10 December, 2015

Overhaul OEE

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Why is OEE so abused in many of our operations where, despite expensive software ‘solutions’, we can find lots of data but very little useful information? Why do so many managers ask for the ‘overall OEE’ for their whole operation – is that even a real question? In view of the above questions, I think that it’s about time OEE is itself overhauled, not least to reset expectations for what is an extremely powerful improvement tool if correctly applied. OEE is akin to a surgeon’s scalpel in that it is best used very precisely, with great care, in the right place. It is not a blunderbuss to be applied everywhere at the same time in order to collect huge amounts of useless data that will be wastefully analysed by a well-meaning ‘yellow-belt’, in the pursuit of some apparently important ‘Overall – Overall Equipment Effectiveness’ metric for the whole operation! So, you may ask, ‘how do we determine precisely the right place to apply OEE’? That’s very easy, just follow one of the 5 guiding principles of lean – Go Look See! On any number of your visits to the production line, take note of the operation that generally has the most stock in front of it – this will be the actual (maybe not theoretical) constraint or bottleneck. This is the process on which to focus your initial  OEE investigation – even if it’s a purely manual operation, the tool still works. The investigation continues until it is noted that the stock in front of the operation has disappeared – then, Go Look See where it has moved to and start again, repeating the process continuously! This focused approach ensures that specific and relevant data is collected which can then be used to determine information about the target process that will greatly improve the chances of actual improvement to the point where the target is no longer the constraint.