END USER: Northeast Tool & Manufacturing, (704) 882-1187, www.northeasttool.us
SOLUTION PROVIDER: MachineMetrics, (413) 341-5747, www.machinemetrics.com
CHALLENGE: Reduce the time and manual inspection required to measure productivity.
SOLUTION: A machine monitoring system.
Founded in 1964, Northeast Tool & Manufacturing machines parts and produces complex assemblies for numerous industries, including aerospace, defense, energy and medical. The Matthews, N.C., job shop operates more than 200 machines and runs three shifts at its 30,000-sq.-ft. facility.
However, the means for accurately assessing productivity on the shop floor was lacking because the company did not have a method to obtain real-time data about its production, according to CEO Rusty Arant. Data collection involved shop foremen and lead employees entering data into report forms and spreadsheets, he said. “We were clocking in and out of jobs, but we weren’t getting the true data, the effective data, at the machine.”
Arant added that measuring real-time productivity was time-intensive and required manual inspection of cycle times, setup times and downtime.
A MachineMetrics tablet is magnetically mounted onto a machine tool and displays the operator view, where operators can categorize downtime and track quality and jobs. Image courtesy of MachineMetrics.
“This manual data collection process was not only prone to error, but there also was no way to visualize the results,” he said. As a result, the company struggled with identifying the bottlenecks in its procedures before the job was completed.
Keeping employees accountable to the company’s production goals was also a challenge. Northeast Tool did not have a system that could properly permit plant managers to make operational decisions based on real-time data, Arant said. “Our facility lacked a system that could empower our employees with the opportunity to take ownership over their work.”
While Northeast Tool was implementing a new enterprise resource planning system last spring, it began researching machine monitoring systems to record and visualize production data in real time. “We had to collect data,” Arant said.
One provider Northeast Tool looked at was MachineMetrics, Northampton, Mass. Arant recalled being sold on the company and its offering during a trade show where MachineMetrics exhibited. “We walked into the booth and fired multiple questions at them. They answered with the precision we wanted,” he said. “It was the right fit from the beginning.”
Within about a month, MachineMetrics implemented a machine monitoring system at Northeast Tool. Now, tablets mounted to individual machines display job performance and provide operators with an interface that categorizes downtime, setups, part rejections and tool changes. Throughout the facility, large-screen dashboard monitors display job performance against Northeast Tool’s production goals, with a green tile showing that a machine is producing within its target and a red tile indicating that a machine isn’t. In addition, instant text notifications enable production managers to immediately identify underperforming machines and quickly address issues.
“We had all the tools, but what was missing was the connectivity,” Arant said, “and that is where MachineMetrics stepped in.”
He added that the machine monitoring system enables Northeast Tool to hold its machine operators accountable for meeting daily production goals.
“I often say this to our younger workers: Nobody gets up in the morning to fail. What can we, as leaders, do to provide the tools for our workforce to continue to succeed throughout the day?” Arant asked. “By having a goal and quantifying that goal, we can measure ourselves against that goal. Sure, nobody likes to be pointed out, but we take it from a standpoint of cooperation and collaboration.”
Arant views these goals as a way of empowering his employees as opposed to having power over them. As a result, the operators are more engaged and plant managers are driven to make sure their teams remain in the green production tile on the system’s display. “We are finding that the enthusiasm of the workforce is better,” Arant said.
What’s also better is the delivery time for parts. Northeast Tool experiences fewer problems and variances that must be managed, Arant said, adding that part quality and price competitiveness have also improved.
After 7 months, 12 machine tools are connected to MachineMetrics, with a target of connecting the rest of the machines by the end of next year, he noted. The metrics, so far, show a 22 percent improvement in machine utilization, 739 additional machine hours per month—or 8,868 hours annually—and a $635,000 increase in billings per year.
“MachineMetrics enabled us to increase our machine utilization and capacity and to reach ROI in just 5 days,” Arant said.