OEE system - or paper and a pencil?

One of the trends right now in production is to install automated systems for production follow-ups of the type OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness). I believe that we too often make these investments without a proper requirement analysis. Certainly, these types of systems can be effective in bottleneck machinery. They may also be useful in highly automated processes where productivity (products per hours) is very important, provided that the reports generated are used in a systematic way for targeted improvement efforts.

The biggest problem with advanced computerized systems is the timing. A project for production monitoring typically begins delivering data after about 6-12 months. How do we know today whether we will need that data then? In six months, we probably deal with other problems. Perhaps we have introduced new products and we struggle to get the quality right; the equipment may no longer be a bottleneck or we might have a problem with a supplier. At that time, those problems are more important than anything else.

Instead of investing our time and money in a large IT-project, what if we go down to the production floor today and start collecting data by hand? We could have information about process efficiency and stability this afternoon. The only equipment we need is paper, a pencil, and a stopwatch. Tomorrow, we can sketch out a new desired standard and can try to take the first measure. In three months, we will have implemented many improvements and have created a much more stable production.

But, if we after our manual effort see a need for further improvements to this process and manual measurement is too time consuming? Yes, in that case, it is time to automate the measuring and turn to a computerized system. We have the knowledge of our process and know what is important to oversee.

By Oskar Olofsson