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Hey there, Troubleshooters! Welcome back to Troubleshooting Thursdays. In the past couple of months we’ve been looking at troubleshooting your HR issues, such as how to minimize your staff turnover rate to maximize your productivity, as well as troubleshooting your training (see the Top 11 critical things to consider when you’re choosing a training system). We also learned how gamification in manufacturing AKA the next big thing for turbocharging your training, especially if your workforce is made up of Millennials and Gen Z’ers. Today we’re getting back to something that’s always on every good plant manager’s mind—plant reliability. Particularly, overall equipment effectiveness.

Plant Reliability is the Goal

Reliability is defined as “the probability that a component or an entire system will perform its function for a specified period of time.” (Reliability is also the science that “predicts, analyzes, prevents and mitigates failures over time.”)

When reliability engineering first emerged as a discipline in the aviation industry after WWII, it originally focused on product reliability (because stopping planes from falling out of the sky was a top priority). Over the years, reliability principles have begun to be applied to manufacturing processes and equipment as well.

So, plant reliability is the measure of your manufacturing facility’s ability to perform its intended function. No plant is ever 100% reliable. Machines break down, processes need to be improved. Today, the goal of every plant manager and manufacturing exec is to increase plant reliability. This involves optimizing both equipment and process reliability.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness: A key metric

In order to know what your plant reliability is, and to monitor how it changes over time, you need some measures. Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), also known as overall production reliability (OPR), is one of several critical metrics that measure the success of a manufacturing enterprise.

OEE is a key performance indicator of the efficiency and productivity of a production line or even just a piece of equipment in that line, and has implications for the operations, maintenance, and engineering staff of a manufacturing company.

How to Calculate your OEE

To calculate your plant’s (or equipment’s) OEE, you need to look at the areas where losses or inefficiencies occur, reducing reliability—quality, speed/performance, and time availability.

Quality refers to product quality, and it is expressed as a percentage—what percentage of units produced are of acceptable quality? Speed, or performance, refers to production speed—how quickly are units being churned out when everything is running as it should? Time availability means the time between failures, or the percentage of time when a piece of equipment or an entire production line is available for production (as opposed to being down for repairs).

Below is the equation you use to calculate your OEE. The higher the score, the better your efficiency is (e.g., the ideal score of 100% would mean that all units are of an acceptable quality, they are being produced as quickly and efficiently as possible, and there is no production downtime).

Here’s the simple formula:

Overall equipment effectiveness = Quality (%) x Performance (%) x Time Availability (%)

The operations department of a manufacturing enterprise is mainly responsible for process reliability, that is, making sure the manufacturing process is operating with as little waste as possible. For example, they are responsible for ensuring that machine pressures and chemical concentrations are at optimal settings to avoid waste.

The maintenance department is mainly concerned with equipment reliability, ensuring that the time between equipment failures is as long as possible (through regular maintenance) and that equipment downtime is as short as possible (through efficient troubleshooting, diagnosis and repair).

The engineers have to support both equipment and process reliability by factoring in life-cycle cost when considering the cost of buying and owning equipment.

To optimize your plant reliability, which also means meet your production goals and keep customers further down the supply chain happy, Operations, Maintenance and Engineering should be working together. Engineering needs to consider reliability when choosing equipment, Operations needs to tweak processes so that optimal performance is achieved, and maintenance needs to keep equipment functioning trouble-free as much of the time as possible, which involves diagnosing and repairing it as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Keeping track of your OEE score on a regular basis can show your plant’s improvement (or lack of improvement) over time.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, sure, that formula seems simple, but how do I go about getting those quality, performance, and time availability numbers to plug into it? Good question! We’ll be answering that in Part 2 of this series. Tune in next week.

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