Continuous Improvement Shouldn’t Stop for a Crisis

In any given year, New Year’s resolutions have long gone out the window by April. But this year, we at least have an excuse. 

 

You might have heard about this pandemic we are experiencing. 

 

Our gyms are closed, our refrigerators are full, and we have more streaming options than ever to keep us happily disengaged. So, unless you resolved to wash your hands until they were raw or become a recluse, there is a good chance you are failing. 

 

But COVID-19 hasn’t only impacted our homes and our waistlines; it has made an even more significant impact on our workplaces and how we complete our tasks. Some are now working from home, while manufacturing lines that have been deemed essential have been updated to incorporate additional safety precautions, including increased separation between workers. 

 

Just staying operational can be a struggle with a reduced workforce and increased regulations. So, it is easy to use excuses to explain why we’ve strayed from our commitment to continuous improvement. But even in a crisis, those are just excuses. Continuous improvement must be continuous – even in times of trial. Now is a great time to examine your processes, review your needs, and implement more lean strategies. 

 

Take a Gemba walk to determine what challenges you are facing and determine what you can fix. Eliminate unnecessary processes or process waste that doesn’t add value to the customer. And it is as important as ever, as teams adjust to their new normal, to communicate plainly and make each department’s plan clear and visible.

 

Every crisis can be an opportunity in disguise. (If that isn’t already on a poster with a kitten stuck in a tree, it should be.) Crises can provide a perspective that you didn’t previously have and the motivation you need to make changes to improve your processes. Good management includes optimizing the current situation: What can you do now that you couldn’t before? What doors does this open? How could you be better prepared if this happened again?

 

So, stop with the excuses and get lean.  

RFID in the Manufacturing Process: A Must-Have for Continuous Improvement

There is quite an abundance of continuous improvement methodologies implemented in manufacturing processes around the globe. Whether it’s Lean, Six Sigma, Kaizen, etc., there is one thing that all of these methodologies have in common, they all require actionable data in order to make an improvement.  So, the question becomes: How do I get my hands on actionable data?

All data begins its life as raw data, which has to be manipulated to produce actionable data. Fortunately, there are devices that help automate this process. Automatic data collection (ADC), which includes barcode and RFID technology, provides visibility into the process. RFID has evolved to become the more advanced method of data collection because it doesn’t require a centralized database to store the data like barcode technology. RFID stores the data directly on the product or pallet in the process, which allows for much more in-depth data collection.

rfid

RFID’s greatest impact on the process tends to be improving overall quality and efficiency. For example, Company X is creating widgets and there are thirty-five work cells required to make a widget. Between every work cell there is a quality check with a vision system that looks for imperfections created in the prior station. When a quality issue is identified, it is automatically written to the tag.  In the following work cell the RFID tag is read as soon as it enters the station. This is where the raw data becomes actionable data. As soon as a quality issue has been identified, someone or something will need to take action. At this point the data becomes actionable because it has a detailed story to tell. While the error code written to the tag might just be a “10”, the real story is: Between cells five and six the system found a widget was non-conforming. The action that can be taken now is much more focused. The process at cell five can be studied and fixed immediately, opposed to waiting until an entire batch of widgets are manufactured with a quality issue.

Ultimately, flawless execution is what brings success to organizations.  However, in order to execute with efficiency and precision the company must first have access to not only data, but actionable data. Actionable data is derived from the raw data that RFID systems automatically collect.

Learn more about RFID technology at www.balluff.com.

 

What’s best for integrating Poka-yoke or Mistake Proofing sensors?

Teams considering poka-yoke or mistake proofing applications typically contact us with a problem in hand.  “Can you help us detect this problem?”

We spend a lot of time:

  • talking about the product and the mistakes being made
  • identifying the error and how to contain it
  • and attempting to select the best sensing technology to solve the application.

However this can sometimes be the easy part of the project.  Many times a great sensor solution is identified but the proper controls inputs are not available or the control architecture doesn’t support analog inputs or network connections.  The amount of time and dollar investments to integrate the sensor solution dramatically increases and sometimes the best poka-yoke solutions go un-implemented!”

“Sometimes the best poka-yoke solutions go un-implemented!”

Many of our customers are finding that the best controls architecture for their continuous improvement processes involves the use of IO-Link integrated with their existing architectures.  It can be very quickly integrated into the existing controls and has a wide variety of technologies available.  Both of these factors make it the best for integrating Poka-yoke or Mistake Proofing due to the great flexibility and easy integration.

Download this whitepaper and read about how a continuous improvement technician installed and integrated an error-proofing sensor in 20 minutes!