How to improve shift change with a connected workforce?

Digital tools for the connected worker allow to create efficient production processes. This article explains how to improve shift changes with digital tools.

What happens at shift changeovers?

To fully utilize equipment manufacturers are using a shift model to produce parts around the clock. In this scenario up to 3 different operators/teams are working at a machine with no to minimal time overlap and handover.

The ongoing diffusion of lean methodologies led to the implementation of regular standup shop-floor meetings with a planned handover between shifts, but only on management level. While information is distributed on a management-level between shifts, operators most often do not have the chance to transfer information about the status of their work or machine in a detailed and structured way towards their shift successor. When not having the chance to communicate the latest status or small issues, such as the adjustment of a parameter or the regular control of specific parts of the equipment, additional machine downtimes occur at the beginning of the next shift.

This often happens when a minor adjustment to the equipment is done. If maintenance changes parts of the equipment, but fails to distribute this information to the whole shift, maintenance is again called during the beginning of the next shift to handle an immediate issue while the equipment cannot operate. Since the maintenance workers of the second shift are also not aware of the changed part, they have to dig into the documentation of the last shift to find out what has been done.

Manufacturers that track OEE on an hourly basis can detect these productivity losses quite well, when looking at the average OEE per hour over several days. As figure 1 depicts, OEE losses occur quite regularly after a shift changeover. 

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How can a connected workforce improve shift changes?

Since having an individual handover between operators is neither cost-effective nor feasible in times of the Corona pandemic, documentation of changes, order status, part availability and many more need to be documented during the shift. Traditional documentation with pen and paper is unsuitable due impracticability and long search times. Stationary computers, where operators enter their data are not practical either, since all workers want to insert their data at the end of the shift at the same time at one station and often forget steps during the day.

By transforming the organization towards a connected workplace with connected workers using mobile devices, operators are enabled to document changes right after they detect an issue. By taking photos, writing notes and voice messages, individual messages for each station and order are documented on the go. When the succeeding operator logs in to the mobile device, he gets a detailed report about the status of his station, changes made within the last day, additional tipps, as well as individual messages. Such a connected worker environment can effectively reduce the dip after a shift change relying on improved communication between multiple shifts. 

At the same time a connected workforce continously generate new data points, andthese data points can be analyzed and aggregated to higher levels. With increased data granularity and availability, defects and their frequency are documented on station level. Pareto charts can now be used to determine the most frequent defects. These defects can now be targeted with individual improvement measures and PDCA cycles. For example, the connected worker gets individual improvement tasks on his mobile device or can pull trainings to enhance his capabilities.

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