Reliability, capacity and our farm equipment effectiveness
When I first came to farming 10 years ago from manufacturing environments where reliability and OEE are inherent measures and critical to good operational performance, I was astounded that this was not really considered at all. So what is this key metric? OEE stands for overall equipment effectiveness and it is essentially a measure of our equipment’s productivity – it measures the percentage of planned production time that is truly productive. The calculation for OEE is based on three key factors – Availability of equipment, Performance and Quality.
Our farms are mini manufacturing facilities with plant and equipment
If we look at a dairy shed or milking parlour, our tractors, any pumps we have on farm, water or effluent systems, and implements we use, our farms are full of equipment just like any manufacturing facility. Particularly in dairy – it is essentially a production plant – it has tanks, gauges, pumps, control panels, cooling systems, pipes etc. If we look at our equipment and start to measure how much time we are actually utilising this equipment and out of that time how much time is wasted on breakdowns or unplanned downtime or poor quality, then we can work out our plant or equipment OEE.
Obviously if we have expensive equipment or plant then we want to make sure that this piece of equipment is as productive and reliable as possible and we are getting excellent quality and use out of it.
Let me give you an example from our farm:
We have two 50 bale rotary dairy sheds which each cost circa $1-$1.3 million to construct including all the yards, technology etc. This piece of expensive plant is operated only 6 hours a day. That is our planned production time.
Let me give you something to ponder about – you have a $1 million piece of kit sitting there doing nothing for 75% of the time!!!!! There would be very few manufacturers that would be ok to invest so much money in equipment that was only to be used 25% of the time. Ok so lets try to ignore this obvious big elephant and focus on the planned production time (or planned time we want to use this equipment) of 6 hours.
Disruptions & defects
Out of that 6 hours, how many stoppages are there when something doesn’t work or goes wrong (eg breakdowns, pull cords not working, teat spray not working, bales not working, platform stoppages, cup hoses coming off etc etc), how much time out of that 6 hours is used up by stops waiting for cows, cows kicking cups off, in between herds etc, how much time is lost because the platform is not running at the speed it should) and how much of that 6 hours is used up producing defect product (eg milk down the drain or not to standard or redoing cows, cows going around twice etc). You can start to see that actually there would be a few of these things happening each day. If you start to add all this time lost basically out of the 6 hours we have available then you can start to work out your OEE. In the ideal world this would be 100%, reality is that best practice is considered to be around 85%. So what is yours? A nice challenge to think about!
Just a part of farming?
Interestingly, in farming we see all these things as just an accepted part of farming and that is the way it is and we can’t do anything about it. But if we really think about all these disruptions in the 6 hours of planned production time, its actually all waste and it really starts to add up to poor utilisation and effectiveness of our equipment or plant.
Challenge the status quo
A big challenge for farmers when starting to adopt some of the lean thinking philosophy and tools is to really scrutinise what we do and how we do things and not accept anything even if it is considered “normal” and “just part of the job”. Actually it really isn’t and if we want to be productive farmers we can’t accept any type of waste or inefficiency.