Gaining Control of Process Control
In this episode, James interviews Keith Staton of Weyerhaeuser. Keith has had a long career in reliability and got his start with the Navy. He is now the maintenance and reliability director for 14 Weyerhaeuser plants and just published a paper titled Gaining Control of Process Control which inspired this episode.
In this episode we covered:
- Automatic process control.
- Getting better control of process controls.
- The pitfalls of a lack of controls and standardization.
- How you can begin to better take control of your processes.
To begin with, Keith walks us through the concept of automatic process control. Automatic process control uses industrial controls to produce something safely and economically and in a much faster way than is possible manually. Any setting that controls your process and can be done better automatically than manually will fall under this category.
Today, with automatic controls, you can often accomplish the same tasks more quickly and more safely.
However, with so much automation, small deviations between the settings on machines can have profound consequences. People being allowed to make changes on a whim can be both dangerous and costly in a manufacturing environment. Quality standards can suffer greatly.
Keith gives a common example of how a broken alarm being bypassed, and a bit of human error can lead to much more catastrophic failures in this environment.
This is also important for maintaining quality down the road. Over extended periods, different machines undergo different events in their lives and have various settings tweaked. In many places, it is not rare to see two of the same machines in very different states in terms of the systems and software supporting them. In this state, standardized tweaks and changes cannot be synced between the two easily.
Taking control of the process controls ultimately means ensuring that the parameters for your automatic processes are maintained unless a strict process for adjustment has been followed. Extensive documentation of changes made should also be maintained.
Consistent Process, Consistent Quality
Keith has found that many companies simply don’t want to look at or bother with process controls since there is no ‘urgent need’ Keith stresses that the lack of controls can lead to unproductive or extremely unsafe environments. When production is slowed or someone is almost hurt, that is when companies take it seriously -it shouldn’t have to get to that point.
More uptime, in the end, means more money.
Keith suggests you begin controlling your processes gradually, first by standardizing the hardware and programs running your machines. Then ensure you have strict controls and documentation for setting and process changes.
Standardizing all the machines is often expensive and takes time but is necessary to ensure you can have complete control of the settings and status of all machines. Standardize the troubleshooting and repair procedures.
Suggested steps to better control:
- Standardize the Hardware.
- Standardize the Programs.
- Control access to PLC’s.
- Begin to View and control changes being made.
Document the money being lost from downtime, scrap costs, and safety concerns in order to get the company on board to make such a dramatic change.
Keith insists that this doesn’t stifle innovation. Instead, he argues that you can now try and test results in a controlled environment over an extended period. This is much better than simply tweaking a single machine and hoping for the best. With the ability to test and check new changes, you can then ensure you are promulgating the best practices across all the machines at once.
Keith Staton Links:
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