The New Year brings an opportunity to reflect. There is a premium many cultures place on time, and is often an area of reflection as the calendar turns. Did we use our time well to benefit others? Did we spend enough time with the family? Have I invested in my own personal development? Things happen in a certain sequence. Sometimes in life, things that we did earlier have a profound effect on our lives later on. Sometimes we wish we could go back and change things, but that’s not possible. The best we can do is teach others not to make the same mistakes we did in the past.

The same rings true in the manufacturing process.

Sometimes things that happen early in the production process have an incredible effect at the end of the process.

Such was the case with one manufacturing organization that produces large-scale power capacitors that help stabilize the electric grid. It found that it was having increasingly high failure rates for a specific type of capacitor. Fortunately, they had leveraged analytic software that married machine data to RFID tags that provided the ability to deliver genealogy data of the different steps and activities that happened during the production process.

The problem was that the components were only failing at the very last step of testing in the production process and showed no signs of any issues up to that point. The reason for failure was that the windings of the dielectric material were too tight, and during the final testing at high-voltage they would fail. Looking back over the process led to one of the first steps in the production process. The next step was to go to the department and understand what was going on.

The data showed that a specific machine was the culprit, but why? While interviewing the operators in the department, they all stated that they “stayed away from that machine” because it was always a problem, and nobody liked to work on it. To compound the problem, because the older operators had more seniority, it was usually the case that a junior operator who had just come into his or her job was placed on the machine.

This is sometimes the case as all of us know that the new person in the shop will sometimes not get the best jobs until they have seniority. This only added to the complexity of the situation and the ability for things to go wrong. The corrective action was to replace the “hard-to-work-on” machine with one that was like the others that was much easier to use.

Thus, the number of failures in the last process step was greatly reduced. Another example of using digitization combined with a strong methodology and lean process improvement and the concept of “go see what is happening” in the process to make the improvement.

Miss the beginning of this series?  Read 12 Manufacturing Tips for a Brilliant 2017. Tip 1: Manufacturing Physics

Want to keep reading?  Read 12 Manufacturing Tips for a Brilliant 2017. Tip 10: Born of Sand and Heat

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GE Digital

Driving Digital Transformation

GE Digital connects streams of machine data to powerful analytics and people, providing industrial companies with valuable insights to manage assets and operations more efficiently. World-class talent and software capabilities help drive digital industrial transformation for big gains in productivity, availability and longevity. We do this by leveraging Predix, our cloud-based operating system, purpose built for the unique needs of industry.