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A Journey to Improvement With OEE

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    Recently I had a weekend planned with my wife in Las Vegas. I was going to take her to dinner and a show and in return, she was going to go with me to the NASCAR race on Saturday night.

    See, the plan was for me to fly into my home airport just in time for her to pick me up and then on a road trip to Vegas we would go, just in time to see her show.

    But fate and Mother Nature had some plans of their own.

    Way over on the other side of the country, it decided to snow in North Carolina. And more importantly, at the Charlotte airport, which is a hub of the Airlines I was flying that day. Now mind you, I was nowhere near North Carolina, but when weather hits a hub airport, the flight delays ripple through the system like a tsunami.

    This wave of delay left me stranded in Phoenix, AZ and the next flight home was not going to leave us enough time to get to Vegas in time for the show. So, I rented a car and made the four hour drive to Las Vegas to meet my wife.

    Once you’re out of the city, the desert landscape of Arizona is incredibly beautiful. As I approached the Nevada state line I was marveling at the beauty out of my driver’s side window. Along the road I began to see road signs for the Hoover Dam and a Bridge Walkway, but was so distracted by the view to my left, I paid little attention to the signs and never once thought about what Bridge they were talking about. Looking back, I realized I never even looked to my right as I passed over the bridge.

    The next day, rain put a damper on our race plans, so we decided to take a drive instead and go see the Hoover dam. As we drove down towards the dam and came around the corner, I immediately realized the error of my distraction from the day before

    What was inconsequential just 24 hours before, a simple sign saying “Bridge Walkway” turned out to be the one of the most incredible engineering feats I have ever seen with my own eyes.

    What, from the road level, seemed like a normal bridge on any interstate in America, turned out to be the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge that spans the Colorado River just below Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam.

    In the subsequent hours of our drive, after visiting and seeing the bridge and dam, I began to think how often in manufacturing we do the very same thing I did on my drive just a day before.

    It is easy in manufacturing plants, and business in general, to be distracted by the current moment. We look at the things that are happening right in front of our eyes and treat them as the only thing that is happening. While at the same time, there are greater and more impactful things happening right under our feet, or in this case, under my tires, that if we would only take a moment to stop and look deeper into the real issues, we could really solve some of the root issues that are weakening the underpinnings of your processes.

    Using Overall Equipment Effectiveness

    One metric that is custom made for drilling down to the bedrock of your issues is OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness).

    With its final number being the product of (Availability X Performance X Quality), the process of Pareto analysis is almost foolproof. By understanding the basic principle of attacking the lowest factor of the three, and then by raising that number we raise the entire overall equipment effectiveness metric.

    The secret is to take that lowest number and go even deeper into the numbers. If it is availability we are looking at, then downtime, changeovers and minor stops will be your focus. If it is performance, then a focus on machine cycle-time and speeding up the machine is your task. And finally, if quality is suffering then identification of defects and employing poke yoke, standard work and product engineering will help with the issues.

    The stabilizing structure is a data capturing system like L2L's next gen CMMS that brings in all of these data sets at the same time and can calculate overall equipment effectiveness and display it in real-time on the shop floor. Because we can do this, adjustments can be made during the production day that will lead you to your destination.

    Click to watch the full video about my experience with this amazing landmark and OEE.


    Patrick Daniel Tillman a true American hero, was killed during combat operations in Afghanistan from a friendly fire incident. Prior to his enlistment in 2002, Tillman was an American professional football player in the National Football League for the Arizona Cardinals and gave up his career and a $3.6 Million dollar contract offer to join the Army Rangers to fight in the War on Terror. Pat Tillamn passed away on April 22, 2004.

    Mike O’Callahan is an American Politician and Philanthropist who served in the President Lyndon B. Johnson administration and went on to be the Governor of Nevada (1970-1978). Upon leaving Politics he served as Executive Editor of the Las Vegas Sun. In the 1990s, O'Callaghan monitored elections in Nicaragua and northern Iraq, and was a strong supporter of the country of Israel. Mike O’Callahan passed away in 2004 at the age of 74.