Last month I introduced the first of the new white papers from our ABB Service organization. Today, we begin with the first installment of the next paper on a topic that impacts us all - "Improving your Production Process".
Here is the introduction of this topic ***************************
Automation systems are designed to provide safe, reliable service for many years. But, as will all mechanical and electrical equipment, performance will degrade over time. No production process runs well forever. Due to the normal wear of the production equipment, the process will eventually begin producing off-specification product. The process may also respond poorly to changes in operating parameters, materials or environmental conditions, also leading to sub-optimum performance.
Not so long ago, facility managers had access to a staff of experienced process engineers within their organization. These process improvement experts devoted their time to analyzing production processes. They could be relied on to keep processes optimized, and uncover opportunities to increase efficiency, reduce costs, accelerate processes and improve quality.
Unfortunately, the payback for their efforts was sometimes not readily apparent or not realized quickly enough. Faced with increased competitive pressure and the need to very tightly manage costs, many of these process experts were let go or given other assignments that offered a faster or more easily identified return on investment.
Plant managers, however, still need access to the unique technical skills and knowledge required to maintain their process efficiency and effectiveness. They can turn to the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) or other third-party optimization experts to provide assistance. These outside resources can be called on to solve acute process problems or issues, and to uncover opportunities to elevate a well running process to even higher levels of performance.
Every manufacturing process has problems or issues of varying severity that reduce productivity, lower product quality and increase operating costs. Every process presents opportunities for improvements with measurable and often impressive results.
Identifying process improvement opportunities requires a three-step process:
- Diagnose the process
- Implement improvements
- Sustain performance
This three-step process is applied by optimization engineers to better understand a customer problem or need, identify and implement corrective action, and ensure that the improvements are maintained over time.
Check back next week for the first of the three steps. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic.