Good data collection increases productivity

Production and industrial enterprises share an objective over the next few years: to increase productivity. Norwegian Aker Solutions and GKN Aerospace explain how they use data collection to increase productivity – and hence profitability.

Nordic production and industrial enterprises are experiencing greater international competition. Aker Solutions Subsea is a subcontractor to the oil industry and is seeing the price of oil fall. At the same time, some of their production takes place in Norway, one of the most expensive countries in the world as regards salaries and personnel expenses.

We are particularly exposed to competition. Many people are looking to the east in order to pay less for what we supply, and we have to deal with that competition. However, it is possible to operate efficiently in a high-cost country. BMW and Mercedes production takes place in Germany. All you have to do is focus clearly on efficiency, says Steinar Gundersen, Manager, Information & Enterprise systems.

We have to think about efficiency internally, utilise our resources more effectively. Using modern IT solutions in the field of Workforce Management, and utilising the data actively, are some of the ways in which we do this.

Data collection and Workforce Management

Workforce Management tools are used to record hours worked, machine hours, absence and non-conformances so that managers and staff maintain a full overview.

For us, therefore, having a good data collection tool is essential. This allows us to see where bottlenecks, errors and other opportunities to create more efficient processes can be found, says Steinar Gundersen.

Aker Solutions Subsea uses ProMark for data collection. This system records staff arrival and departure times, when machines start and stop, and other data. Updated data is used to make adjustments along the way, and SAP is fed with data through integration.

GKN Aerospace, which produces aircraft parts, has a similar solution. They often have thousands of orders in production simultaneously and need data in order to maintain an overview.

We use ProMark as part of our data collection procedure for SAP, where we constantly measure profitability. And we work on the basis of this information to make adjustments so that we can improve, says Sjur Ulleberg, Head of Planning at GKN Aerospace.

The system keeps track of how many machine hours and hours worked are used for all operations, allowing GKN to always have an overview of the anticipated time required.

For people working in production, this provides a better overview as it is possible to see what jobs the machines are carrying out at any one time, and what jobs they will be carrying out afterwards, explains Ulleberg.

Efficient handling of deviations

The Aker Solutions Subsea production premises at Ågotnes have gone even further to provide everyone with a complete overview. They have the production plan displayed on a big screen at the production facility.

We believe this makes our staff more productive, motivating them to get things finished. Nobody wants to seem slow when the details are shown on the big screen, says Steinar Gundersen.

If a machine stops or there are any other deviations as regards the production plan, they can redeploy resources quickly.

If someone is working on an order and the machine stops or they run out of materials, they can see on the screen where they may be needed and switch to other tasks instead. A message will also be sent concerning the deviation so that it can be rectified, explains Gundersen.

This means they work efficiently even in the event of deviations. Their factory in Indonesia does not have procedures that are as efficient.

When one of the machines stops there, the machine operator stops work and goes and stands in the aisle. The manager sometimes looks out over the workshop, and if he sees someone standing in the aisle, he goes up to them and asks what is wrong, explains Gundersen.

What should be measured?

What should be measured in a data collection procedure depends on the company’s targets, and these targets may change over time.

When the price of oil was in excess of $100, every order we received was like a ‘Formula One race’. Our customers had found an oilfield, and they wanted us to produce parts for them as quickly as was humanly possible so that they could recover the oil. Money was no object.

But things are different now: Economy is the main topic now, and the most important thing is to cut costs and hence the price. This means that we have to switch our focus and concentrate more on profitability, says Steinar.

At GKN Aerospace, payroll expenses and machine hours have always been the most important factors to measure.

It goes without saying that these factors are important as regards profitability, but they are an important element of planning as well. This allows us to plan for future machine load, machine maintenance, resource allocation and so forth, says Ulleberg.

Realistic planning

Constantly gathering data on how production is progressing and how people and machinery are performing provide the management with good data for planning. It is possible at the same time to provide real-time visualisation of this production data in order to work with real-time planning.

If they have insufficient data on which to base their planning, the management team can easily end up in a ‘dream world’ when it comes to planning. This results in unrealistic expectations, and this may create irritation both within the management team and on the shop floor, explains Steinar Gundersen.

Basing decisions on data permits more efficient management as ‘the map matches the terrain’.

When we create plans at GKN, we always start off with a snapshot: the situation we are in at present and how far the parts have progressed. In addition, we can estimate future development and resource consumption on the basis of earlier data, says Sjur Ulleberg.

Data collection and visualisation every bit as important as lighting and power

Aker Solutions started using ProMark at its workshop in Tranby, and they have now implemented it at nine different locations throughout the world, both at workshops and in service environments. They have outsourced some of their production to Indonesia and Angola.

And now we are going to install ProMark at our workshop in Angola. Control presents a major challenge when outsourcing, and we believe that this will provide more discipline and hence give us more control, says Gundersen.

They still have manual procedures over there. In Norway, Aker Solutions has dispensed with manual procedures a long time ago.

We used to fill out everything on paper many years ago. The operators wrote down what they had produced, and we had designated staff for punching this information in. And three days later, people could see what they had produced, says Gundersen.

These processes are paperless and automated nowadays. When people arrive and leave, and what they do throughout the day, are recorded automatically. When people, machinery and products fail to operate as planned, this triggers a deviation message which a manager has to deal with and/or approve.

Put it this way: ProMark is every bit as important to us as lighting and power. This is the measuring device we use in order to achieve our targets, concludes Steinar Gundersen.