Most manufacturers have a “hidden factory” running in a parallel universe to the one they work in every day. “Hidden factory” is a term that refers to activities in a manufacturing operation such as workarounds, rework, or other wastes, all of which can be a substantial drain on the bottom line, top line, on employees and, most importantly, on the customer. Many manufacturers would not want to reveal how their product or service is created in their hidden factory given its inefficient processes and wasteful operations.
Looking within the Hidden Factory for untapped capacity
Beyond the basic benefits of exposing the hidden factory within your operations, such as labor and part cost reduction, the biggest motivation may be the opportunity to gain currently untapped capacity. The quality guru Armand Feigenbaum estimated the endeavor contained within the hidden factory might be 15 to 40 percent of total company effort. The notion of the hidden factory is bound up with the metric COPQ (cost of poor quality).
Many manufacturers may desire to increase throughput and revenues, but are hesitant to invest in new equipment, expand their factory footprint or add a second shift. The best solution is to release the untapped capacity held within the hidden factory. A good place to start is by measuring and optimizing OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness). OEE is a composite metric, which is the product of availability, performance and quality. OEE can be measured for manufacturing cells, lines or plant-wide.
Identifying Information Value Loops
Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a popular tool from the lean toolkit and has been around for quite a while. VSM advocates mapping of both material and information flows. Most lean practitioners will confess that most, if not all, of the VSM attention is devoted to material flow mapping, while the information flows get little attention. The necessity to give the information flows more attention is amplified by the maturity and convergence of new information technology solutions now available under the umbrella of Industry 4.0 or Smart Manufacturing. Thinking explicitly about your Information Value Loops (IVLs) throughout your factory floor is a modern day upgrade to the old VSM approach.
IVLs represent the visualization of the five core functions of converting data into useful information for factory floor situation assessment, problem solving and decision-making. The Holy Grail is real-time, closed loop IVLs. While real-time, closed IVLs can be very aspirational, a typical goal is to take minutes, hours and even days out of the IVL cycle time.
Revisiting OEE may provide a good example. Let’s assume that machine performance is the primary pain point. It could be that cycle time performance, short stops or another root cause is contributing to the shortfall in availability versus plan. Step one is to identify the IVL functions associated with assessing, problem solving and decision making relative to the machining cell in question. Collection of cycle counts and downtime reason codes could be done manually at the end of each shift. If a network with HMIs does not exist on the floor, communication could be via personal transfer to a front office administrator. Aggregation could be done in Excel. Analysis could be completed manually ad hoc at the daily production meeting and action taken could be via feedback to the cell operator with a day’s lag time. This serves as a baseline from which to improve.
Revealing the hidden factory with Smart Manufacturing technology
There are many Smart Manufacturing technologies that can enable information value drivers inherent in IVLs. These drivers include:
● Volume – megabytes vs. kilobytes
● Velocity – near real-time vs. batch
● Variety – mixed data types vs. structured data only
● Veracity – trustworthy vs. questionable
Implementing machine monitoring devices, electronic work order routing, ERP software systems or other technologies may improve some or all of these four information value drivers, accelerate IVLs, improve OEE and uncover available capacity hiding within the hidden factory. Essentially, the IVL identification process serves as a requirement analysis for any new IT solutions necessary.
Connected Factory Global is the trusted advisor to manufacturers, facilitating the design and implementation of Smart Manufacturing solutions using customized Smart Manufacturing Roadmaps. Our advisors offer deep expertise in the Smart Manufacturing ecosystem helping manufacturers identify, benchmark and improve their Information Value Loops to provide greater value for their organizations. Ready to get started on your Smart Manufacturing Journey? Contact us.