The Data Collection Challenge
Lincolnshire based NMB Minebea UK Ltd is a world leader in the design and manufacture of bearing technologies. Employing more than 270 people at the Lincoln site alone, the Minebea Group have manufacturing facilities worldwide including Japan, Thailand and the United States. As a global business, Minebea manufactures aircraft parts that have been certified and used by virtually all major aircraft manufacturers operating in the world today.
With efficiency and productivity targets to be met, the process of collecting and analysing machine activity data prior to investing in Seiki Machine Monitoring software, was proving to be time consuming. The company was clearly interested in understanding their machine activity and performance data as a key factor in making productivity and efficiency improvements. What the team now needed was a more effective and accurate method that would eliminate unnecessary time or money lost in the process. Andy White, Operations Manager (Performance) explains, “Obviously we were aware that automatically collecting machine performance data is considered best practice. It wasn’t until we actually saw how we could reduce all that wasted operator time with the click of a few buttons that we realised the efficiency gains we could be making.”
With a machine shop comprising of over 50 machines made up of a broad mix of models and types, it was a real concern at the research stage that they wouldn’t be able to connect them all to a single system, particularly the older machines, so finding a solution to bridge that variety was key. What was required was a flexible yet comprehensive system that would provide not just true visibility and control at each machine/operator level, but also at a strategic business-wide level. Having already connected all their machines to its DNC software, NMB approached Seiki Systems. Following a comprehensive demonstration of the Machine Monitoring software using a sample of NMB’s real production data, they felt confident enough to embark upon a proof of concept installation to six machines as phase one. The machines were carefully selected to be representative of the asset diversity and confirm that Seiki could indeed ultimately satisfy the requirement to support the wider machine shop.
In practical terms, this involved installing and configuring the Seiki software at each machine to automatically collect machine condition statuses such as in-cycle, stopped and alarm conditions via digital signals received from the machine tool. The operator then supplements this data with richer activity information such as stoppage reasons, via a simple, configurable status grid on the PC screen. In order to eliminate double entry of works orders and operation information, the Seiki Monitoring software was integrated to NMB’s existing booking system. The integration was configured to automate the start and end of works order operations using a scheduled CSV file output from NMB’s booking system. This integration was necessary to contribute to the Job Report and OEE analysis that was already in place.
Andy explains, “It was Seiki’s ability to refine their solution to suit our business environment and process requirements without adding complexity to the core software functionality or user experience that was a key differentiator. We knew we wanted to work with a supplier that could continue to evolve with us and our business needs into the future.” Phase one was successful as a proof of concept, delivering an increase in productivity – the quick gain expected from simply eliminating wasted time and enhancing visibility of the machines’ activity.
Phase two was more critical. The team needed to prove the solution as a means of making the greater efficiency and productivity improvements expected. The team also knew that to meet their targets they needed someone to champion the process changes needed on the shop floor. It was at this point Continuous Improvement Manager Phil Lake became involved.
Phil explains, “My main focus is supporting our Production Team in improving our productivity / efficiency of our equipment. Together with the machine operators, I use Seiki to understand our losses – the reasons machines aren’t running. The data they contribute feeds directly into management reports that inform key business decisions. The overall effect has been to generate greater engagement and empowerment amongst the team and a dose of healthy competition.”
The team has taken a collaborative approach to unlocking their productivity and the Seiki Monitoring software has helped to provide the focal point. As Andy says, “One of the keys to the success of any Monitoring system is explaining and then demonstrating to the team that the software is designed to help each person do his or her job more effectively and to provide a better way of feeding back their knowledge. No more hear-say. This installation gave us a real opportunity to prove we were using the data in a structured way to be more responsive to what they were already saying about where our production losses were coming from.”
With the continuous monitoring of machine activity and the live user input, both management and operators can now see and engage with what is happening on the shop floor in real time. The information is now shared and displayed live on the production floor as well as collated in terms of business intelligence reports. Department heads receive email alerts when machines are not running.
The Seiki performance analysis software is used interactively in daily production meetings between the supervisory and management teams to look at the live status of the monitored machines. Machine utilisation graphs enable them to drill into the data to accurately identify each machine’s productive state, compare planned versus actual, and to analyse the reasons for production losses. The system is also used to drive monthly staged progression targets based on a productivity figure, at both an individual and departmental level. This has been another a key driver for getting all machines connected to Seiki.
Looking to the future, NMB realises that the significant gains already achieved can be built upon; much more is possible. As with any continuous improvement strategy, it’s an evolutionary process that is under constant review and NMB takes a collaborative approach with Seiki for idea generation and problem solving ways in which the software can be used to make the data work harder for us.
Having Seiki Machine Monitoring has given the ability to internally demonstrate improvement initiatives and successes, and show that we are trying to be more efficient and competitive as a company to customers, these are the reasons for the digitisation of previously manual processes. Andy concludes, “We’ve been driving digital for quite a while now, moving away from paper-based processes wherever possible and monitoring machine activity was part of this roadmap. The company as a whole is more agile, more connected which in turn is great for our customers”.