has been that you have to trust your data, so you might have to employ some additional effort to make sure this is data you can trust that comes from a trusted source. You need to know who recorded the data, or the time they recorded it. When you’re dealing with multiple shifts across different days, you may have people who recorded their data only within one shift because that’s what most convenient. But, that may not be representative of the entire process. So, you have to take a lot of these factors into consideration. You really have to move on to the measurement system analysis, or MSA, where you test for the accuracy, reliability, and reproducibility of your data. By working through several tests as part of that MSA proces, you can walk away from the measure phase knowing whether or not you can trust the data. And then you move onto the analysis phase. If I can’t trust the data? What’s the point?

Brent: That really gets at the heart of some of the stuff we run into everyday, which has to do with trying to validate whether or not the data that people have is trustworthy at all. It’s really tough to get at that. With modern technology, there are so many ways that we can collect better data, I think there are a lot of solutions out there for people to really nail that measure phase.

So Matt, why do organizations typcally fall short on the measure phase of this cycle in the first place?

Matt: Well, this is really relevant to the question that even prompted that discussion on Linkedin. It’s easy to blame it on impatience or laziness, but I think it’s more than that because I don’t think anyone would do that intentionally if they understood the risks that they’re taking. What it comes down to is an assumption that people are making about risks, and if they really understood the assumptions that they were making and the benefits of the process they’re working through, they wouldn’t fail at the measure phase in the first place. The way I described it in the Linkedin group was about the irony of the measure phase, and people who work through it quickly. So, they look for quick ways to get the data, with the intention of getting to a fast solution that they can implement. What I find is, as they complete the define and measure phase, they get to analyze and realize they don’t have the right data, and then they find themselves having to go back to the measure phase. And again, I think it goes back to the assumptions they’re making. Take my jellybean example. Imagine you had a huge jar of jellybeans in front of you, and you had to guess how many red jellybeans there were in the jar. Well, there are two approaches you can take. One, you can pour out all the jellybeans, separate them into colours, and count them one by one. It will take a lot of time, but you’ll be very accurate in your approach. The second method is if you wanted to scoop out a sample, and extrapolate and estimate to figure out how many red ones you may have in the entire jar. Both approaches are valid, and that second example is faster, but it’s not as accurate. We use the second method a lot in statistics, so we don’t have to sample an entire population. The problem becomes when you’re trying to understand the risks and the benefits. If the prize is a T-shirt after you count the jellybeans? Well, no big deal. You don’t want to spend a lot of time on it. But, what if the prize was $1,000,000? Well, nobody want to guess anymore and we want to be really precise about those measurements. I’m going to count it because I need to be accurate. If we really understood the risks of bad data as we move through the DMAIC flow, we would understand that it’s worth getting data that you trust so you can move on. It gives us confidence that we’re getting to the right solution after all.

Brent: Before we leave, I wanted you to tell people a little bit about Statstuff. Can you tell people a bit about what you’re doing, and why they might want to visit the site?

Matt: Sure. So, I boast it as the only free online source for the complete training content for lean six-sigma. If you go to any other training source, at your local college or online, people end up hundreds if not thousands of dollars to go through their training. They usually dedicate several days and weeks to go through the entire training, but everything I’ve got on Statstuff is the same kind of content they can get from any other training organization. Anyone can access the content for free. A lot of the videos are free and public, and some require registration, but, it’s still all free. I’m doing this because this is a lot of math and common sense information, and I learned and benefited from a lot of other sources. I just don’t feel right about holding this back from people so I just offer it, and allow people to use the information. Statstuff, from what I understand, has one of the largest compilations of comparisons between other training organizations. It’s really hard to compare costs, time investments, and quality between training organizations. I offer a list so you can compare their pricing, requirements for certification, and all of those wonderful things you want to know about.

Brent: There you have it. Completely free resource. Generally, we don’t do a whole lot of advertorial stuff but this is entirely free and it’s been helpful to us. Hope it’s helpful for some of our readers.