OPTIMIZING OPERATIONS: How Touchscreens Can Motivate Assembly Line Workers to Do Quality Work

manufacturing andon system

 

May 16, 2018 – // Manufacturing AUTOMATION // When UTC Aerospace required a solution to manage assembly line workers with no previous manufacturing experience, it decided to try something new that set a precedent for its future manufacturing operations management (MOM) strategy.

Using manufacturing software from PINpoint Information Systems that features situational awareness graphics on plant floor touchscreens, the manufacturer was able to train an unskilled workforce to build safety critical electronics without defects, which actually helped ramp up production within days, said UTC Aerospace. With the software monitoring and controlling the hundreds of process steps needed to build the products, problems and defects could not go unchecked so error-proofing was maximized.

How do touchscreens motivate assembly line workers to do quality work on time? All manufacturing stakeholders become accountable for the quality of the product, and the efficiency or timing in which it is assembled when individuals report to their own workstation touchscreens. The information created through an individual’s interactions with the touchscreens is also broadcasted to large plant floor displays for all team members to see, critique and act on. This manufacturing methodology emphasizes every line worker’s and supervisor’s own responsibility to contribute positively to the overall goal of manufacturing products of high quality in an efficient way, with the least amount of waste produced.

Assembly line workers and area supervisors become fully accountable for the finished product the moment they log into the user interface software with their own unique login and password. Figure 1 is an example of the SmartScreen user interface with various situational awareness graphics reporting the details and real-time performance of the individual line worker/workstation. The information includes the scheduled production time, the real-time status of the Goal Planned Actual (GPA), and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) which helps ensure the line worker is made aware and of their progress within the cycle time.

assembly line workers

Figure 1: Assembly line touchscreen user interface featuring situational awareness graphics.

 

Since each manufacturing stakeholder is identified by her/ his own credentials, they must succumb to the first level of assembly line error-proofing. The software behind the user interface touchscreen identifies the worker and then confirms – before any work can start or tools are enabled – whether that person is actually qualified to do the work. The software, PINpoint describes, ensures quality by authenticating that the person has received the proper training to perform the process steps and that they are aware of the latest quality alerts and safety requirements unique to their workstation or process.

At the heart of the user interface software is a manufacturing execution system (MES) and multi-dimensional database containing all the information required to build the product, along with the record of the line worker’s credentials, their training and up-to-the-second historical assembly line performance data.

Once the line worker is verified, the user interface presents the relevant work instructions so they can begin performing the steps to build the product. In the case of the common fastening operation, the user interface displays the tolerances required for the fastening operation. Figure 2 shows a SmartScreen example where the line worker has progressed to Process Step 4 requiring them to perform 20 fastening operations within the parameter set (PSet) of 5.00 – 7.00Nm at an angle of 5 – 7°.

assembly line workers

Figure 2: Fastening operation SmartScreen showing tolerances data visualization.

 

PINpoint believes the worker is motivated to perform each process step carefully and quickly since they are made aware of the cycle time remaining to complete the operation by way of the cycle time gauge shown at the bottom left side of the main screen. Along the bottom of the screen are coloured bars that can also be configured to visually indicate and further re-enforce how they are progressing.

Once the worker begins performing the fastening operation, the touchscreen displays their Fastening Results step by step with textual data and graphics that shows the worker’s progress. Not only does the touchscreen help guide the worker in each fastening operation, the system monitors their performance and can halt their progress and even turn off their tools should any operation be performed outside the set parameters.

The touchscreen user interface and software not only motivate line workers, they help foster a team-based approach to manufacturing execution that instills a new culture, and closed-loop accountability in the factory where all manufacturing stakeholders are made accountable for what they contribute, describes PINpoint. The data generated by the line workers’ activities and the data recorded from the machines also becomes indispensable as business and manufacturing intelligence reports become increasingly essential for optimizing manufacturing operations.

Anthony Borges, marketing manager at PINpoint Information Systems, offers over 14 years of manufacturing optimization knowledge, with an aptitude for solving problems which increase business and manufacturing efficiency. Headquartered in Burlington, Ont., PINpoint services industry internationally from its offices in Canada, the United States and China.

This feature was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION: https://www.automationmag.com/technology/hardware/8346-optimizing-operations-how-touchscreens-can-motivate-assembly-line-workers-to-do-quality-work

 

EMPOWERING QUALITY & EFFICIENCY – Driving Change w/ Manufacturing Execution System Software

Manufacturing excellence is built on a robust, goal oriented philosophy that creates a reasonable expectation of success and a tool set that empowers all levels of a manufacturing facility to ‘walk the talk’. PINpoint V5 manufacturing execution system (MES) makes committing to a culture of manufacturing excellence practical. Set goals, leverage real-time data to be accountable to those goals; make adjustments, and measure the effectiveness of those manufacturing decisions to make walking the talk a way of life.

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To Stop The Assembly Line, Or Not To Stop The Assembly Line?

assembly line

To stop the assembly line or not to stop the assembly line?

Particularly a batch process synchronous manufacturing assembly line where the movements of the jobs are coordinated, and workers adhere to a set time to complete their job. Stopping a synchronous line impacts the performance of the entire assembly line because each job has a predetermined TAKT time and Goals Planned Actual (GPA) target to achieve. If a job is delayed or a problem arises that requires a line stop, then TAKT time over-clocks and these event can potentially be a factor in whether the manufactured products goal is met or not for the scheduled shift.

Inevitably a reason for a line stoppage will arise and require the worker (or system) to stop the manufacturing process. ANDON is a system which is able to notify management, maintenance, and other workers of a quality or process problem. The most advanced and effective ANDON systems are controlled by Manufacturing Execution System (MES) Software and can feature over sized signboards which graphically display the status of each work station and the individual worker by name. It shows which station/worker is having the problem, or requires attention in an intuitive way with graphics. For example, if the worker needs materials replenished to continue her job then she presses a button and a visual alert is displayed on the big screen for the Line Supervisor to see (in the example screenshot shown below it is a ‘blue dot’). The ANDON system being a website based software is easily configurable to show the essential information needed to ensure productivity; when goals are being achieved the screen displays green and the progress for each member is shown in a bar graph below their name.

ANDON system alerts are typically activated manually by a worker using a pull cord or button, or may be activated automatically by the production equipment itself. The MES software includes the feature to stop production so the issue can be corrected. MES based ANDON alert systems also incorporate audio alarms, stack lights, mobile text/email, and video messages or other animated graphics such as an ‘OEE’ performance gauge for all to see. It is up to the Manufacturing Engineer or Production Team to determine which of the alerts constitute a line stoppage, or the interjection of a Line Supervisor who has the access to remedy/bypass the situation. Keeping that in mind, whether the Manufacturing Engineer or the Line Supervisor are faced with a delay or line stoppage for “whatever” reason, the MES is capturing each and every input by the individual users and storing those events and notes in a database (as well as machine events); valuable data which can be accessed right away or analyzed later in easy to interpret manufacturing reports.

It would be interesting to receive comments pertaining to whether it is a good idea to stop the manufacturing line to remedy situations as they happen? To correct the actions that led to the problem on the spot; and to nearly deny all failed parts from proceeding? Of course for issues such as materials replenishing, or the replacement of a broken tool, the raising of an alert in advance or as soon as problems start is fundamental and encourages preventative actions to ensure the line does not stop in the first place. In the cases where the manufacturing stoppage happens due to a worker not completing their job quickly enough, or is due to a quality issue, the power of how the assembly line should react is up to the strategy the manufacturer implements, i.e. there are pros and cons to consider: stopping the line will consume TAKT time and adversely affect GPA, although on the other hand the quality issue is sorted, the bad part is repaired or quarantined; and in the cases that the reason for the stoppage is due to worker errors, then that situation itself can be addressed by Line Supervisor interaction, such as recommending additional training for the worker. Or perhaps it is revealed the TAKT time is too short for that particular operation, meaning scheduling adjustments need to be made, e.g. jobs reallocated or TAKT time increased.

Whether the line is stopped or not, the ANDON alert will lead to a response action anyway, to encourage the line keeps moving or starts up again quickly if it stopped. If the line is set up to only stop for major issues then yes it forces production to keep moving, and yes you do have the data recorded for the days’ manufacturing events to consider; BUT are you guaranteeing bad parts did not ship, and are you guaranteeing your manufacturing assembly line is optimized as much as it could be? Both scenarios fit a certain manufacturing strategy – it becomes a question of how quickly the manufacturer wants to deal with problems and learn from those mistakes.

Manufacturers have the choice since MES is configurable to their needs. You have the option to remedy the issues as they arise, even if it takes more time and less products are made each day. One can think of it as short term pain for long term gain because yes stopping the line may adversely affect the goal, although at days end a lesson is learned, the problem is addressed and should not happen again; and ultimately a bad part’s chance of being shipped to the customer is more diminished. That is truly continuous improvement on-the-fly. For more information on website based configurable plant floor management please see www.pinpointinfo.com and please do not hesitate to contact us.