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So, what is 'Overall Equipment Effectiveness'?

04 May 2011

Another yardstick by which to measure something that is already well known? OK, that may be a knee-jerk reaction to yet another piece of production management jargon but, in reality, the nuance of the language masks a different approach to assessing the productivity of machines, writes Simon Adams.

Until the concept of Overall Equipment effectiveness (OEE) came along, machinery manufacturers and users alike were well versed in the methods needed to improve operational efficiency - by selecting machinery based on capacity, output rate, reliability, availability of accessories, for example.

Whilst these points are still crucial to the approach to deciding which equipment to buy, once the machine has been installed the way in which it is operated and run play an equally important role in maximising output and maintaining quality and managing cost. OEE is the metric by which the effectiveness of the equipment has to be monitored and measured once it is in operation, in order to meet the expectations of manufacturing businesses.

Typical OEE measurements track not just for how long the machine has been switched on, but whether is it actually 'in cycle' and producing something.  Or, to take the other extreme, if the machine has inexplicably gone down, OEE wants to know when this happened and for how long it was out of action - and therefore not 'effective'.

OEE principles will not only apply to monitoring the effectiveness of a machine but also of a workstation such as a packaging line or assembly area. For example, delivery of material or components line-side may be ordered up by the personnel on the line; how quickly that material is delivered will influence the 'effectiveness' of the line. In all of these illustrations the ability to measure certain defined metrics open up opportunities for discussion and ultimately the implementation of countermeasures.

Industrial signal tower manufacturer WERMA can make a significant contribution to OEE management with a new product called WIN (Wireless Information Network), which is supplied as an accessory to the company's KOMBI 70 and 71 ranges of signal towers. The device collects the signal light status changes as they occur and transmits them wirelessly to a receiver unit plugged into a PC or laptop. Here the data can be presented in the form of run time charts or machine productivity pie charts. The data can also be downloaded either to Access or Excel where further analysis can be carried out.

Simon Adams is managing director of WERMA UK

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