Continuous improvement

by Lucy Sutton
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POWER Engineers

After working for many years in quality assurance for the automotive industry, retired military intelligence analyst G. Keith Diepstra transitioned to baking, where he says he prefers the environment because it smells like cookies. Mr. Diepstra serves as a continuous improvement manager and total productive maintenance (TPM)/total process reliability (TPR) coordinator for a major player in the baked goods industry. He offers his advice for continuing to raise the bar in bakery operations.

Baking & Snack: Please explain overall equipment efficiency (OEE), statistical process control (SPC) and Six Sigma. How can they apply to baking and snack production?

G. Keith Diepstra: OEE is a measure best used at the management level to show the impact of changes to the process. OEE shows the availability (uptime) rate, quality (yield) rate and performance rate of a manufacturing process. These lines are typically trended using some value of moving average, and the actual OEE line is the composite of availability multiplied by performance multiplied by the quality rate. If done properly, all factors could potentially be 100%. For example: If the maximum possible yield on a product is 95% due to water loss, then 95% is used as the denominator of the yield percentage. A yield report of 85% would then be a true yield of 89% (0.85 ¸ 0.95). When running multiple products on a line, this can get involved but is well worth it. This measure is common in heavy industry and is relied on at senior and executive management levels as an indicator of process/plant performance. It is very sensitive and indicative in any manufacturing environment.

SPC is an in-process control method and decision-making tool. Using data-trending rules, called run rules, you can shield a process from overadjustment and the tendency to react to single data points yet keep your finger on the pulse of the process. Also, due to the function of the central limit theorem, you can make determinations about the natural dispersion of the process (variation) and its “location” within the allowed specifications. These determinations are typically tracked as capability and capability index. These topics would require a great deal more explanation but are easily understood by any trained or certified quality professional. A good source for this type of information is the American Society for Quality (ASQ).

Six Sigma is/was, in my opinion, largely a fad; marketed, branded and overbought. The Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control (DMAIC) method is a good pick if you don’t have an established project management method because it is easily used and understood.

Baking & Snack readers would be better served by focusing on the principles associated with Lean Enterprise Manufacturing (the Toyota Production System), which actually got its start when the founder of Toyota read Henry Ford’s “Today and Tomorrow” and was further developed in the past century by people like Drs. Lillian Gilbreth, W. Edwards Demming, Joseph Juran, and Japanese engineers/visionaries like Taiichi Ohno and Shigeo Shingo. The principles associated with Lean will serve this industry best. Principles like waste elimination through understanding what is value-added, single minute exchange of dies (SMED), 5S, gemba, visual controls, Kaizen and total productive maintenance (TPM) are among the many things addressed in Lean Enterprise Manufacturing.

How can managers ensure each shift adheres to best practices for efficiency and quality?

This is simple: standardization. Your organization needs the discipline to find the best way, standardize it and control changes to it when a better way is found. At any given time, there is an optimal way to do everything. Find it, document it, standardize it, enforce it and continuously seek to improve it, but control those changes so they are documented, standardized and enforced. This has more to do with everyone understanding its importance than the methods you use to execute it.

How can a person who is not in management influence the way a company operates?

Most operators have a much better perception of cause and effect on their processes than their leaders do. These are the people who should be directly involved in establishing the initial standards for control. They should be the people most frequently queried on how to improve them. Operators have an inherent sense of what is a waste of time and what works best. Their most frequent lament is that leadership won’t listen or doesn’t act upon their recommendations. Nonmanagement personnel need to do their best to communicate. Management needs to listen. I would be happy to discuss these things further with anyone eager to know more. I can be contacted at foodqualityrevolution@hotmail.com.

This story is sponsored by POWER Engineers, which has one of the most comprehensive teams of engineers and specialists serving the baking and snack industry. As an extension of its clients' engineering teams, the company provides program management, integrated solutions and full facility design for the baking and snack industry. Learn more at www.powereng.com/food.

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