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Most manufacturers look to a Manufacturing Execution System (MES) for optimizing operations and enforcing a repeatable process. However in last week’s article, we covered how the right MES solution can perform functions that a typical MES is not known for: overcoming labor shortages.

Today, let’s explore how a modern MES solution — the best of the best with advanced functionality — can boost productivity, too.

The following article includes a real-life case study (labor savings of $400,000 per year) as well as a new process model to enhance efficiency. Please understand, however, that not every MES can do this, and I’ll explain why.

A Case Study in Productivity

Success introduces unique challenges to a manufacturing process. In this case, a manufacturer of high-performance engines was enjoying increased demand for a successful new product.

Although the manufacturer was cranking out 130+ units per day, it was not enough to meet market demand, so a thorough review of the production process was needed in an attempt to meet that demand without driving up costs.

Was it possible to increase production simply by improving efficiency? The only way to answer that was to use an MES to capture a rich data set and then expertly evaluate the findings.

In this situation, the MES used was PINpoint’s V5 software. By leveraging PINpoint’s exclusive 5-Bucket Model (more on this later), the team analyzed the data and knew exactly how much time was being spent at every station by every operator for every process step along the assembly line.

Analytics on the data in MES revealed that some assembly steps were especially time consuming and could be optimized for greater efficiency. 

For example, at one of the 42 stations on the line, the process involved manually entering a serial number and checking a separate system to see if the correct part was being used. That step was improved with an automated scanner and connecting the MES to an external database to automatically validate the part. The net result was instant time savings. It was the knowledge gained by analyzing the MES data that revealed the opportunity.

So, what did all of the data and all of the strategizing amount to? 50 seconds!

Wait, what?! Only a total of 50 seconds were shaved off of the TAKT time for every station on the line? While that may not sound impressive, that reduction in TAKT time at each station allowed the manufacturer to produce 10 additional engines per day with no additional labor costs. That is equivalent to more than $400,000 of direct labor annually.

The 5 Bucket Model

So, squeezing out every second of productivity is worth pursuing, but doing so is only possible when you have the right MES. To help manufacturers truly understand where all time is going on an assembly line, PINpoint created the “5 Bucket Model” as a way to understand time utilization at each station and provide a true picture of performance.

On any given assembly line, there are five different states (or buckets) in which a station can be during production. Four out of the five do not add value to the process; these are “lost time” states. The fifth, “working,” is the sweet spot; the value-add state that should be maximized. Here’s an overview.

PINpoint 5 Bucket Model States

Waiting: Station doesn’t have a product, and there is not a product in the station’s queue
Available: Station doesn’t have a product, but a product is available in the station’s queue
Suspended: Station has a product, but the system is preventing work. Reasons include: 1) No operator logged in, 2) Operator viewing document
Working: Station has a product, and the operator is actively working through their process steps
Complete: Station has a product, and the operator has completed all process steps

All five buckets are real-life states that regularly occur during assembly. Most MES solutions only measure what’s happening during the “working” bucket, capturing cycle times that managers want to study before making decisions.

As you’ve read, an advanced, modern MES captures data regarding every bucket during every second of every day. That includes every operator at every station! The MES provides insight to the assembly line’s performance in ways that were unheard of before.

Trends — not just monthly, but daily, even hourly or down to the minute — can be studied as they relate to an individual operator or product to determine where efficiencies can be gained. These are new insights into the productivity of an assembly line that were hidden before the MES uncovered them.

This truly is “reading between the lines,” so managers can find ways to reduce time spent in the four non-value-add buckets.

Complete Birth History/Genealogy

Remember those engines from earlier? An MES solution, at least the right MES solution, allows them to be fully tracked from beginning to end. You know exactly what parts were added at each step, every action taken in every station by every operator; it’s all documented electronically.

That birth history helps eliminate unknowns if warranty issues come up. No more scrambling through piles of paper documentation that may not even exist. It’s all in the system. All the torques, all the specifications, all test know how it was built.

In addition to product genealogy, an MES also allows for smooth transitions in a manufacturer’s workforce. As turnover inevitably happens, it’s simple and effective to train new operators using an MES. Everything from work instructions to process steps to protective equipment verification is included within the system.

Speaking of inefficient manufacturing lines, we have a guide that covers five common pain points and shows how an MES could be a single solution that solves all of them. Get your copy of our guide, A Smoother Road to Manufacturing Success. Just click on the image below.

Manufacturing Pain Points Guide

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