Top 6 Steps for Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) Improvement

By Mike Terry
Posted In : Automation, packaging automation, OEE

There’s a reason customers purchase top-quality machines like John Deere tractors or Mack trucks. They know the initial costs will be higher, but the lifetime performance they get from superior equipment will more than make up for their premier investment.

As we have discovered , focusing on equipment longevity and Return on Investment (ROI) is rarely the case with packagers and operators in manufacturing. Instead, producers tend to put price before performance, often leading them to requote for new packing machines after a short time and exceed their budget.

It may take time, but they always return to one simple truth about purchasing packaging equipment:

“Long-term Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is king.”

How long is my machine going to run? How many products and how much money will my machinery make over five, ten, or 20 years? Will my equipment pay me back my purchase price, long-term maintenance, repairs, and future innovation costs?

These essential questions require in-depth answers and define long-term performance and TCO. To do that, you need the key to unlocking a lifetime of measurable packaging excellence: optimized Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).

How Do I Improve OEE?

Improved OEE doesn’t happen at the flick of a switch. It requires committing to deliberate procedures, in-depth data analyses, and overall packaging line enhancements with the right OEM partner from the onset. While every overall equipment effectiveness improvement scenario will be unique, there are effective steps you can follow to optimize your OEE for better performance now and in the future:

Determine OEE & Quantify Performance Payback

The first step towards improving your OEE is determining the present operating data for each piece of machinery on your packaging line, whether you’re utilizing flow wrap, thermoforming packaging machine, tray sealer, or other equipment.

What is your OEE percentage? Does it match the industry average of 60% or the world-class OEE benchmark of 85%?

Your partner OEM will have TCO calculation tools to help you determine this number and show you how our equipment can deliver a higher OEE (9-10% on average) over its lifespan. However, you can calculate it independently as well using a simple formula:

Simply plug in your staffing units on the line, their specific hourly rate, the rate of the equipment, and the hours you want your machines to run, and you have an OEE baseline from which you can improve.

Once you have obtained this essential data, you can:

  • Compare OEE features and benefits of similar equipment side-by-side, in real-time
  • Quantify associated price differentials with those features and benefits
  • Determine payback schedule through superior performance, availability, and production yield
  • Establish OEE performance guarantees (if any) to justify investment

Minimize Downtime for Overall Equipment Effectiveness Improvement

Equipped with updated OEE information, you can better assess, assign, and address various downtime sources among specific pieces of equipment through tools such as Allen Bradley Controls and the Human Machine Interface (HMI). In-depth downtime readouts offer you essential information such as:

  • Running OEE percentage
  • Top ten reasons for downtime
  • Previous shift performance
  • Ideal speed, set speed, and average speed

Automating this OEE data collection can provide more precise, reliable, and readily available production information than manual collection, and dramatically improves operating decisions. Reports have indicated that automated packaging line OEE reporting for a single plant can increase OEE by up to 15% year over year.

Instead of guessing at downtime origins, you have them after every cycle, helping you to make performance decisions to benefit your line. Additionally, you can work proactively with your OEM partner to address any downtime concerns before they become costly issues. This attention to process detail smooths out delays across almost every stage of the packaging process, leading to improved OEE.

Measure Every Cycle

Many operators only take these measurements after an allotted time (every 30 minutes on avg.), leading them to discard all faulty packages within that period. They may also have to speed up production rates to achieve desired throughput and quality. This process can skew OEE measurements and cost you more over time.

For instance, you are running tray sealing equipment on your packaging line. You can and should be setting an appropriate seal and barometric pressure in your HMI, measuring the torque of the servo screw, and translating that into a pressure value. Once you have those values, you can stop increasing the pressure and apply that dwell time.

This process not only improves product burst value, but optimizes film peelability and achieves the core gas value you want when introducing modified atmosphere. Overall, obtaining these precise pressure measurements after every cycle provides more consistent, repeatable, uniform packaging – enhancing user-friendliness, minimizing product waste, and improving performance and OEE.

Opt for Robust Design to See Overall Equipment Effectiveness Improvement

Trave Tray SealerEven before the first product is packaged, improved OEE can begin with packing machine system design. Packaging machinery lifts large tools, transports millions of products, and generates precise sealing pressure at every cycle. When executing these duties, a system with a robust design provides distinct advantages inferior equipment cannot in terms of OEE and long-term performance.

Without it, your system can be subject to vibration, metal fatigue, loosening wires, components and parts, rounded transport bearings, and even tool crashes due to incorrect product positioning. These abnormalities lead to unplanned downtime, repairs, replacement, maintenance, and higher associated costs.

Robust design eliminates this downtime and leads to better OEE and proven performance over the life of your line.

Simplify Your Machine Components 

Simplicity is key when optimizing your OEE. Your packaging capabilities should be as sophisticated as possible. However, minimizing electrical components, such as thermal couplers, heating elements, pneumatics, and all associated wiring, gives you benefits more complicated equipment cannot match.

Adding too many individual elements that feedback to your Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) adds opportunities for malfunction, failure, and ultimately downtime. That downtime costs you more in labor, repairs, maintenance, as well as lost performance and production revenue. Fewer components means fewer failures overall, better uptime efficiency, and improved OEE.

Partner with a Single-Source Supplier for Overall Equipment Effectiveness Improvement

More subtle than other solutions but no less effective, choosing to source all your packaging equipment from a single OEM improves OEE from initial purchase to ongoing and preventative maintenance. The purchasing process is simplified, cutting down on equipment delivery and production times and eliminates the discrepancies between vendors for any causation of machine malfunction.

Additionally, sourcing your packaging equipment from a single supplier puts the repair and maintenance responsibilities on a single technician or team, cutting costs and streamlining solutions so that all components work harmoniously through every packaging cycle.

Working with a single-source supplier also makes coordinating deliveries, Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT), and technical assistance and installation more manageable. It gives you control over the pieces being built and where your systems and components are sourced.

Improved OEE Yields Improved Results

Improving OEE begins with machine design and lasts over the lifespan of your equipment. By taking action to cultivate and capture better OEE data, integrate automated packaging system data collection, and improve performance, you’re gaining real-time insight and better accuracy, as well as freeing up the capacity for your employees to execute high-value work. Ultimately, overall equipment effectiveness improvement is the key to articulating real value in terms of increased revenue and decreased downtime costs.

If you’re ready to improve your OEE and performance, talk to our experts at Harpak-ULMA Packaging. We offer the analysis, resources, and solutions you need to optimize your OEE long-term.

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