Innovation: The large and small of it

Editor's note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Production costs must be driven down to finance big innovation. The most effective approach is through what's called little innovation at the plant and shop floor level: improving your processes so that the costs are not incurred, and eliminating the defects that cause the failures in your equipment and processes.

03/10/2004


Production costs must be driven down to finance big innovation. The most effective approach is through what's called little innovation at the plant and shop floor level: improving your processes so that the costs are not incurred, and eliminating the defects that cause the failures in your equipment and processes. Innovation here is about everyone constantly seeking to do the work a little better, every day. Put the right processes in place, get your people engaged with a sense of ownership and creativity, and create an environment for pride, enjoyment, and trust. Costs will come down as a consequence.

Operating your assets in an optimal way will provide for minimum costs. This also creates an environment wherein the company is innovative from the CEO to the shop floor level, in all its key functions, and constantly seeks to improve its performance in all areas.

There are many tools, methods, and strategies for achieving little innovation, so that you can effectively finance big innovation, and as importantly, so that you can create an environment for innovation. Some of these include: lean manufacturing, value stream mapping, Six Sigma, statistical process control, supply chain principles, reliability centered maintenance, total productive maintenance, root cause analysis, Kaizen, and so on. Each of these tools provides a method or approach for process improvement and cost reduction. The important point is that costs are reduced as a consequence of improving our processes and eliminating those defects that resulted in higher costs in the first place.

Tools for supporting little innovation

As noted, there are many tools, methods, and strategies for supporting little innovation in pursuit of manufacturing excellence, thus financing big innovation. Some of the more common ones are discussed briefly below.

Lean manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is more a philosophy than it is a process. When you're lean, you minimize waste in all its forms, and have the following characteristics:

  • Minimal inventory, work in process, and raw material

  • High ontime delivery performance

  • Operate in a "pull" mode — you only make enough to fill near-term demand

  • Make more small batches and have fewer long runs (a bit counterintuitive)

  • Minimize delay times and system cycle times.

    • To achieve this condition, you use tools and methods such as:

      • Value stream mapping to understand waste in your process flows (nonvalue adding)

      • One piece flow, quick changeover, and mistake proofing

      • Measuring system cycle times and delay times and managing them

      • Using Six Sigma to minimize the variability of your processes

      • Using total productive maintenance to assure reliable equipment.

        • Six Sigma

          Six Sigma is a statistical term which characterizes your quality having less than 3.4 defects per million for a given product or process specification. However, Six Sigma has become a methodology for reducing the variability of processes such that the result is greater quality and consistency. It stresses simultaneously achieving seemingly contrary objectives:

          • Being stable and innovative

          • Seeing the big picture and the details

          • Being creative and rational.

            • Key to its application are a focus on customer satisfaction/success and feedback and fact-driven decision making. Principal tools/methods include continuous improvement, understanding your business processes (including value stream mapping), statistical process control, balanced scorecards, and the use of improvement projects to capture the value identified in the analyses.

              Total productive maintenance

              Total productive maintenance, or TPM, is a method for improving productivity through improved maintenance and related practices. In applying TPM, maintenance is about maintaining plant/equipment function, and is not about repairing equipment. This represents a huge psychological difference in a plant environment. Perhaps a better name for TPM would be total productive manufacturing.

              In the TPM model, when equipment is new, it is as bad as it will ever be — "we're going to constantly improve it." This contrasts to traditional maintenance cultures where, when equipment is new, it is as good as it will ever be. TPM calls for measuring all losses from ideal production capability using overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), where OEE = availability x rate x quality. Knowing all losses from ideal and their prospective causes helps prioritize resources for application of the appropriate tools in problem resolution.

              TPM calls for:

              • Restoring equipment to a like-new condition or better, not simply "patching" to get it back on line

              • Operator care and involvement in maintaining the equipment's function

              • Training people to improve their job skills, and constantly maintaining and upgrading their ability to perform (and innovate)

              • Maintenance prevention (by eliminating the defects that cause the need for maintenance), and the effective use of preventive and predictive maintenance technology to manage maintenance requirements.

                • Reliability centered maintenance

                  The primary objective of RCM is to preserve system function. The methodology can be summarized as follows, and is similar to the engineering approach for failure modes and effects analysis:

                  • Identify the functions expected of your system

                  • Identify the failure modes which can result in loss of system function

                  • Prioritize the functional needs using a criticality analysis of consequences and effects

                  • Select the applicable tasks or actions that preserve system function.

                    • It's a very powerful tool to help understand system level requirements and the means by which we can effectively preserve that function in a cost-effective way.

                      Supply chain principles

                      A supply chain is a supplier, a manufacturer, and a customer working as a team in to optimize "chain" performance. The goal of the supply chain members is to minimize business system cycle time, inventories, and costs, while assuring timely delivery to improve the profitability of all its members.

                      This technique requires that you review the entire chain, and use process mapping techniques to predict the chain's performance in areas such as business system cycle times, inventories, distribution requirements, costs, risks/delays, and so on, and then work to optimize the chain. In doing so, teams typically address issues such as producibility, afford-ability, etc.

                      Manufacturing Game

                      The Manufacturing Game is designed to be a catalyst for cultural change by engaging frontline workers in bottom-up defect elimination activities. After initial training using a game-play methodology that fosters teamwork and defect elimination, cross-functional action teams of between two to four people choose small defects they want to eliminate and create action plans for that purpose. A key aspect of this approach is that the teams are "action teams," not "recommendation teams." They have total ownership for implementing their plan and eliminating the defects. Considering the typical manufacturing plant has some 20,000 or more defects, eliminating the defects requires hundreds of small teams. The ultimate result is an empowered workforce supporting manufacturing excellence, a major cultural shift in most organizations.

                      Many other techniques are also available, and there's good reason to believe that when properly applied, all of them work. These include root cause analysis (RCA), predictive maintenance (PdM), planning and scheduling, high-performance work teams, and many others.

                      The point of these tools is that they provide the basis for improving your processes so that costs are not incurred. They provide the tools that facilitate innovation — the introduction of a new idea, method, or device that will improve your processes and business. Defects that result in failures are removed or better managed. Nonvalue-adding activity (that costs money) is removed, or minimized. Systems are optimized throughout the production or supply chain. These tools facilitate the little innovations that, in turn, finance the big innovation, so your business is more innovative throughout, from the CEO to the shop floor, and is more successful as a consequence.




                      Top Plant
                      The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America.
                      Product of the Year
                      The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
                      System Integrator of the Year
                      Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
                      June 2018
                      2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
                      May 2018
                      Electrical standards, robots and Lean manufacturing, and how an aluminum packaging plant is helping community growth.
                      April 2018
                      2017 Product of the Year winners, retrofitting a press, IMTS and Hannover Messe preview, natural refrigerants, testing steam traps
                      June 2018
                      Machine learning, produced water benefits, programming cavity pumps
                      April 2018
                      ROVs, rigs, and the real time; wellsite valve manifolds; AI on a chip; analytics use for pipelines
                      February 2018
                      Focus on power systems, process safety, electrical and power systems, edge computing in the oil & gas industry
                      Spring 2018
                      Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
                      April 2018
                      Implementing a DCS, stepper motors, intelligent motion control, remote monitoring of irrigation systems
                      February 2018
                      Setting internal automation standards

                      Annual Salary Survey

                      After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

                      It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

                      The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

                      Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

                      The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
                      Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
                      One Voice for Manufacturing
                      The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
                      The Maintenance and Reliability Professionals Blog
                      The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
                      Machine Safety
                      Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
                      Research Analyst Blog
                      IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
                      Marshall on Maintenance
                      Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
                      Lachance on CMMS
                      The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
                      Electrical Safety Update
                      This digital report explains how plant engineers need to take greater care when it comes to electrical safety incidents on the plant floor.
                      Maintenance & Safety
                      The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
                      IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
                      Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
                      Randy Steele
                      Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
                      Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
                      Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
                      Randy Oliver
                      Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
                      Data Centers: Impacts of Climate and Cooling Technology
                      This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
                      Safety First: Arc Flash 101
                      This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
                      Critical Power: Hospital Electrical Systems
                      This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
                      Author Information
                      Ron Moore is Managing Partner of The RM Group, Inc. in Knoxville, TN. He can be reached at 865-675-7647 or by e-mail at