If you have experience working as an Operations Manager, you know few manufacturing jobs are as challenging. In this article, we explore how this demanding position can benefit from real-time production monitoring and OEE tracking.
Carl Waddill, 8-minute read
Evocon helps Operations Managers make faster, better decisions
An Operations Manager is a crucial position on any plant leadership team. The role will often have the most direct interaction with supervisors and operators on the shop floor. Moreover, they will usually be responsible for making tactical decisions that span the end-to-end production process.
A central challenge for Operations Managers has been to make decisions that cover the entire production process with incomplete data.
This is because of the massive amount of time and effort required to collect data manually across the entire production line. Thus, it follows that making decisions based more on gut and instinct has long been the accepted practice. As we will see, this is where Evocon is changing things for the Operations Manager.
Why Operations Managers matter
Whether you are monitoring and recording daily production results, devising ways to improve production processes and procedures, or providing feedback on work performance; the decisions you make significantly impact the profitability of the production line.
You have direct reports to supervise, shift efficiencies to stay on top of, and must consistently deliver productivity and quality targets. While you are handling that, you also are continually looking for ways to improve production processes and workflow. The time required to tackle these tasks alone can easily fill a full-time position. Therefore, it is critical to leverage technology that can save time at every opportunity.
3 Critical challenges of Operations Managers
Do we have the resources required to deliver the current production plan? Do we have differences in labor performance between shifts, teams, etc.? Where is our best opportunity for process improvement?
These are just some of the questions that one must routinely answer on a day-to-day basis. This means staying on top of a large amount of data that is continuously changing. Challenges arise when the business has incomplete or inaccurate data that must be painstakingly gathered from many sources across the plant.
1. Operations Managers do not add value by searching for important data.
A typical situation looks something like this. You review a report from this week and think you might know the source of a problem. To be sure you need historical data to compare. Luckily you remember a former Supervisor kept the files on his laptop. You walk to the other side of the plant to find only a paper copy with different formatting. As you walk back to your office, you wonder if you should even compare what looks like two separate reports. Then you start to key the data into Excel and know there must be a better way. At this point, you may or may not have an answer to your question. But you certainly have consumed most of your afternoon looking for what should otherwise be, routine data.
2. Operations Managers need real-time visibility into the production process.
Another familiar scenario begins with a phone call from your VP of Sales. She tells you that your largest account is furious about a late order. You both can see the item on today’s production schedule. She asks you to confirm the run and guarantee that the order will ship in full today. If you can’t confirm, the customers’ anger will likely morph into a larger crisis for you both.
You run across the plant and can see production completed the order. The problem is the count sheets are missing. How many units did we finish? You quickly ask if anyone remembers the final count and luckily one operator thinks he is sure. While jogging back to your desk your anxiety peaks. You are moments away from guaranteeing full delivery based solely on someone’s memory. But you call and do it anyway, that’s the job right?
Living without real-time visibility into things like OEE, shift performance, machine downtime and its causes, or the number of quality defects this morning; has been an accepted fact of life for Operations Managers. Solutions that automate reporting of this information give you much-needed visibility into the production process you manage. Moreover, it saves a considerable amount of time. Instead of keeping up with count sheets or relying on someone’s memory of what happened, you need only open a web browser to check your live OEE data with real-time status of your whole factory.
3. Operations Managers need to identify pain points in production easily.
To find effective solutions that improve labor performance, you need a holistic view of your plant’s quality, availability and performance. And you need this data from all lines, machines, products, teams, shifts, and operators. For example, it is common to find that your day shift outperforms your night shift. But why is this, and what can be done to improve your low performers?
You start by asking your leads on the night shift. They think the planning department schedules fewer changeovers for dayshift because that is when they work. You analyze the last 90 days of schedules and find that this isn’t the case. Maybe you work a night shift to see if anything stands out. Performance improves for that night but is poor the next. So, you move your best Supervisor to nights. He isn’t happy about it, but after 10 days he has an answer. Two operators missed training on a new piece of equipment and have been overloading a machine leading to higher levels of defects.
With Evocon, you can easily identify where in the process that quality performance suffers. So instead of giving up key members of your team for several days to determine where on the line your problem is, you can move directly to analyzing if the root cause is machine or labor.
5 ways Operations Managers benefit from Evocon
Evocon’s OEE software provides real-time production monitoring that helps your manufacturing teams and Operations Managers to understand the production process with live data. In practice, this means insights into problems as they happen and historical process data to identify trends of where your major losses are over time.
1. Save time and improve data accuracy.
In the recent past, the process of gathering production data often required Operations Managers to task operators or supervisors with pen and paper data collection. In other words, applying a paper-based production monitoring system. Not only is this process time consuming, but it’s also prone to errors.
With Evocon, you can quickly pull up data on your entire production process, and because the collection is automated, your data is substantially more accurate and reliable.
2. Decisions driven by data and discernment.
How long was production down on night shift and why? Did day shift have the same issues with the run? Did both shifts have similar OEE performance for the same product?
The more you evaluate and analyze production data to answer these and other questions, the deeper your understanding of the problems in production become. This knowledge is critical when working to understand root causes and designing corrective and preventive actions. Improving performance requires accurate data and real shop floor insights to make reliable decisions.
3. Better management and coordination.
In manufacturing, operators on the shop floor impact the production process by adding cost and hopefully, more value as well. The ability to quantify this situation based on real-time data at the operator and team level improves management and coordination of resources. Evocon makes this possible.
When your decisions can be supported by objective data from your production process, the whole company benefits. This could be as simple as using data to schedule additional operators when a difficult product is running or identifying a high performing operator to share best practices with another shift that is struggling.
For example, the metal products manufacturer, Meconet, significantly reduced average changeover times by using production data captured with Evocon. The analysis showed that while the average time to changeover was 10-12 minutes, one operator completed it in 7 minutes. So 30 days after extending this identified best practice to all operators, the norm is now 5 minutes, and at times, as few as 3 minutes.
4. Reduce production downtime, improve process performance.
Evocon’s OEE software helps an Operations Manager understand the performance of their production process. It provides detailed information that can be sliced, diced, and visualized in the search to reduce losses from production downtime. Once you discover more about bottlenecks, root causes and production pain points, you can maximize machine utilization and develop solutions to improve the performance of your production equipment.
5. Real-time Production Monitoring helps you stay competitive.
Globalization has brought substantial competitive pressure to bear on manufacturers in the past 30 years. Today, most market-leading companies recognize that real-time production monitoring is a required capability for the future and have adopted the technology in some form. In short, it is quickly becoming a necessity to remain competitive in most markets, and much like lean thinking is standard practice today, production monitoring and OEE will be tomorrow.
Why start with Evocon today?
Having user-friendly access to reliable production data leads to better business decisions and outcomes. This is what Evocon is all about: empowering your decision-making process with real insights and information from your shop floor.
You can get started today with our free trial and begin to save time on automated data collection immediately. From there, the benefits of making faster, better decisions that are data-driven will start to transform performance on a wide variety of KPI’s over the next 60 to 90 days and beyond.
The bottom line
As an Operations Manager you have a significant and challenging position in today’s production environment. You are responsible for making decisions that have a considerable impact on your company’s profitability. Until now, these decisions were, at best, based on a mix of what data was available and your personal judgement based on experience.
Evocon production monitoring and OEE software can help fundamentally change this situation by enabling you to make data-driven decisions without having to dedicate team members, or most of your time, to the task of data collection.