Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is a helpful metric to track, especially when you’re trying to ramp up or recover from a major change. It’s also simple to calculate – how much the machine ran as compared to how much it could have run.
That being said, it’s also important to understand what goes into these numbers and decide if they are truly reflecting the performance your organization needs in order to reach its goals. If the OEE calculation has been designed to make it easier to achieve an acceptable result, its result may not be the number you need. For example, if meetings are excluded from machine availability, it may be harder to see that many inefficient meetings are taking time from production.
Employee engagement is the level to which an employee is excited about their work, involved in their workplace, and committed to their work. The business results of higher employee engagement are vast and important. For starters, engaged employees tend to be more productive and safer on the job. That leads to fewer injuries, lower costs, and more output.
Most likely, none of this is new to you. You’ve probably heard a lot about both OEE and employee engagement, but have you thought about how they fit together? Some have already pointed out that engaged employees are more likely to keep up with equipment maintenance and take action when things don’t go as expected. Let’s look at this relationship from the other way around – how OEE can drive employee engagement, or not.
OEE’s effect on employee engagement
When you walk into work, you expect your badge to unlock the door, the lights to turn on when you flip the switch, and your computer to turn on when you press the power button. Those are all quite reasonable expectations. When they work, which is hopefully more often than not, you can access the information you need and do the work you need to do.
Now imagine a different day. You arrive at your usual time, but the parking lot gate is still locked. When you finally get a hold of someone to unlock the gate and you make your way to your desk, your computer won’t turn on. You have to spend twenty minutes on the phone with the help desk before you can tackle your mountain of email or the task list before you. Now you’re supposed to go to a meeting with your boss’s boss, explain how your solution will benefit the organization, and answer all their questions like the intelligent professional you are.
It’s easier to be engaged when things are going well and the problems you’re solving are valuable, such as running a Kaizen event that will save thousands of dollars each year. There are probably also some days when you would wish all you had to do was troubleshoot the light switch. Either way, you feel more engaged when you have the tools you need.
How to limit the effect of OEE slumps
No machine or piece of equipment is going to run perfectly all the time. However, there are things you can do to limit how much OEE issues will affect your teams. Let’s look at this from the perspective of when issues are most likely to arise.
- New equipment: When you’re purchasing new equipment, ensure the purchaser knows what to buy and why. Talk with the operators to understand what’s most important to them and their work. Flashy, new features won’t do much good if the equipment doesn’t meet the operator’s basic needs. Also, consider having an operator on the purchasing team. They’ll think of questions that others may not. At the very least, have thoughtful conversations with them at the start of the purchasing process and again when the list of possible equipment models has been narrowed to the final few.
- Maintenance of current equipment: You have a maintenance plan and a maintenance team. How often is that plan followed? Is it effective? Keeping up with scheduled maintenance is one of the best things you can do to keep your equipment running smoothly. Even when it feels inconvenient, it’s more convenient than a surprise break-down during your busy season.
- Troubleshooting common issues: If a machine breaks down, the operator will look for a way to fix it. If they know how to fix it, they can reduce the down time. If they don’t know how to fix it or shouldn’t fix it alone, they’ll need to know what to do instead. Streamline this whole process by training the operators on what to do for different types of problems.
- Unexpected equipment failures: In instances where a standard process won’t work or the operator cannot or should not fix the problem themselves, they need to know who to call or what to do instead. Make this process exceedingly simple and obvious. If at all possible, don’t make people guess what to do. Some guesses by experienced operators will work. Others will make the situation worse.
Another thing to think about is how problems are being reported and tracked. Make it easy for people to report them by establishing a process that includes a constructive response and look for trends in the types of problems that are coming up. A single problem can be a symptom of something larger that needs more concentrated care. To stay on top of that, the data will be invaluable.
Whether you’re trying to improve employee engagement or your throughput metrics, OEE can be a critical piece of the puzzle. It’s most effective when it’s paired with complimentary metrics, such as percentage of repeat problems. Seek the full picture of how your organization is operating and you’ll be able to find true improvement in the most valuable ways.