Raising the Bar on Company Performance Through Data-driven Operations

Raising the Bar on Company Performance Through Data-driven Operations
Raising the Bar on Company Performance Through Data-driven Operations

To run a successful manufacturing operation, plant managers rely on data every step of the way to guide business decision-making and optimize production. Quality data provides the insights needed to measure performance and remove barriers to employee productivity. Across the plant ecosystem, manufacturers are in a constant battle to gain better control over their operations. From the time the first work order arrives to the last quality check before it ships, data feeds people the information they need to tighten controls and deliver customer value.

No manufacturer today can operate without KPIs—but the quality and relevance of their data can vary greatly. As plants mature to more intelligent manufacturing models, business leaders are starting to tap into technologies to help employees better visualize performance data and provide more actionable insights. Businesses realize their best productivity when the workforce is fully connected to their tools, processes and each other—and that success can be measured by the actions performed every hour and every day in the manufacturing cell.

Trying to get to the root of cell performance…with a global manufacturing footprint

Rockwell Automation operates 20 plants around the world, producing an average of 200 SKUs for any given order. As he traveled from plant to plant and met with his supervisors, their VP of Operations noticed a trend: when asking his plant managers why performance was lower on certain hours and what was being done about it, they couldn’t really explain. Each facility was using a dashboard to measure performance, but the dashboards were all customized and varied by location, and none told a clear story.

While one section of the dashboard displayed downtime and another showed hourly performance, managers couldn’t effectively correlate the two data sets. If there had been an issue, they couldn’t easily tell if someone had documented the issue during the hour and alerted the proper support groups to respond. Even more concerning, issues likely weren’t being recorded at all. Without the ability to understand the relationship between hourly performance and downtime, plant operators were flying blind, and Rockwell Automation was risking employee productivity and revenue on a global scale.

A mission to mash up performance data for the shop floor

With a directive to standardize cell dashboards across their 20 plants, Rockwell Automation launched a task force to standardize and better display local cell performance. The new KPI dashboard had to clearly show the relationship between poor performance and downtime so operators could understand root cause and improve productivity. It would need to combine different information from their scheduling systems, SAP, MES, and other sources into a single mashup that refreshed every five minutes.

The visualization would need to be configurable as well, to account for unique variations in KPIs by each production line. That variation was needed to reflect the different work performed by different lines: in the case of an engineer-to-order (ETO) line, the best way to communicate KPI is people, because the ETO relies heavily on labor content. To understand performance impacts to this line, operators needed to see interruption of people by the hour, direct or indirect. Whereas for an automated line, efficiency and tech time (time between unit) is a leading KPI.  Users on this type of line need to understand gaps between production time and expected output. 

Rockwell Automation partnered with PTC for their expertise in IoT.  As technology partners, Rockwell Automation and PTC have built a connector between their MES platform and the PTC ThingWorx IoT platform.  Because all plants had been using a customized dashboard to manage performance, the task force had to collect input from each of their 20 facilities to arrive at a standardized view. The modular design of the ThingWorx solution made it easy to configure several dashboards by applying widgets to display KPIs by production line, combining data from their MES and giving end users on the shop floor the precise view of information they needed. In very short order, the task force was well on their way to a new KPI dashboard.

Triangulating insights across disparate data sources

Depending on the product built by each line, plant managers could now self-serve by pulling in dashboard widgets to better visualize and manage performance trends. The new view helped users drill down into low performance hours to determine whether an issue had been documented, if a notification had been released—and then what the support teams were doing in response. With a very clear visualization, they now had a range of data detailing KPIs like line performance and labor utilization, with graphs and color coding to contextualize the data.

Now, when there’s an issue with a machine, employee can quickly flag the issue, get support and minimize downtime. Since it is now easier for manufacturing associates to display the issue on the dashboard, Rockwell Automation can reinforce guidance to their employee, to ask for help when they run into issues and need support.

Rockwell Automation continues to drive for higher productivity gains year over year. Rolling out the new dashboard across their plants worldwide not only helps standardize KPIs for their senior leaders but also gets them closer to hitting their productivity targets. And the new tool makes it easier for everyone across the organization—from vice president to the people on the shop floor—to deliver their best performance.

About The Author

Brian McCaffrey is program manager of Digital Enablement and Governance within Rockwell Automation’s Integrated Supply Chain Operation.  In this role, Brian works with Rockwell Automation’s internal Manufacturing Plants to make sure that its systems are properly supported, that people are trained, and that it is driving business value through the use of these systems. Brian has over 30 years of experience with Rockwell serving in a number of Manufacturing roles, primarily in Manufacturing Engineering, Manufacturing Systems and Continuous Improvement.

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