Improving Complex Manufacturing Line Layouts

One of the biggest issues that manufacturers face is inefficiencies in their manufacturing lines. This looks like manufacturing cells with bottlenecks, unscheduled downtime, and inconsistent throughput. This is one of the first places that experiences lean manufacturing leaders look to cut costs and increase important metrics like OEE.

The secret to reducing costs and improving the way things work in these cells is by better understanding how all the individual machines in that cell are performing in context of all other cell operations. This is where it sounds like things will become complex, require a lot of data collection, and caeful analysis. Fortunately, this isn’t necessarily the case.

Below, I’ll outline how you can easily identify machine issues in context to everything else going on inside the manufacturing line.

complex manufacturing line manufacturing lines - cells machines

Context inside your manufacturing line

In it’s simplest form, the most important things for reducing waste in a manufacturing cell is understanding where the bottlenecks are, where they will be next, and what machines are having issues and why. Don’t worry, there are tons of manufacturers out there that are doing this without complex technology implementations or specialized data configurations (SensrTrx customer, VersaTech, being a good example).

manufacturing downtime inside manufacturing line

A simple step to starting out here could be as easy as looking at individual machine downtimes by reason codes before bottlenecks take place, to make sure these machines are always fed with product. How can you schedule this downtime to efficiently fix problems to reduce bottlenecks, reduce waste, and improve performance? Often, much of the waste in these manufacturing lines is related to unscheduled downtime and the fact that some individual machines inside the cell are running much different than others.

Bucking conventional wisdom in favor of efficiency

Let’s say you have 7 machines in a cell. In many cases, you may find out retroactively that the cell was down, but in reality machine 1 may have been down. This means the cell’s issue was really just a single machine’s issue. Understanding how each part is performing inside the manufacturing line can help you proactively prevent inefficient practices caused by specific machines or operators that may not be operating consistently like other machines in the cell.

Example of a manufacturing line that could run more efficiently

If machine 1 takes an hour to make 4 parts, but machine 2 only takes 30 minutes to make the same amount. You can schedule around these inconsistencies by having machine 1 run for an hour; while only making machine 2 run for 30 minutes; as opposed to running the entire cell for an unnecessary amount of time.

This is an easy way to save money and reduce poor practices. Any manufacturer that operates this way can implement this.

Taking things a step further

Conventional wisdom says… only measure OEE on the bottleneck.You want to measure the bottleneck because that is whats limiting your output, but when you do that you ignore all the other machines on that manufacturing line (and their importance to the cell)? This leaves you at risk for your other machines in the cell to perform inefficiently in the future; which will likely occur since you’re not focused on whats happening in that part of the line.

Now, those upstream machines become the problem because they haven’t been monitored. This is a really common occurrence and that means that the bottlenecks move over time. This is a viscous cycle of fixing bottlenecks but never knowing where they’re going to be next.

The most efficient way to do this would be to monitor all machines together so you can see approaching bottlenecks and schedule around them. This will allow you to run the cell more efficiently, reduce downtime, and improve cell performance.

manufacturing line dashboard

Putting this into practice

A lot of manufacturers are handling these inefficiencies by playing whack-a-mole with bottlenecks in these manufacturing lines because it is viewed as the most affordable and efficient method they have available. They assume that tracking things the ways I’ve described above would require a lot of man hours, the implementation or acquisition of expensive or complex technology, or a combination of both.

Fortunately, this is incorrect. SensrTrx can provide dashboards pre-loaded with all of this data simply by hooking into all of your existing infrastructure. In an instant, manufacturers can begin applying the cost-saving measures listed above. We find that this is often a surprise to manufacturers who are used to the lengthy implementation of technology.

If you have additional questions about SensrTrx, and how it could be used to improve the inefficiencies of your manufacturing lines, you can view a demo, download pricing, or simply contact us with your inquiry using each of these associated links.