Operations & Management
Optimizing operations: How touchscreens can motivate assembly line workers to do quality work
By Anthony Borges
By Anthony Borges
May 16, 2018 – When UTC Aerospace required a solution to manage assembly line workers with no previous manufacturing experience, it decided to try something new that set a precedent for its future manufacturing operations management (MOM) strategy.
Using manufacturing software from PINpoint Information Systems that features situational awareness graphics on plant floor touchscreens, the manufacturer was able to train an unskilled workforce to build safety critical electronics without defects, which actually helped ramp up production within days, said UTC Aerospace. With the software monitoring and controlling the hundreds of process steps needed to build the products, problems and defects could not go unchecked so error-proofing was maximized.
How do touchscreens motivate assembly line workers to do quality work on time? All manufacturing stakeholders become accountable for the quality of the product, and the efficiency or timing in which it is assembled when individuals report to their own workstation touchscreens. The information created through an individual’s interactions with the touchscreens is also broadcasted to large plant floor displays for all team members to see, critique and act on. This manufacturing methodology emphasizes every line worker’s and supervisor’s own responsibility to contribute positively to the overall goal of manufacturing products of high quality in an efficient way, with the least amount of waste produced.
Assembly line workers and area supervisors become fully accountable for the finished product the moment they log into the user interface software with their own unique login and password. Figure 1 is an example of the SmartScreen user interface with various situational awareness graphics reporting the details and real-time performance of the individual line worker/workstation. The information includes the scheduled production time, the real-time status of the Goal Planned Actual (GPA), and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) which helps ensure the line worker is made aware and of their progress within the cycle time.
Since each manufacturing stakeholder is identified by her/ his own credentials, they must succumb to the first level of assembly line error-proofing. The software behind the user interface touchscreen identifies the worker and then confirms – before any work can start or tools are enabled – whether that person is actually qualified to do the work. The software, PINpoint describes, ensures quality by authenticating that the person has received the proper training to perform the process steps and that they are aware of the latest quality alerts and safety requirements unique to their workstation or process.
At the heart of the user interface software is a manufacturing execution system (MES) and multi-dimensional database containing all the information required to build the product, along with the record of the line worker’s credentials, their training and up-to-the-second historical assembly line performance data.
Once the line worker is verified, the user interface presents the relevant work instructions so they can begin performing the steps to build the product. In the case of the common fastening operation, the user interface displays the tolerances required for the fastening operation. Figure 2 shows a SmartScreen example where the line worker has progressed to Process Step 4 requiring them to perform 20 fastening operations within the parameter set (PSet) of 5.00 – 7.00Nm at an angle of 5 – 7°.
PINpoint believes the worker is motivated to perform each process step carefully and quickly since they are made aware of the cycle time remaining to complete the operation by way of the cycle time gauge shown at the bottom left side of the main screen. Along the bottom of the screen are coloured bars that can also be configured to visually indicate and further re-enforce how they are progressing.
Once the worker begins performing the fastening operation, the touchscreen displays their Fastening Results step by step with textual data and graphics that shows the worker’s progress. Not only does the touchscreen help guide the worker in each fastening operation, the system monitors their performance and can halt their progress and even turn off their tools should any operation be performed outside the set parameters.
The touchscreen user interface and software not only motivate line workers, they help foster a team-based approach to manufacturing execution that instills a new culture, and closed-loop accountability in the factory where all manufacturing stakeholders are made accountable for what they contribute, describes PINpoint. The data generated by the line workers’ activities and the data recorded from the machines also becomes indispensable as business and manufacturing intelligence reports become increasingly essential for optimizing manufacturing operations.
Anthony Borges, marketing manager at PINpoint Information Systems, offers over 14 years of manufacturing optimization knowledge, with an aptitude for solving problems which increase business and manufacturing efficiency. Headquartered in Burlington, Ont., PINpoint services industry internationally from its offices in Canada, the United States and China.
This feature was originally published in the May 2018 issue of Manufacturing AUTOMATION.