Digitalisation has helped businesses streamline processes, improve efficiencies and turbocharge productivity, and OPEX is no different. Organisations embracing digital transformation have found that these benefits can lead to a reduction in operating expenditure, or OPEX. This ultimately leads to a healthier bottom line.
In this spotlight Q&A, Proco speaks with OPEX expert Twan Kersten, operational excellence leader at Mondelēz International, the American multinational behind famous snacks such as Oreo cookies and Cadbury chocolate bars.
Kersten joined the confectionary giant in 2011. At the time, he brought with him an extensive knowledge on Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), Lean and 6 Sigma from time at Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever and others. In addition to contributing to several books on Lean and OEE, Twan holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He specialises in computer integrated manufacturing and flexible production systems.
Here he provides his insight on the future of OPEX digitalisation, outlines the associated challenges and offers some thoughtful career advice.
What excites you about OPEX digitalisation?
I’m passionate about productivity improvement. This includes supply chain optimisation and industry 4.0, using technology throughout operations. Smart factories, in which devices and instruments are interconnected with the cloud and performance data is available in real-time, are only part of the equation. It also requires 100% employee engagement and a relentless focus on achieving zero loss. This way, you can reap the full benefits of the industrial internet of things (IIoT).
What is the future of OPEX digitalisation?
Opex is all about process improvement. There’s a saying in Opex that ‘you can only improve what you can measure’. But often we measure production process performance using pen and paper in logbooks. This means that sometimes, we’re waiting weeks or even months to consolidate that data. By looking in the ‘back mirror’, you often find the data is not very accurate and useful.
That all changes with IIOT solutions. We collect accurate performance data such as overall equipment effectiveness and statistical process control from sensors on the machines. Using cloud-based technology, we can visualise the performance data on screens in real -time using a colour coded “traffic light” format.
Operators running the production line can instantly see if they ‘run to target’ or need to adjust the process parameters. Now we have accurate historical data that helps us review plant performance and identify root causes of recurring problems. Because the data is in the cloud and accessible from anywhere, we can easily report and benchmark performance across plants globally.
What are the key challenges of OPEX digitalisation?
There are several challenges when building a digital production process performance measurement system. It sounds obvious, but there can be technical issues. We had plenty of these as we tried to integrate the different new applications with each other and with legacy systems, such as SAP, globally.
However, the biggest challenge is not technical – it’s the adoption of the system by the users. A sensor can tell us that a machine stopped because its door was opened. But only an operator can tell us why they had to open that door and reveal the root cause of the issue.
In other words, we can never rely solely on digitalisation – we need trained and motivated users. Part of this includes training operators how to use the analytics reporting capability of the system to help them carry out root cause analysis. And unless we train the users in Lean 6 Sigma root cause analysis tools, they might not be effective in solving problems in a structured way.
To address this, we organised two-day digital factory adoption workshops. The first day was spent training users how to operate the system and what functionality the system offers. The second focused on solving actual problems from that plant, using data from the system and Lean 6 Sigma root cause analysis tools.
What is the best career advice you can give?
Stay up to date with the latest technologies. In the case of IIOT and industry 4.0, you can merge these advances with prior knowledge and experiences to create a powerful combination that drives your career forward. For example, I am now looking into could-based systems that can support the full operational excellence process. This includes direction setting, KPI tracking, check lists for safety and maintenance, education and training, improvement suggestions and projects management. This also imcorporates tech for sharing best practices across multiple plants.
The goal is to create a paperless plant and I am exploring solutions to further increase efficiency. One such technology is “low code” and “no code” programming. This software development platform that will allow us to easily create our own web and mobile applications without actual programming of complex code. We could then create applications that automate frequent and repetitive tasks currently completed using multiple spreadsheets and databases. Always be ready explore innovative ways that technology can improve your business processes and reduce operational expenses.
This article was originally published with our March 2021 edition of our Proco Thinking News. Read the full newsletter here.