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Putting Machinery on a Strong Fitness Plan

Louis Columbus
By Louis Columbus Principal, DELMIAWORKS

Having a plan for maintaining and improving the performance and reliability of every machine on a shop floor is vital to manufacturing operations. Reliable machines make short-notice production runs possible. And the more flexible a manufacturer is, the more new customers they’ll attract.

How much do manufacturers believe growth is defined by the machinery productivity? In a 2019 Decision Analyst survey of 150 North American manufacturers, completed in collaboration with IQMS/Dassault Systèmes, 82 percent of respondents said upgrading existing machines or purchasing new machinery was a top priority. These investments were focused on ensuring that shop floor machines were “smart” and connected in order to support accurate real-time monitoring.

Being able to offer greater tooling flexibility, custom molds, and short-notice, customized production runs all starts by knowing the health of every machine across the shop floor.

Preparing a Fitness Plan

To put together a successful growth strategy, manufacturers must tie it back to a fitness plan for every machine tool. Not only will this extend their useful lives, the additional data on the machine health will also improve production scheduling. Assigning the most qualified technicians to the best possible combination of machines for a specific production run is greatly simplified when each machine has a consistently high level of production fitness.

Just like someone who joins a gym to get in better shape, millions of manufacturers today have the beginnings of strong fitness plans for their machinery. The challenge is putting them into action and getting results. The following four steps are a great way to start:

  1. Capture baseline data for every machine across several shifts to see if there is any noticeable, easily-defined variation in output. Creating a dataset of each machine’s performance is the starting point for individual fitness plans.

  2. Choose an initial set of metrics that every machine is capable of reporting to complete the baseline comparison. Every machine can be analyzed on four metrics: cycle times, set-up times, scrap/rework rates, and yields. Differences between machines will show up immediately. Knowing how well each machine performs against these four criteria provides invaluable insight into how its useful life can be extended.

  3. Identify the most and least “in-shape” machinery by analyzing the baseline data and indexing machines’ prior activity to customer returns and quality problems. The machinery responsible for the highest percentage of customer returns and quality problems are often the same machines that show abnormally high rates of wear and tear. Checking to make sure their mean time to repair (MTTR) and mean time between failure (MTBF) estimates are accurate is a prerequisite to prolonging the life of the machine and increasing product quality and yield rates.

  4. Combine real-time monitoring with machinery upgrades to uncover how production sequencing impacts machinery reliability and performance over time. Knowing why certain machines are starting to fail may have more to do with their relative position in a production workflow than initially may be apparent. That’s why real-time monitoring combined with the latest upgrades to smart, connected machinery make sense. Together, those steps remove two potentially large sources of variation from understanding how to prolong a machines’ useful life.

IQMS (now DELMIAWORKS, part of Dassault Systèmes), Paso Robles, Calif., develops ERP software for manufacturers. To read an extended version of this article, visit:

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