Standardized machine setup processes are essential for precision manufacturing. They are the foundation for the work and value that you produce. If the right machine setup is not achieved, then how likely is it that your product will be fabricated properly?
Not very likely.
Just as we have quality standards for our products, we need quality standards for our processes. And we need it for all of them, especially pre-production activities.
As discussed in Visual Work Instructions, Different Approaches and Use Cases, work instruction software provides unique opportunities across many industries and procedures.
With this in mind, let’s take a deep dive into a specific application of this technology: film extrusion
First, let’s briefly explore the process of “extrusion”.
By definition, extrusion is a process used to manufacture objects with a fixed cross-sectional profile. This is achieved by pushing material through a die matching the desired shape.
In its most basic form, we can think of the simple handheld extruder from playdough. The pliable material is pushed through odd-shaped holes to achieve the desired shape.
When applying it on an industrial scale, there are a profound amount of materials and applications for this type of manufacturing. Including aluminum and various forms of plastic.
An example of this is cast film extrusion, where molten polymer is pushed through a long thin die (called a coat hanger die) to produce a thin film. Downstream from the extruder are chiller rolls that control the cooling process. After chilling, there is a slitting tool to achieve an exact dimensional width.
One of the clear benefits of such a method is the ability to achieve nearly continuous production. As long as there's material to feed into the extruder, the machine could go forever with only minor interventions. Operators set up the extruder to exact specifications and then assume a monitor and adjust role.
For cast film extrusion, production speeds can reach around 600 meters per minute. Not only can the machine run for a long time, but it is also producing at an astounding rate.
But with any high-speed continuous production, any problem or misalignment in machine setup can have detrimental consequences. This can produce quite a lot of defective products very quickly.
This is why manufacturers involved in extrusion need strong standardized machine setup procedures. It is incredibly important to maintain standardization when performing setup, adjustments, and inspections.
This is where Digital Work Instructions come into play.
Read More: 7 Steps to Becoming a “Smarter Manufacturer
For extrusion, the approach to work instruction software is different from assembly work. As we've discussed, the extruder machine is performing most of the in-process work.
So the pre-production phase is one of the key areas where we need to focus our standardization efforts. By implementing a standardized machine setup, you will cut down on adverse errors and anomalies later in your process.
Doing so digitally will extract value and drive compliance across your workforce.
With an easy-to-use and visually interactive software, standardization is made simple. Your operators have easy access to your company’s best practices and procedures. And when performing machine setup, operators are following the most up to date methods.
This in turn creates a stronger workforce that has the best tools and knowledge to begin production the right way.
Extruders, chill rollers, and slitters still need monitoring and adjustments during production. These adjustments are dependent upon quite a lot of factors. This includes ambient temperature, humidity, raw materials used, etc.
That said, providing your operators with guidance and resources will limit wastes in materials, time, and product. By capturing key process knowledge in a digital format, every working employee has access to the right information.
In the case of extrusion, guidebooks provide the right information through interactive troubleshooting. The guidebook follows an If - Then model.
With easy access to detailed instructions and intelligent troubleshooting, your employees gain greater confidence in their daily activities.
Additionally, our Digital Work Instructions Software tracks and analyzes key manufacturing data about your production. After you’ve implemented the proper machine setup and production is taking place, data is constantly being retrieved and analyzed.
The ability to leverage data collection to enhance production is nothing short of amazing. With real-time process monitoring and alerts, you gain key insight into your operation. Insights like inventory, usage, composition, alignment, and more.
Built-in tolerances and max limits help to inform your operators if production is not within specifications.
If errors or deficiencies occur, your operators can enact countermeasures quickly and effectively. They can do this because the data has given them the right information about where the problem is occurring.
With more knowledge and insight, you and your team are better able to prevent material waste and rework.
Digital work instructions add value for the employee and the customer. In a recent case, the operations team of an extrusion company was frustrated by their excessive use of paper forms.
When customer issues arose, they struggled to trace quality records back to a specific tool, batch, or part. They had come to realize that their paper method was not cutting it anymore, especially in their fast-growing industry.
These obstacles were overcome by implementing work instruction software. Now, key process knowledge and manufacturing data are available at any moment.
This provides clear value for the machine operators as well as for the customer service team.
Machine setup and other activities are clearly laid out for each procedure. This gives added confidence for you and your employees that the right procedures are being performed.
Operators also no longer need to fill out large amounts of paper forms. Now, they enter their data through their onscreen platform and VKS captures the data for their quality records.
Likewise, the customer service team now has easy access to all forms and files. All forms are in one convenient system. No longer do they need to engage in the lengthy process of searching through filing cabinets.
Their key manufacturing data is stored intelligently and found intuitively; saving them a lot of time and frustration.
Understanding the different implementation models for digital work instructions is essential for modern manufacturing. In any industry, employees benefit from increased access to knowledge. And all processes and procedures benefit from the digital implementation of standardization.
Take a walk through your facility. Think about how your production teams know what to do, as well as how and when to do it.
Digital Work Instructions serve to unite all aspects of your facility. By empowering your workers, your equipment, and other software, machine setup and all other stages of your production are ready for success.