In 2016 my wife surprised me with a fitness tracker for my B-day. It is a Garmin watch that does everything from measuring my running speed and heart rate, to displaying how well I slept the night before. I have always been active and like to play sports, so this was a fantastic gift idea. The watch has been a great tool not only to motivate me to be active but also to do it better.
Recently I was speaking to a large electronics manufacturer looking for ways to improve their final test and packaging processes. The client knows that they need to improve some KPI’s such as machine performance and first pass yield. The problem is that they find it hard to quantify what improvement is reachable. Why? Mainly because the client does not have reliable data that can be used to determine their baseline. There is an idea or a feeling of how they are currently doing, but very few hard facts. What the client needs is a quick and affordable way to assess their current state, performance variations and to demonstrate their potential. In other words, they need a fitness tracker for their factory!
“One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions.” -Grace Murray
After wearing my Garmin watch for a few days and running with it, it showed me some cool ‘Race Predictors’. The tracker estimated what my times would be for 5K, 10K, Half/Full Marathon runs. It also showed me my VO2 Max and what my recovery time should be. I didn’t even know what VO2 was prior to receiving this watch! How cool is that? One of the benefits of having access to such data is that it can help drive positive behavioral changes. It motivated me to run consistently and to improve my running time by doing things like interval training. Imagine if manufacturers would have access to such a device.
All these experiences and ideas were my catalyst for formulating an outline for how such a ‘fitness tracker’ can be developed for your factory by combining good business knowledge, project management skills and some technology.
Phase 1 – Assessment. During this step, the processes and/or equipment that require measurement are identified, and the status quo is analyzed. The project stakeholder/s document the areas of interest, known business pains, issues and desired improvements. An inventory list of current tools used to measure and track data is constructed. The key deliverables for this phase include a list of data points that are currently not measured, together with a definition and proposal of how they need to be measured. This list should also include data points that are now measured, but the time spent on collecting this data or the quality of that data is questionable. Here is a sample of items that such list can include; time spent on completing planned/unplanned maintenance activities, quality check results, and equipment micro stops.
Phase 2 – Design. The architecture can be composed of existing systems currently in-use and new hardware/software solutions that can help with collecting missing data. When drafting the architecture, one should keep couple essential things in mind:
- The proposed architecture should aid in removing manual data entry points and reducing errors in the data currently being collected.
- Individual architecture components should take a short time to modify, develop and implement.
The deliverable of this phase is a finished and approved Fitness Tracker blueprint document.
Phase 3 – Build. The build will include modification of existing tools and/or solutions and development and implementation of new tools needed to collect the required data. Preferably, the initial focus should be on building quick solutions. That will help in delivering rapid results and creating momentum so that management will fund more complex extensions of the Fitness Tracker project.
Phase 4 – Run. You will need a minimum of 1-week to complete this stage. This time should be enough to collect some meaningful data in different conditions. The deliverable here is a set of data ready for analysis in the next phase.
Phase 5 – Analyze & Improve. Now it is time to analyze the collected data and assess the actual state of your processes and/or equipment. This information can then be used to make decisions on what can be improved and to define some realistic improvement targets. The decision on how long you would like to run this phase is entirely up to you. However, my recommendation would be not to lose momentum and prolong this for too long without taking actions.
Times are changing. Today, a $100 Fitness Tracker can generate data that in the past could only be produced by sophisticated equipment in sport science labs. Now, because of technology, we all can take advantage of such data quickly and with minimal cost to better our lives. The phases described above are similar to what you might see in a Lean Six Sigma project. With the use of modern technology, you can develop tools that can be used to assess the ‘true’ state of your manufacturing operations in a fast and agile manner. Yes, it is possible to deploy a comprehensive equipment monitoring solution in a few days, with minimal investment! Second layer applications can be added later in a matter of weeks vs. months/years as before. The technology is ALREADY here, and you can develop some awesome solutions with it. So, what’s stopping you from building your Factory Fitness Tracker?