Centerlining manufacturing is critical for maximizing machine efficiency and ensuring consistent product quality. But maintaining a centerlined process can be challenging for manufacturers with hundreds or thousands of product SKUs, and even more challenging for operators during product change-overs. To make the switch from one SKU to the next with minimal downtime, operators need instant access to all their machine’s settings, values and packaging requirements, and the ability to quickly report problems along the way.
This article explores some of the ways manufacturers are making it easier for operators to follow centerlined processes throughout their shift, including escalating issues that cause their machine’s settings to drift and involving the right people for problem resolution.
The two objectives of centerlining in manufacturing are to determine the best machine settings for a production process and then to ensure the best settings are always used by operators during production throughout their shift. They can include anything from the position of guard rails to what pressure, speed, and temperature the machine must be set at.
Identifying the optimal settings not only helps drive standardization across manufacturing operations but also prevents avoidable mistakes and unnecessary waste. It takes the guesswork out of setting up a machine, thereby reducing the time it takes for operators to do a product change-over. Ideally, operators also verify their machine’s settings at specified intervals throughout their shift to ensure that they haven’t drifted.
While some machines only require a handful of settings, others can have dozens. This can be an overwhelming process for operators to set up, especially in plants that support hundreds of products and thousands of SKUs.
To add more complexity to the process, customers are becoming more demanding. Requests for added customization and just-in-time delivery increases the number of product SKUs that a manufacturer has to support and puts even more pressure to change over a line in record-breaking time.
This means manufacturers have to be even more agile and accurate than ever before. And getting it wrong, as manufacturers know all too well, means unhappy customers and a potential loss in their business.
Operators are key to ensuring their machines are set up quickly and accurately during product change-overs, and that settings don’t drift during production. However, the process used by the vast majority of manufacturers to support centerlining procedures is actually slowing down their workforce.
Consulting production settings, reporting and troubleshooting problems, analyzing trends, and updating settings are still predominantly being done manually using pen and paper and word-of-mouth conversations.
Machine settings and requirements for non-PLC equipment that require manual adjustments are typically printed and stored in binders away from people’s workstations, making them difficult to access and update. And because they are often outdated, workers stop consulting them altogether.
When operators adjust and verify their machine’s settings during a product change-over and during their shift, they record the information on paper, and then the values are entered into an excel spreadsheet so that trends can be tracked. Storing the updated values in Excel makes it difficult for operators to easily verify them, thereby running the risk they continue using the old machine settings.
If operators encounter an issue with their machine’s settings during their shift, and cannot adjust it themselves, there is no easy way to escalate the problem and flag the right people to troubleshoot the problem. They must rely on their supervisors to get the message out, which causes delays or the risk of the message getting lost among other competing priorities.
When a problem is escalated and a resolution is found, more often than not, there is either no record of the event or there is no one central place to store the record. That means there’s no easy way to review the history of the problem with a machine or do a root cause analysis.
Some forward-thinking manufacturers are taking an entirely different approach to managing their centerlining procedures. They are replacing their manual, paper-based processes and “he-said, she-said” conversations with a digital tool called Poka.
This worker performance support app combines digital content, communications and collaboration into a single interface to make it faster and easier to their workers to support the full continuous improvement lifecycle when it comes to centerlining.
Engineers and maintenance capture and record the machine settings and requirements for non-PLC equipment that require manual adjustments for each product SKU and work order into Poka. This enables anyone across the manufacturer’s organization worldwide with the same machine and product SKUs to digitally access the production settings.
Operators scan the QR code on their work orders using their tablet device to instantly access all associated production settings directly at their workstations. When verifying the production settings during their shift, operators use Poka’s Forms and Checklist feature to document their actual production settings. The completed checklists serve as a digital logbook for the machine.
If any deviation is detected that requires the attention and help of maintenance, operators use Poka’s live news feed to report and escalate the problem. This includes posting a photo or video to illustrate the issue and communicating with maintenance and other parties in real-time as needed. Poka’s factory feed also serves as a digital logbook of all the issues that have occurred on the machine.
Engineers and maintenance can easily review the history of a machine’s production settings by doing a search on the factory feed and verifying the checklists that operators have filled out. This enables them to do a root-cause analysis to uncover long-term trends. Are operators simply not following or verifying the production settings? Are there broader issues with a machine? Where is the machine deviating and what is causing it? This, in turn, helps engineers to take corrective action and make informed decisions on how to update the production settings standards.
Manufacturers are seeing impressive results by keeping their centerlining procedures digital using Poka. For example, Leclerc, a manufacturer of cookies, snack bars and crackers, reduced the number of calls to maintenance by 30% during product change-overs.
Poka’s use cases and benefits are not limited to centerlining, however. Many manufacturers today, including Bosch, Westrock and Danone, are using Poka to digitally access all the information and resources they need to work to standard, post calls for help, trouble-shoot problems, document solutions, capture and share individual knowledge, manage and develop new skills, and train new operators – all without ever having to leave their workstations.
For more information on how Poka can help you with operational excellence, take a quick product tour here.