Process Audits – the most powerful tool you probably aren’t using

For a myriad of reasons, when industrial machinery is being designed and constructed, the right sensing/connectivity product with the right application-specific attributes doesn’t always get designed into the zone of the machinery for the function it’s intended to perform.  This can result in consumption, excessive and expensive machine downtime and increased overall cost to operate the machinery.  A process audit, which is used in end-user environments to document specific sensing/electronic measurement/network/connectivity issues, can assist with reducing machine downtime, increasing productivity and reducing material consumption on the plant floor.

Getting to Root Cause of Failure

Finding out and documenting exactly why things prematurely fail in specific electronic locations by Cell Number and OPS Number, photographing each problematic sensor location and offering solutions to areas where components are prematurely failing is the heart and soul of an audit. It’s pretty amazing, but once problem areas are documented, and shared with every pertinent player from the corner office to the operator, it’s hard to refute and even harder to ignore.

Understanding the problem and why it is happening, allows a company to establish a timeline and an action plan for retrofitting sensor locations and developing best practice solutions that will enhance productivity, decrease machine downtime, build better parts with efficiency, and save the organization money.

Pictured below is a plain Jane, plastic faced, M5 inductive proximity sensor with minimal rated sensing distance (Sn) in a hostile spot that a customer is using to detect small “L” brackets on a huge welded panel.  If five of these are used per day (common), and the purchase price for the device is approximately $56 each, this equates to $280 per day or $1,680 per six-day work week. That totals to $84,000 spent per year for one inductive sensor in one individual sensor location.  If machine downtime is a nominal $250/minute (a very low estimation) and it takes five minutes to change out this sensor, machine downtime equates to $375,000 (1,500 sensors x $250).  One sensor can potentially cost this customer $459k per 50 week manufacturing year when factoring in material and downtime.

Dave Bird

If best practice solutions save the customer 50% (In fairness, most customers will only go so far to improve the process.), the business will see a savings of $229,500!

This is a significant payoff for the relatively small cost of an audit. Some businesses will provide them at no charge in the hope that the customer will then use that business to implement the best practice solutions — a win-win situation.

A small price to pay

Audits aren’t reserved for only harsh manufacturing environments like metal stamping and robotic welding. Any end-user manufacturing discipline that integrates sensors, connectivity, RFID, and networking systems that are consumed in the process of a hostile manufacturing environment is a candidate for an audit.

Hostile manufacturing can show up in all industries in all parts of the country.  The process audit can be a valuable tool for you and for your customers.

I spent the early part of my career in the medical industry, the last 18 in a variety of interesting roles in Balluff, Inc. all involving stop, start, measuring and positioning in the automation.

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