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12/16/2015 | 2 MINUTE READ

Benchmarking Your Way to Better Operations

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Does it seem like one type of mechanical failure causes most downtime in your shop; do more things seem to go wrong with certain shifts/operators/lines? Apply metrics and remove “seems” from your vocabulary.


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Steve Simmons can say with certainty that vacuum-pump failure is a significant contributor to unscheduled downtime at custom sheet manufacturer Highland Plastics Inc., Shepherd, Mich. Simmons, Highland’s president, can also tell you exactly where, when and with whom most of the restrictor bar bolt breakage occurs at his plant, and on any given day, he can tell you where production lagged over the last 24 hours.


How? Simmons and Highland Plastics measure all manner of things at their facility, giving the company insights into how operations are faring and pinpointing exactly where issues exist. Highland Plastics is among Plastics Technology’s inaugural class of World-Class Processors, which will be highlighted in the January 2016 issue of Plastics Technology magazine. The group of 25 were pooled from across the industry, varying in size, process, location and output. What they all have in common is meticulous measurement of how pellets are converted in their plants.


I asked Simmons how benchmarking has helped his company and he immediately provided examples:


Restrictor bar breakage: This was identified as a key cause of down time, so Simmons decided to start taking note of the circumstances around its occurrence.


“We tracked restrictor bar bolt breakage by line, shift and operator, and identified where and when most of the breakage was occurring. We then trained all the operators, changed their tools and ultimately revised the procedural methods used to operate the dies.


Vacuum-pump failure: After investigating unscheduled machine downtime by cause, vacuum pumps came under greater scrutiny.


“We identified vacuum pump failure as a significant contributor to unscheduled production downtime and assigned a single individual vacuum-pump maintenance responsibility to rebuild and maintain all vacuum pumps. Previously the responsibility for vacuum pump maintenance had been diffused across five individuals.”


All these insights come operations data that are culled daily at Highland. “We compile a daily shift summary report of substandard operational elements gleaned from 12 shift-production reports produced over the preceding 24 hours,” Simmons says. “This summary report enables us to identify production deficiency trends, and address them, often before they manifest themselves in unscheduled production downtime.”


Seems like Highland has a handle on things. Look for the January issue to learn more about the World-Class Processor program and sign up your company (you can email me) to participate in our next survey to better know your operations and see how they stack up.