Tag: OEE Training

Using TRIZ for Problem Solving – Introduction

Using TRIZ for Problem Solving – Introduction

A famous quote from Albert Einstein, “The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.“, applies to the discussion of problem solving and more so to the topic of TRIZ, The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving, developed by Genrich S. Altshuller.

TRIZ – Theory of Inventive Problem Solving

Genrich S. Altshuller developed TRIZ based on his search for a standard method to solve problems.  At the very basic level, once a problem is identified the objective is to determine whether a similar problem has already existed elsewhere.  If so, study the solution and determine whether it can be incorporated into the current solution being sought.  Taken one step further, consider the possibility that a different perspective of the problem may also present a unique inventive solution.

It does not seem too far fetched that the problem to be solved has occurred elsewhere in a completely different context.  The solution that is found may also be out of the context but the concept may lead to an innovative solution for the current problem at hand where one never before existed.

The application of TRIZ requires an open mind.  We often bring our “tool box” of experience to the table and draw on those tools and our wealth of knowledge to create a solution.  TRIZ is a tool that can be used to create completely new and unique solutions to a given problem.  This doesn’t mean that we need to abandon our current technology and know-how; it simply means that there may be other options where the current know-how and / or technology may not apply or it may be applied in a manner that is quite different than it is today.

Identify the Real Problem to be Solved

Any problem solving method can only be successful if the true root cause is identified.  Once found, a clear and concise problem statement must be formulated to assure that the solution developed and implemented indeed addresses the true root cause.

Searching for Solutions:

Once a problem has been identified, the next question is, “How do we solve it?”  There are a number of techniques that can be used such as brain storming and idea mapping, however, one seldomly used technique is TRIZ:  Theory of Inventive Problem Solving.

Every day we are challenged with a diverse range of problems from machine malfunctions to defective parts.  The very nature of any company’s operations requires an immediate fix to restore operations to “normal”.  Recognizing that a problem exists is not the same as understanding what the problem is and effectively solving the problem requires that we have identified the true root cause and not just the symptoms.

Many tools are readily available to even help us address these concerns or identify where opportunities exist to make improvements.  Unfortunately, these tools seldom provide the solution to the problem.  Too often we are trapped inside the box of current thinking, technologies, standards, methodologies, present knowledge, and even company policy.  Our own levels of thinking and plausible solutions are influenced and limited by our current understanding and knowledge of the problem as well as our own experiences.

The Basis for Using TRIZ to Solve Problems:


In some cases, product or part designs themselves may be constrained as engineers and designers work to generate a design tailored to a specific, known, technology.  Quality Function Deployment is one strategy that provides a platform to explore alternative design and process approaches before committing to a specific technology or process.

It is worth noting that, although product design is critical, processes and technologies used to manufacture the product itself are often overlooked and seldom are the process constraints and their affects ever considered.  There are many examples where numerous hours are wasted attempting to develop tools using traditional technologies to produce parts that conform to the wishes of engineers and designers.

How do we actually go about solving problems where the technology or the design present constraints that prevent success?  This is the basis for TRIZ:  We have clearly identified the problem to be solved, now we need a solution to resolve it.

Problem Classifications

Although problems may have varying degrees of difficulty, the solutions for them can only fall into one of two overly simplified categories:  Known or Unknown.  While this classification may appear simple on the surface, consider the unknown solution.  Is it truly unknown or is it only unknown to you.
  1. Known:  Surrogate process already proven and only requires adaptation for the current situtation.  The “problem solver” has an awareness or experience related to the solution.
  2. Unknown:  Typically, solutions are often limited by the scope of experience of the person or person(s) attempting to solve the problem.
    1. The problem solver is not aware of the solution’s existence (Personal)
    2. The solution is outside the problem solver’s scope of experience, training, or field of expertise, but may exist within the company (Company)
    3. The solution is not known within the company but is known within the industry (Industry)
    4. A solution can be realized although it does not presently exist (Outside Industry).
    5. Requires an inventive solution that goes beyond improving the existing condition and is not known to exist anywhere.
  3. Although a solution may be found or developed internally, it may not necessarily be ideal.  We recommend continual review of trade journals, going to trade shows, and networking not only with industry peers but outside your areas of expertise as well.

We will pursue the TRIZ methodology as both a learning and problem solving method.  Often times the solution to a problem requires a different perspective to achieve an effective resolution.

Applying TRIZ in the real world:

TRIZ can be used to develop solutions in a wide range of applications.  As Contingency Plans are developed, you may determine that a solution is required to address a problem or crisis that company has not yet experienced.  As we have discussed, the information or solution to the pending “crisis” may already exist elsewhere.  Similarly, improvements to Overall Equipment Efficiency may require solutions to be developed to address problems or opportunities that are inhibiting continued improvement. 

We will continue to pursue the application of TRIZ in the real world and present a more detailed case study.  

Note:  We would also recommend and encourage you to visit http://www.mazur.net/triz/ for an indepth presentation and detailed discussion of TRIZ.  This site provides greater detail and background that is presently beyond the application or scope of this series.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!




Going DEEP with OEE

Does anyone actually look at their daily equipment availability? Instead of using TEEP that is typically based on calendarized availability, looking at the Daily Equipment Effectiveness Performance of your operation may provide some interesting insights.

Working overtime due to material or equipment availability occurs many times.  Unfortunately, we find that sometimes these very same machines are idle during the week.

A detailed explanation for calculating DEEP can be found in one of our earlier posts, “OEE, Downtime, and TEEP.”  Understanding machine utilization patterns may provide greater insight into the actual versus planned operating pattern of your process.

Just something to invoke some thoughts for your operation and to perhaps identify another opportunity to improve performance.

FREE Downloads

We are currently offering our Excel OEE Spreadsheet Templates and example files at no charge.  You can download our files from the ORANGE BOX on the sidebar titled “FREE DOWNLOADS” or click on the FREE Downloads Page.  These files can be used as is and can be easily modified to suit many different manufacturing processes.  There are no hidden files, formulas, or macros and no obligations for the services provided here.

Please forward your questions, comments, or suggestions to LeanExecution@gmail.com.  To request our services for a specific project, please send your inquiries to Vergence.Consulting@gmail.com.

We welcome your feedback and thank you for visiting.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

OEE in the Automotive Industry

The automotive industry appears to be rebounding at a faster rate than most (if not all) experts may have anticipated.  Many OEM’s and their suppliers are attempting to boost production to replenish inventories and support renewed demand for their products.  Reduced inventories throughout the supply chain are creating demand that is difficult to replenish at the rate required.  Short runs to bootstrap the “pipeline” are taking their toll on OEE rates but also provide the opportunity to identify new improvement initiatives.

General Motors and Toyota have both announced that increased demand for their product is anticipated for the next few months.  The increases are exciting for all involved, however, the ramp up to recovery may be more painful to achieve for some.  How is your company performing?  Those with fixed “cells” or processes may not be experiencing the same degree of frustration as those having flexible processes running multiple part numbers.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) typically suffers during these times due to the frequent changeovers and short volume runs.  If there was a time when you can’t change over or setup and run fast enough, this may be it.  Hang on and enjoy the ride.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

OEE For Manufacturing

We are often asked what companies (or types of companies) are using OEE as part of their daily operations.  While our focus has been primarily in the automotive industry, we are highly encouraged by the level of integration deployed in the Semiconductor Industry.  We have found an excellent article that describes how OEE among other metrics is being used to sustain and improve performance in the semiconductor industry.

Somehow it is not surprising to learn the semiconductor industry has established a high level of OEE integration in their operations.  Perhaps this is the reason why electronics continue to improve at such a rapid pace in both technology and price.

To get a better understanding of how the semiconductor industry has integrated OEE and other related metrics into their operational strategy, click here.

The article clearly presents a concise hierarchy of metrics (including OEE) typically used in operations and includes their interactions and dependencies.  The semiconductor industry serves as a great benchmark for OEE integration and how it is used as powerful tool to improve operations.

While we have reviewed some articles that describe OEE as an over rated metric, we believe that the proof of wisdom is in the result.  The semiconductor industry is exemplary in this regard.  It is clear that electronics industry “gets it”.

As we have mentioned in many of our previous posts, OEE should not be an isolated metric.  While it can be assessed and reviewed independently, it is important to understand the effect on the system and organization as a whole.

We appreciate your feedback.  Please feel free to leave us a comment or send us an e-mail with your suggestions to leanexecution@gmail.com

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

OEE for Batch Processes

Coke being pushed into a quenching car, Hanna ...
Image via Wikipedia

We recently received an e-mail regarding OEE calculations for batch processes and more specifically the effect on down stream equipment that is directly dependent (perhaps integrated) on the batch process.  While the inquiry was specifically related to the printing industry, batch processing is found throughout manufacturing. Our more recent experiences pertain to heat treating operations where parts are loaded into a stationary fixed-load oven as opposed to a continuous belt process.

Batch processing will inherently cause directly integrated downstream equipment (such as cooling, quenching, or coating processes) to be idle. In many cases it doesn’t make sense to measure the OEE of each co-dependent piece of equipment that are part of the same line or process. Unless there is a strong case otherwise, it may be better to de-integrate or de-couple subsequent downstream processes.

Batch processing presents a myriad of challenges for line balancing, batch sizes, and capacity management in general.  We presented two articles in April 2009 that addressed the topic of  where OEE should be measured.  Click here for Part I or Click  here for Part II.

Scheduling Concerns – Theory of Constraints

Ideally, we want to measure OEE at the bottleneck operation.  When we apply the Theory of Constraints to our production process, we can assure that the flow of material is optimized through the whole system.  The key of course is to make sure that we have correctly identified the bottleneck operation.  In many cases this is the batch process.

While we are often challenged to balance our production operations, the real goal is to create a schedule that can be driven by demand.  Rather than build excess inventories of parts that aren’t required, we want to be able to synchronize our operations to produce on demand and as required to keep the bottleneck operation running.  Build only what is necessary:  the right part, the right quantity, at the right time.

Through my own experience, I have realized the greatest successes using the Theory of Constraints to establish our material flows and production scheduling strategy for batch processes.  Although an in-depth discussion is beyond the scope of this article, I highly recommend reading the following books that convey the concepts and application through a well written and uniquely entertaining style:

  1. In his book “The Goal“, Dr. Eliyahu A. Goldratt presents a unique story of a troubled plant and the steps they took to turn the operation around.
  2. Another book titled “Velocity“, from the AGI-Goldratt Institute and Jeff Cox also demonstrates how the Theory of Constraints and Lean Six Sigma can work together to bring operations to all new level of performance, efficiency, and effectiveness.

I am fond of the “fable” based story line presented by these books as it is allows you to create an image of the operation in your own mind while maintaining an objective view.  The analogies and references used in these books also serve as excellent instruction aids that can be used when teaching your own teams how the Theory of Constraints work.  We can quickly realize that the companies presented in either of the above books are not much different from our own.  As such, we are quickly pulled into the story to see what happens and how the journey unfolds as the story unfolds.

Please leave your comments regarding this or other topics.  We appreciate your feedback.  Also, remember to get your free OEE spreadsheets.  See our free downloads page or click on the file you want from the “Orange” box file on the sidebar.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

Vergence AnalyticsVergence Analytics

OEE: Frequently Asked Questions

We added a new page to our site to address some of the more frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) we receive regarding OEE.  We trust you will find this information to be of interest as you move forward on your lean journey.  We always appreciate your feedback, so feel free to leave us a comment or send an e-mail directly to LeanExecution@gmail.com or Vergence.Consulting@gmail.com

We have had an incredibly busy summer as more companies are pursuing lean manufacturing practices to improve their performance.  OEE has certainly been one of the core topics of discussion.  We have found that more companies are placing a significant emphasis on Actual versus Planned performance.  It would seem that we are finally starting to realize that we can introduce a system of accountability that leads to improvements rather than reprimands.

Keep Your Data CLEAN

One of the debates we recently encountered was quantity versus time driven performance data when looking at OEE data.  The argument was made that employees can relate more readily to quantities than time.  We would challenge this as a matter of training and the terminology used by operations personnel when discussing performance.  We recommend using and maintaining a time based calculation for all OEE calculations.  Employees are more than aware of the value of their time and will make every effort to make sure that they get paid for their time served.

Why are we so sure of this?  Most direct labour personnel are paid an hourly rate.  Make one error on their pay or forget to pay their overtime and they will be standing in line at your office wondering why they didn’t get paid for the TIME they worked.  They will tell you – to the penny – what their pay should have been.  If you are paying a piece rate per part, you can be sure that the employees have already established how many parts per hour they need to produce to achieve their target hourly earnings.

As another point of interest and to maintain consistency throughout the company, be reminded that finance departments establish hourly Labour and Overhead rates to the job functions and machines respectively.  Quite frankly, the quantity of parts produced versus plan doesn’t really translate into money earned or lost.  However, one hour of lost labour and everyone can do the math – to the penny.

When your discussing performance – remember, time is the key.  We have worked in some shops where a machine is scheduled to run 25,000 parts per day while another runs a low volume product or sits idle 2 of the 5 days of the the week.  When it comes right down to the crunch for operations – how many hours did you earn and how many hours did you actually work.

Even after all this discussion we decided it may be an interesting exercise to demonstrate the differences between a model based on time versus one based (seemingly) only on Quantitative data.  We’ll create the spreadsheet and make it available to you when its done!

Remember to take advantage of our free spreadsheet templates.  Simply click on the free files in the sidebar or visit our free downloads page.

We trust you’re enjoying your summer.

Until Next Time – STAY Lean!

Vergence Business Associates

How OEE can improve your Inventory

Once you have established a robust OEE system, you should also be reaping benefits in other areas of your organization.

We will be offering some insights into the other performance metrics such as inventory over the next few weeks. Improved availability, performance, and quality will all have an impact on your inventory and materials management processes. Inventory turns is one metric that should be improving as your OEE improves. If not, perhaps there is an opportunity to integrate OEE even deeper into your organization.

In a truly lean organization, other vantage point metrics will provide evidence of a well integrated OEE system. Metrics such as delivery, quality (ppm), labour efficiency, lead time, mean time between failures, mean response times, down time, turn over, and financial performance indicators are all directly or indirectly affected by improvements to your operation and OEE.

We will discuss the impact of OEE on these “other” metrics over the next few posts. Remember, we also offer excel templates at no cost to you. Click on the “BOX” files on the sidebar to get your free templates today! Our templates offer more than a simple OEE calculator – they can be used immediately with little or no modifications to suit your processes.

Until next time, STAY lean!

Vergence – Lean Execution Team.