Continuous Improvement

Continuous Improvement

Jungle Power Drinks* implemented EZ-GO a year ago and the app has become an integral part of the job. Plus, the team discusses the data from the platform in their weekly team meetings, in order to keep improving continuously. We will be joining one of those meetings, where Youssef is introduced as a new operator and Bianca gives her colleagues a firm scolding.

It is Tuesday morning 07.20 AM as the day shift operators stroll into the meeting room. There are large glass windows that offer a full view of the production floor. At precisely 07.30 AM, twelve operators sit at the table and team leader John Veldman kicks off the meeting.

‘Good morning all, and a special welcome to Youssef, our new operator on the packaging line. He will be joining Bianca for the day.’

Everyone looks at the fashionably dressed young man with large brown eyes.

Bianca says: ‘I’m sure we’ll get along very well, Youssef’.

John shakes his head: ‘Well, that’s good to know. Since we aren’t here just for the coffee, let’s get to it.’

The main topics appear on the centre screen. The team knows them back to front by now:

  • Hazardous situations
  • AM statistics
  • Improvements
  • Announcements and questions

Hazardous floor

John: ‘A potentially hazardous situation was reported this week by our production leader, Robin. As he was passing the filling machine, he noticed that the floor was slippery. Can you guess how that happened?’

No response and eleven blank stares. Bianca’s gaze scans the group, lips pressed together tightly.

John proceeds to display the statistics of the relevant task on screen. Sure enough, the task hasn’t been signed off 7 times in the past months.

Bianca can’t hold it in any longer and explodes: ‘What do I keep telling you people? That floor needs to be swept and mopped at the end of the night shift on Wednesdays and we’re just not doing it! It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out! Is it because I’m a woman, that I’m the only one around here who seems to understand the importance of cleaning?’

Youssef bursts into laughter.

Meanwhile, John displays the list of scheduled and executed tasks in EZ-GO on screen.

‘I think there’s a different culprit, Bianca.’

Everyone stares at the screen, that shows an overview they haven’t seen before. Each cluster of final tasks per shift has a number of minutes, varying from 8 to 36 minutes per cluster.

John clarifies: ‘You can enter the scheduled time frame per task into the EZ-GO platform. I started doing that, and got some very enlightening results. For example, this shows that the week closure of the night shift on Wednesdays takes 36 minutes. That is much more than our schedule accounts for.’

A buzz emerges around the table. Everyone is checking their own shifts and those before and after theirs to figure out what’s going on.

‘See’, Bianca exclaims, ‘my closure on Fridays is packed too tightly. While on Thursdays, I’ve always got time to spare.

The team agrees to review the task list at another time and spread certain tasks more evenly throughout the week.

Another operator asks: ‘Could we take a look at tasks that are being over-scheduled as well?’ ‘I find myself inspecting the same squeaky-clean sensor every day. A weekly inspection would do just fine.’

John: ‘Good suggestion. Let’s discuss those as well.

Prevention beats resolution

‘OK people, let’s move on’, John says as he watches the minutes tick away. ‘Let’s take a look at maintenance task deviations.’

Almost all tasks are marked green, which means they are being executed 100% every time. Except one: the box puller.

Youssef chuckles. ‘Is that the official name?’

‘Yes, Youssef, that’s the official name’, Bianca responds. ‘It’s a machine that uses suction cups to pull packaging boxes into the right shape. Those suction cups need to be inspected twice a week. Wear them out or get them dirty, and they will malfunction.’ She looks around the table. ‘And we don’t want that now, do we?’ Her colleagues nod. Nobody would dare to go against Bianca anyway, but she is right.

John proceeds: ‘If you all agree that this is so important, then why has this task been skipped two weeks in a row now? Of course, I can see by whom, but that’s not the point right now. You all service that machine every now and then. Why isn’t this being done as scheduled?’

One of the operators takes the floor. ‘It really takes a lot of time, because you need to get deep inside the machine to get to those suction cups, and you have to shut down the whole machine for at least 20 minutes to do the inspection and cleaning. On some days, there simply isn’t enough time. We can’t keep cutting the production process like that.’

Bianca responds: ‘But last week we had to stop production for two hours because of a malfunctioning cup. Isn’t that much worse?’ She looks at Youssef, who is happy to be involved this soon: ‘Uhm, yes, 40 minutes a week is not as bad as a 2-hour interruption. And interruptions never come at a good time.’

‘Exactly!’ Bianca wants to slap his back, but restrains herself. She doesn’t want to intimidate the kid too much. ‘We had an express order which we failed to make in time. The client was extremely pissed off.’

John looks around the table. ‘That’s right, it cost a lot of time and money. Listen, I understand you want to get on with production and I appreciate your commitment, but we really cannot be skipping these inspections. It is a necessary step, so please do turn off that machine for 20 minutes.’

Solved!

The next agenda item: improvement reports. Once the EZ-GO app had been implemented last year, the first few weeks were riddled with reports of loose screws, illogical practices, polluting situations, etc. Those issues were all solved in the first few months, which immediately caused a considerable drop in short outages and malfunctions, while eliminating a number of hazardous situations and improving the work environment. According to John, there is no doubt that this has caused the entire productivity increase of 10% in the same period.

And today, operators still enter several reports a week into the app; imagery, proposed solutions and all. This week, they are discussing a report by Wolf. ‘I had that name ‘before it was popular’, The bearded fifty four-year-old operator tells Youssef before they begin.

The others sigh. He says that to every single new person he meets. Wolf proceeds undisturbed: ‘So, it’s about those flasks that kept falling over on line 4. This was causing a lot of short interruptions and as it turns out, that was the result of a sensor that kept getting knocked out of position by the machine’s own vibrations. In deliberation with Maintenance, we decided to enter an extra inspection task into the app, to check the sensor and fix its position if necessary. So, now you know why that task is there.’

John asks: ‘But there was more, right?’

‘Yes, that’s the best part’, Wolf proceeds. ‘We won’t be needing that extra action for long because Maintenance has ordered a new sensor bracket. It will arrive in 2 weeks. Once replaced, we will remove the task from the list.’

Youssef: ‘Amazing. So you’ve basically got a temporary fix and a real solution.’

‘Exactly’, Wolf responds. ‘And you’d still get it right even if you had missed this meeting, because those tasks will pop up in the app automatically. And disappear the second they are no longer needed.

‘Cool.’

Training

John has a final announcement to make before he concludes the meeting just in time.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve got some good news. You’ve all met our new colleague Youssef, but as of next week we will be joined by 6 more operators, 2 for every shift.’

A buzz emerges and Wolf decides to speak up: ‘That’s nice, boss, but how exactly are we going to train them all at the same time? And how do we know where to deploy them? We don’t know what someone can and can’t do.’

John smiles. ‘Bianca will be training Youssef with the app today, and that’s exactly how we’re going to do it with the others.  It will hardly cost her any extra time, and Youssef will be able to start using the app himself within a day.  But there’s something else I’d like to show you.’ An audit in the app appears on screen, titled, ‘skills’. ‘This audit allows you to indicate that someone has been trained on a certain task and to what extent they have mastered it. So, we all know whether someone has been trained or not, and where to deploy them.’

‘And we can do all of that in the app?’

‘It’s not just an app, Wolf, it’s a combination of an app with a platform underneath. Everything we’ve discussed today, is based on data from the platform. It helps us improve continuously while making our jobs safer, more efficient and more fun.’

Bianca jokes: ‘Don’t exaggerate, John’. ‘Now you’re just showing off for our new colleague.’

John blushes. She’s got that exactly right.

 

*Jungle Power Drinks is a fictitious organisation. Read the previous stories about this fast-growing company here.

 

This is part of a serial about the fictitious company Jungle Power Drinks. By describing their experiences with AO and the EZ-GO app, we demonstrate the possibilities to improve the safety, quality and productivity of the operation. Read part one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight here.

 

Randy Appiah

Robert Bouwman

EZ Factory founders

 

If you want more information on how to implement Autonomous Maintenance within your factory, or take it to the next level: our partner Pontifexx can help you. Visit their website for more information: https://www.pontifexx.nl/.

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