Applying OEE Effectively

Throughput is the holy grail of manufacturing. And let's face it, there's no shortage of ways to measure throughput. For smaller operations the task can be so daunting that it never gets done. Well that is to say it's not formally done. The production manager or even the CEO typically has a gut reaction to how well things are going. In one business analytics study, there was the case of the bar owner who knew how well the night had gone not by the money in the till but by the number of empties in the recycling container.

While you probably don't entertain such a seat-of-the-pants approach to your own throughput and analytics, you may still be challenged to find time in your day for an ongoing methodical approach. After all when you're up to your eyeballs in alligators, it's difficult to remind yourself that your main objective should have been to drain the swamp.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (or OEE) is a measurement that allows you to combine various statistics and get a total picture. It boils down to three very measurable components – availability, performance and quality. (Please see our previous articles for an in-depth look at OEE: OEE – Understanding Your Availability Metric; OEE Understanding Your Performance Metric; and OEE Understanding Your Quality Metric.) and if you're already stretched thin and struggling to find enough time in your day, you only need to measure OEE in a single place – your constraint point.

It doesn't matter if you're manufacturing widgets, printing sheets, packing cartons, or assembling cars, your constraint point or your bottleneck drives your entire operation. The speed of your bottleneck is the speed of your entire operation, and that's where OEE should be measured. Now if you're thinking that you want OEE for your entire production line and not the single piece of equipment that is your bottleneck, here's the reality: The performance of your constraint IS the performance of your entire line.

If you're still convinced that measuring OEE on all of your processes and equipment provides the full picture, you're wrong. There's a very real possibility that creating OEE scores at multiple points in your process may actually give you conflicting information, and in turn you'll end up applying your efforts in the wrong place. Be certain you align your efforts and resources where they're needed most.

If you've managed to balance your production line and that no single point is an obvious constraint, congratulations! In this case apply your OEE measurement to the equipment that handles the lion’s share of the work or is central to the process. And if the constraint moves, congratulations again. Now focus your OEE measurements on the new constraint.

To learn more about constraints revisit these articles in our archive: Understanding and Identifying Bottlenecks, Bottlenecks: 5 Steps to Alleviating Constraints; and Fixing Bottlenecks with the Tools You Have.

Contact us to learn how the MPower system can provide the information you need to launch your OEE efforts.