Never has this adage been more true than with Shop Floor Data Collection.  What’s common today is that manufacturers are pulling lots of data from lots of different sources, but they are rarely using it effectively. Putting systems in place that actually create positive change is the ultimate goal. So what, exactly, does that mean?


Data that demands attention


Data metrics are just numbers if they aren’t part of a platform that promotes communication between people, and real-time visibility is the factor that creates that difference. In a fast-paced business that involves high-speed machinery, it’s just not good enough to wait until the end of a shift or the next morning to get a report. Seeing problems arise in real-time is what it’s all about NOW, in more ways than one. Just look at the history timeline.


For a very long time, operators would fill in ‘shift reports’ on paper. Next came typing it into “green screens” or DOS computers, then typing it into an Excel Spreadsheet. But in all of this ‘progress’, the data has been passive. It doesn’t demand to be seen, so it’s too easily lost or ignored. With real-time metrics, watch how this can change dramatically.


What happens when you see data in real-time


Questions happen. And they happen right when it matters. Operators start to ask themselves ‘what’s causing my shift to get behind right now? Why is our scorecard going from yellow to red?’ The next thing that happens is communication, and often collaboration.  Whether it takes one person or several, people pull together and do what has to be done to fix a problem, because everyone wants the same thing. Here’s a terrific example:


Success Story: ‘STACKER SHOCK’


On the shop floor of a large printing plant, the real-time visibility of their Flex system indicated that their highest volume Press was consistently behind schedule and “in the Red” due to downtime. So they asked the question, ‘Why? Why this machine?’


Flex production tracking made it easy for the operators to communicate and quantify the downtime impact of the stacker unit on the press. It was a lemon of a stacker, and it was causing the machine to go down. The manager then asked the next question, ‘why can’t we get another stacker? What can we do to get this fixed NOW?’ Everyone thought he was crazy. It would take months to get the capital approved for an $80,000 replacement stacker, and then they would have to install it, etc. He said ‘what if we could find a back-up stacker from another one of our presses, and we have the space to put it here, right? Isn’t there a second stacker on press 3 that we rarely use?’ Well, there was. So they disconnected that stacker, moved it to the problem press, and boom. They cut their overall downtime on that critical asset by 30%. The team was shocked that this all went down so quickly. That’s the power of real-time production visibility on the shop floor. It aligns everyone around the same key performance indicators.


What’s the bottom line?


For most medium sized manufacturing plants, there is typically at least a $300,000 – $400,000 savings, simply from cutting avoidable waste. Let’s back that out for a moment with what I like to call the ‘20/20 rule’.


Any plant that doesn’t have a Real-time Production Management system is likely to have at least 20% of total “non-value added” waste. I believe that a system like Flex can easily save at least 20% of that by detecting the “avoidable waste”. For a $20 million dollar business that equates to throwing away $4 million dollars in total waste or lost capacity – real-time visibility should allow them to eliminate 20% of that as “avoidable waste” for a total of $800,000 dollars in savings or essentially free capacity.


I’ve seen this level of opportunity over and over. At a time when cutting costs is more important than ever, real-time production management on the shop floor gives your team the right data at the right time to communicate better.  That leads to the elimination of avoidable waste, which leads to substantial savings. It’s really not the size of your database that matters, it’s how you use it.  And THAT is the bottom line.