As discussed in our previous article - Visual Work Instructions, Different Approaches and Use Cases - the case for implementing Smart/Visual Work Instructions can be convincing across many unique use cases. In this article, we’ll begin to dive deeper into more specific applications of this technology and talk about how users can extract value and drive compliance. To begin this deep dive, we’ll start with the most obvious implementation industry, Manufacturing and look at Extrusion in more detail.
First, let’s make sure the audience understands the extrusion process, at least conceptually. By definition, “extrusion is a process used to to create objects of a fixed cross-sectional profile.”1 It achieves this by pushing material through a die matching the desired shape (see image). In film applications, downstream from the extruder is typically a set of chiller rolls which are designed to control the cooling process as well as a slitting tool to achieve the correct final product width.
One of the clear benefits of such a method is the ability to achieve nearly continuous production, which in turn results in operators assuming more of a monitor and adjust role. The clear risk with this type of manufacturing is that incorrect equipment set up can produce quite a lot of defective product very quickly.
This is where Smart/Visual Work Instructions come into play. With a purpose-built application, operators will receive only the most current documented best practice, ensuring not only all process enhancements are applied, but that complete visibility to in-line / in-process product quality is leveraged to minimize waste and rework. Below we’ll break down the major functions, and get specific as to how Smart/Visual Work Instructions can be applied to produce a better quality product, more quickly, with less waste.
If you understand extrusion, you’ll understand that in most cases an in-process implementation of Smart/Visual Work Instructions would not be valuable. Realistically, properly setup extruders and associated equipment, including chill rolls and slitters will require monitoring and adjustments during the run and those adjustments are dependant upon quite a lot of factors, including ambient temperature, humidity, raw materials, etc. That said, providing the equipment operator standardized guidance on those adjustments and troubleshooting (If - Then) can limit wasted time and product. In addition, the ability to leverage built-in SPC and other data collection features that accompany modern SWI applications create real-time process monitoring and alerts so that corrective actions can be implemented earlier in the run, again reducing material waste.
Challenges to compliance occur in most major change initiatives, and implementing Smart Work Instructions is no different. The key to success when implementing a SWI application is to make the value clear to the end user right away. In a recent extrusion implementation, an existing pain point for the operations team was the excessive paper forms being completed, and their inability to reliably collect and manage all of this paper. When customer issues arose, they struggled to trace all of the data back to a specific tool, batch, part, etc. So two SWI user groups had significant pain points that could be eased by implementing SWI. All of the paper data collection (quality and productivity) can be transitioned to electronic forms, or automatically collected providing clear value for the machine operators, while storing everything electronically made it much simpler for the customer service team to resolve quality issues.
Understanding the different implementation models for Smart Work Instructions (In-Process and As a Resource) and leveraging this specific extrusion use case, our goal is that you now see beyond the typical implementation model for SWI and begin to see how almost any manufacturing operation can benefit from their use. Just because you don’t operate an assembly line, doesn’t mean you don’t have processes, or sequences of tasks that can benefit from standardization. Take a walk through your facility, and think about how the production team knows what to do, as well as how and when to do it.