Real Time Visibility Translates Into Real Life Savings

It’s important to consider what software can do to improve your ability to react when faced with an unforeseen production snafu.

Creating a truly nimble production environment requires up-to-the-minute information.
This article originally appeared in the April 2014 print edition of IMPO. 
When a production process slows or, worse, a line goes down, it’s oftentimes enough to make a manufacturing company CFO’s heart skip a beat.
A recent infographic developed by the CMMS software company eMaint factors in tangible and intangible costs, and suggest that downtime in some applications cost manufacturers up to $22,000 per minute — which equals out to $1.3 million an hour.
And yet, of industrial facilities that estimate TDC (total downtime cost), according to the infographic, “almost every facility loses at least five percent of its productive capacity from downtime, and many lose up to 20 percent. Of the 20 percent that can estimate their downtime, (they) usually underestimate TDC by 200 to 300 percent.”
Real Time Access
So the problem may be more massive than most companies – and their bean counters – even realize. Many companies focus on the preventative angle, equipping themselves with highly trained employees, cutting edge machinery, and the tools for a strong predictive maintenance programs. But it’s important to consider what software can do to improve your ability to react when faced with an unforeseen production snafu.
One of the key factors in preventing downtime severity is real time access to data. According to William Shema, Senior Manufacturing Consultant for Paper-Less – an MES software and services provider – having this data in real time provides immediate visibility to any problems before they become larger concerns. And besides just downtime, this access can alert plant management to slowdowns where “the promised delivery date may not be met unless some action is taken. A work center may be behind schedule due to a machine that is not operating at its expected performance because of a need for repair. These problems can be quickly identified and resolved if manufacturers have real-time access to the data,” explains Shema. He goes on to explain that, with timely response to issues as they arise, the manufacturer can take care of problems and fulfill their promised delivery to their customer. Without real time access to data, these problems might be discovered much later and could result in over processing, late delivery, excessive direct labor or, worse, a lost customer.
Additionally, data can become a plant manager’s best friend by creating better ways of material scheduling due to the instant visibility. “Issues such as equipment downtime, quality control errors, and over processing times in both setup and WIP can be addressed before they create scheduling delays,” says Shema. “Schedules are updated in real time, giving the latest information to production control and the manufacturing areas. The ability to change in real time allows material scheduling to be more proactive to potential open areas in the schedule.” The Paper-less MV2 supports the micro level sequencing of jobs that production supervisors do on a daily basis. With visibility to orders that are ahead or behind and the ability to look across multiple work centers, the scheduling tool enables good decisions. An easy to understand user interface supports drag and drop techniques to move jobs around in a single work center or even to another work center. The results of the supervisors scheduling decisions are communicated real time to the production floor through a Paperless Electronic Dispatch List.
Similarly, products like the eMaint X3 customizable reports and dashboards (within eMaint’s CMMS) enable users to create and modify reports that can be emailed automatically at pre-determined times, allowing management to spot trends and better track KPIs.
A Competitive Edge
According to Shema, access to real-time data in the manufacturing environment can give a manufacturer a competitive advantage in lead time reduction, cost containment, and customer satisfaction. Removal of the wastes found in the manufacturing process enables speed that can be translated into both customer lead time reduction and increased inventory turns, yet turning materials and labor into profit faster can be a very complicated process itself. “Using the correct continuous improvement tools appropriate to the manufacturer’s processes is important in the success of the program. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all Lean Manufacturing/Kaizen system that works for all manufacturers,” he explains. “A manufacturer’s culture needs to be understood when accessing the successful tools. Increasing the speed of goods through the manufacturing environment creates a need for increasing the availability of more timely data. Gathering data in real time and minimizing the effort required doing so by both the operators and supervisors helps to create a proactive, nimble, customer focused manufacturing environment.”
For a look at the infographic referenced in this article, visit