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From: Food Quality & Safety magazine, December/January 2011

Increase Overall Equipment Effectiveness

OEE system indicates adherence to sound, documented food-processing techniques

by Thomas R. Cutler

Comprehensive solutions that directly address food and beverage production efficiency include methodologies that manufacture without new investment. The food and beverage manufacturing industry is under steadily growing pressure. Once an investment is in place and as long as there is demand for the products, companies must produce as much as possible with existing production facilities while keeping costs as low as possible.

Automation is directly connected to this dynamic situation and must deliver increasingly agile and open solutions. Industrial software represents the core of the systems dedicated to increasing production effectiveness.

Equipment performance systems are becoming increasingly innovative in delivering overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), with significant benefits for food and beverage producers. A production efficiency solution must provide an improvement method for all industry participants—whether end users, integrators, or machine builders, whether isolated machines or integrated lines.

In the food industry, labor usage is quite extensive and, therefore, costs are high. Monitoring machines help streamline labor efficiency, enabling the overall process to be more productive and reducing labor costs.

Extracting OEE Data

“Few OEE solutions allow for a universal machine interface allowing a connection to any machine,” said John Rattray, Memex Automation. “In the food industry, any machine with a basic electrical signal can be made to extract OEE data. Information such as run time, cycle time, and part counts … all are very valuable in streamlining the manufacturing process. Making this information available in real time for quick response or historical reporting for lean initiatives is exceptionally helpful.”

Solutions that deliver value and require configuration rather than programming are best; insight into the application of software techniques to produce advantages for operations, quality, maintenance, and regulatory compliance illustrate many ways of getting more from existing investments by monitoring their effective use and OEE.

Food quality assurance managers are instructed to prevent problems, and they require a real-time performance OEE dashboard to view the plant. These data must capture metrics from each machine, as well as run time, down time, cycle time, and production rate. Other data needed include production, scrap counts, and process time (dwell, duration, inject, form, fill).

A production efficiency solution must provide an improvement method for all industry participants—whether end users, integrators, or machine builders, whether isolated machines or integrated lines.

When main machines are connected to the corporate networks in the food industry, they can offer a lot of information, including OEE. “The biggest issue facing the food industry with respect to machines is that the vast majority of machines are not connected and, therefore, provide very little information to the corporate network for analysis and automation,” said Rattray.

Increasingly, these software solutions enhance OEE in a processing plant while ensuring greater process transparency. Tightened regulations require complete monitoring and documentation of all critical checkpoints and associated equipment. While weighing technology and metal detectors supply much of the data needed, many firms have not yet networked their individual appliances to enable this reporting.

Parameter Control

Enabling control of parameters such as weight, packaging regulations compliance, metal contamination, and appliance monitoring allows users to visualize information from the detectors on one or more monitoring computers.

Automated e-mail alert systems that immediately inform users of any process problems, metallic contamination, through- put rates, and rejects enable immediate intervention.

“It is easy for manufacturers to be legally compliant, as these tools allow tracing of every batch and the recording of statistics and … all data on appliance performance and downtime can be saved and archived to allow for year-on-year comparison,” said Rattray.

Recording the percentage of packs rejected allows processors to gauge line speed and downtime, providing customers with a complete processing line control mechanism. These data assist the line operator in monitoring any weight variation developments in packs and can alert the user to probable causes in the processing line, such as a slicing or filling machine not working at the optimal rate.

 The industry’s strict quality concerns call for the use of OEE as a measure of quality with availability and performance to track as productivity metrics. Regulatory authorities—and customers—want to know that food production processes are carefully monitored. Having a real-time machine monitoring and OEE system in place confirms that a company is adhering to sound and documented food-processing techniques.

Cutler is president and CEO of TR Cutler Inc. Reach him at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com.

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