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Monday, August 28th 2006


"A Single Version of the Truth"

This phrase has been used in many contexts, including by the SAS Institute in the book Customer Data Integration: Reaching a Single Version of the Truth. It is particularly applicable to the manufacturing shop floor where fact-based information can drive improvements. Many improvements can be traced to somebody looking at accurate data and wondering why or how. The lean objective of continuosly improving value for your customer needs to be supported by accurate process measurements.

Part of the problem is that there is not always a common language used to define terms. This is needed not only within an enterprise, but between the enterprise and its suppliers and customers. A supplier may argue that they were on time with a delivery because the units arrived on the agreed upon day. However, the customer may disagree because some of the material failed to pass incoming inspection and needed to be replaced.

It is difficult to argue that the actual collection of data creates value. However, converting this data into actions creates value. Continuing to collect and monitor for improvement protects the value that has been achieved for your customers. Using monitoring information to produce consistent value for your customers will lead to product superiority and market leadership.

In order to create this value, you must follow these steps.

  1. Have a corporate direction for improvement that can be implemented by measurements on the shop floor. Optimizing a high volume product can show significant returns by lowering costs. Spending time on a product that isn't making much money probably won't show any return.
  2. Identify areas of potential improvement and implement automated measuring. Manual measuring can catch some problem areas, but the major improvement comes from measuring every seconds or less, not in 5-10 minute samples.
  3. Utilizing analysis tools that allow you to see problem areas. If you are looking for downtime on machines, having the actual measured weekly figure quickly points to candidates for improvement. In order to begin the improvement you need to drill down to very detailed informtion.
  4. Operators must be involved in the analysis and problem determination. A lot of the analysis capability resides with the people. Not involving them dooms your effort.
  5. Optimization must be plant wide. Focusing on improving availability of individual machines won't help much of there is a buffer or interconnect problem.
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