The fictitious international soda factory Jungle Power Drinks is facing an important decision: will they implement the EZ-GO app across 60 factories worldwide? Project manager Wolfgang Sandburg is at the pilot location in the Netherlands and has a couple of critical questions to discuss.
In the morning, Wolfgang received a demonstration of the app from the spirited operator Bianca. It all seemed so easy, almost too good to be true. And maybe it is. As the German project manager drives over to a restaurant together with his host John Veldman for lunch, it suddenly hits him. Has he been bamboozled by Bianca, with her piercing green eyes? Has she been instructed to blow him away with a rosy picture? After all, the Dutch branch is well aware of the fact that they are being watched by headquarters. Divestment was on the table just last year. The ‘EZ-GO app’ and the impressive results sure came at the right time.
Over lunch, Wolfgang orders a good glass of wine and grilled catfish while John Veldman opts for a glass of milk and a grilled cheese sandwich. Once a Dutchie, always a Dutchie. ‘I’ll get straight to the point, John.’ says Wolfgang, ‘I’m not convinced.’
The comment doesn’t seem to faze John at all.
Wolfgang: ‘It was great fun to see Bianca at work, but let’s not get carried away, she could have done the same thing with a hard copy list. I can’t show up at headquarters with the story; this woman Bianca demonstrated a Weekly Cleaning so let’s roll it out across factories in twelve countries.’
John corrects him: ‘Checklist End of Week Cleaning and Inspection. There are several weekly cleaning tasks, we shouldn’t be mixing them up. That’s what the app is for.’
‘Whatever. What I’m trying to say is, what is the added value? And don’t bother with the numbers you sent my director, anyone can attribute numbers to themselves. What I want to know is, in concrete terms, why on earth we need to implement an app for such simple tasks.’
One of three thousand
John leans back for a moment while the waiter serves their dishes, and takes a sizeable gulp of milk before he begins to talk. ‘I’m not saying you should, Wolfgang. If you want to go back to Herr Müller and tell him you aren’t persuaded, no hard feelings. I wish you best of luck.’ He laughs, but Wolfgang is not amused.
‘Could you please just answer the question?’
‘Of course, my apologies. Look, what you saw was just one checklist out of 265 checklists used at our location. Just looking up the right checklist for each machine and moment, would cost the operators at least fifteen minutes a day excluding the actual operations. Multiply that by eighty daily operators and you get a total of twenty hours a day, plus a similar amount of time to sign off on the checklists.’
‘Doesn’t it take time to start up the app?’
John holds up his mobile phone and Wolfgang understands what he is trying to say.
‘You have a point, it’s just as quick as an app on a phone.’
‘You gain a lot by making sure that the operators get just the right checklists, work instructions, first line maintenance tasks and audits presented to them – and only what is relevant at that moment in time.’
Wolfgang nods. ‘Ok, so finding the right lists is easier, which saves time. I get it.’ He writes it down in his notebook and begins to eat his grilled catfish, which looks good.
‘But that is utter peanuts compared to the time we’ve saved by reducing the number of short interruptions and failures’, John adds.
Fewer short interruptions and failures
Wolfgang fillets his catfish and listens.
‘Because the app makes autonomous maintenance, inspections and audits much easier, they are performed more frequently and always in the same way. The textual instructions were replaced with photos and videos that provide an at-a-glance view of what needs to happen, as you’ve seen with Bianca. It is no longer an extra effort, but a self-explanatory, easy routine. As a result, the machines retain their optimal basic condition.’
Wolfgang sniffs. ‘People lack discipline these days, bite-sized pieces is all they can handle.’
‘I see it differently. The operators have a lot of discipline, but you need to offer them the right tools so they can show what they’re capable of. My favourite part of the app is the feedback button. It was used tens of times in the first couple of weeks. I didn’t know what hit me! Nobody would say these things to me, but the app prompted them to go nuts with pictures and suggestions for solutions. We are still improving the process as a result.’
‘Beeindruckend.’ Wolfgang writes: continuous improvement. ‘Do you use the app for maintenance and inspections only, or for start-ups and change-overs as well?’
‘What do you think?’
Wolfgang writes: start-ups and change-overs. ‘Let me guess. Those have improved as well?’
‘Everyone used to have their own way of performing the start-up sequence. Some operators never managed to configure the machine correctly in one go. Always adjusting, resetting, fine-tuning. It could take up to half an hour and a lot of material was being wasted in the process. Thanks to the straightforward photos and videos, start-ups and change-overs are now being conducted correctly right off the bat 99% of the time. We call it a vertical start-up: we are back at line speed in no time.’
How does that affect your productivity?’
‘I haven’t made a separate calculation for the start-ups, but all across the board, with all the improvements we’ve made, we are now utilising the line capacity with an approximate increase of 3 or 4%.’
Wolfgang almost chokes on a bone, coughs and says: ‘If we do that everywhere, it could mean the difference between building an additional production location or not.’
‘Across sixty factories, that’s at least 2 production locations.’ John raises his half empty glass of milk.
Wolfgang gives him a pondering look, raises his wine glass and says: ‘You’re right.’
Wolfgang is on board and can’t wait to get started. Still, there are a couple of questions left: he has a report to complete. ‘How does the app contribute to the quality of your output?’
‘Easy, the straightforward visual instructions once again help tremendously and have all but eliminated human error.’
‘That must save a lot of rejected batches, complaints and recalls.’
‘Recalls, what are those?’
They both burst into laughter, painfully remembering how the company was forced to recall a huge shipment from China three months ago because they had found a lucky charm inside one of the cans. The cost amounted to hundreds of thousands.
‘Are you enjoying your meal?’ The waiter looks at the adult men with slight disdain as they try to stop laughing hysterically.
‘Yes’, says John, as he wipes the tears from his eyes. ‘We certainly are.’ They both burst into laughter once again.
Safe as an airplane
When the laughter has subsided, John musters a serious look and says: ‘You know, Wolfgang, when I was a little boy, I wanted to be a pilot and I was given a session in a real flight simulator for my twelfth birthday. I remember doing all these checks and complaining about how they are a waste of my time. Until the instructor said: “If you don’t do them, you might crash within five minutes, is that what you want?”
The EZ-GO app is something similar: it is an easy, standardised way of doing all the checks and operations properly in order to prevent any problems from emerging.’
‘Safety first, including for the operators, at all levels. Partly because we do things better now, but also because we keep improving. There used to be a spot where newcomers would always bump their heads: solved. A section of the floor that used to be wet all the time: solved.’
Wolfgang leans back, drinks his final sip of wine and says: ‘John, I must admit, I see the added value. But I’m not looking forward to starting up the project.’
‘Don’t worry’, John assures him. ‘It is a whistle of a cent.’
‘Excuse me, Dutch expression. Our way of saying: a piece of cake.
John proceeds: ‘First of all, if I were you, I would invite the guys from EZ Factory to Germany, to meet your best operators, Herr Müller and some production managers who still need to be persuaded. EZ Factory will demo the product, explain how to populate the app, it comes with all the languages you need, and you’re ready to go.’
‘What languages does it offer? I’m going to need Thai and Russian, for example.’
‘If they haven’t got those yet, they will make sure to implement them. I had a Portuguese version within a week. The rest of the content is created by you. And it is largely visual.’
‘How long did it take for this factory?’
Two weeks for the first line and about a week for each subsequent line.’
‘What? That quick?’
‘It depends on the number of people you deploy, but I did it with three operators whose production schedule I freed up completely for a couple of days. We were done before we knew it. I recommend to do it quickly so everyone will notice the result. Plus, it is fun for your operators and team leaders. Once you’re done in Germany, you send them to the next location to instruct their local colleagues. A trip to Brazil, China or Spain, wouldn’t most operators sign up for that?’
Wolfgang nods. ‘But we do need a server for all that data.’
‘Nope, it’s all cloud-based.’ John leans forward and dampens his voice. ‘I heard they use the same server as Amazon, with the same capacity and security, so it shouldn’t be a problem.’
Wolfgang writes: secure data, and flicks through his notebook which is now filled with lots of exclamation marks and circles. He’s got everything he needs, now for merging it all into a cohesive report. The thought prompts a deep sigh.
John chuckles. ‘Don’t you find paperwork annoying? If only there was an app for that as well.’
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 and seven here.
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/.