Packaging Possibilities: 1 Productivity Tip You Need for 2022

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You can boost the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) of your packaging machines and packaging lines in a low-lift/high-return kind of way.

Enough with the productivity band-aids of 2020 and 2021. Even small to mid-size manufacturers can see dramatic improvements, despite labor and supply chain “challenges,” with help from today’s technologies.

Packaging Digest talks with Lauren Dunford, CEO and Co-Founder of Guidewheel, a leader in cloud-powered FactoryOps, about how rosy 2022 will be (uh, not) and the one thing you’ve just got to do so your packaging operations stay competitive, effective, and efficient.

In this podcast, Dunford also shares three benefits of this new age of manufacturing (the last one was a surprise to me) and outlines how your packaging lines can consistently hit their production goals.

PACKAGING POSSIBILITIES - Season 2: Episode 1

If you have a topic you’d like to propose for a future PACKAGING POSSIBILITIES episode, please email Lisa Pierce at lisa.pierce@informa.com.

 

TRANSCRIPT IS AUTO GENERATED

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Hello, this is Lisa Pierce, executive editor of Packaging Digest with another episode of packaging Possibilities, a podcast that reveals what’s new and what’s next for packaging executives and engineers, designers and developers. In this episode I’ll be talking with Lauren Dunford, the CEO and Co-Founder of Guidewheel. The company is a leader in cloud powered factory operations with a plug and play solution for getting actionable data on the productivity of any machine. Our topic today is the new age of manufacturing and overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) of packaging machines and packaging lines. Lauren welcome and thanks for talking with us today.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Thanks so much. Great to be here.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yeah, and we’ve got such an interesting topic that we’re going to just dive right into. So as I’ve been looking over some of the information about your company and some of the topics that we’re going to be talking about here, I have to ask. You’ve been saying that manufacturers have experienced definite challenges over the past two years, which we know, you know, the labor shortages being one, supply chain disruptions is that’s been all over the news.

But you have said that you believe they’re going to be become even more extreme in 2022. Why do you think that?

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah, I love that question. So the reality is we all want the challenges of the past two years to become less extreme. We wish and hope that they are going away.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
We definitely would like them to go away, yes.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
I think what I am seeing among the folks that we speak with what we’re seeing in the industry more broadly, is that the shock to the supply chain isn’t yet really on track. It has so many ripple effects that are still rippling in different ways throughout that supply chain. And in 2022, the kicker, from my perspective, is going to be the way in which that starts to overlap with the workforce transition that was already happening in manufacturing; that projected shortfall of more than two million jobs by 2030. The shocks that we saw in the past couple of years rippling, and overlapping with that existing transition as the workforce more and more of it, it’s retirement age is what causes me to think 2022 is unfortunately much as we would like it to be, not necessarily going to be a whole ton better and likely to be worse.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, so if I could just ask the supply changes for options, does it matter whether you’re looking at a global supply chain or a local, more local, supply chain?

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah, definitely so. Local supply chains, I think we’re seeing, have a tendency to be more resilient with the global challenges that we’re seeing on the challenges that so few of the supply chains that we have in the world right now are truly just local because of the interconnectedness globally that’s happened over the past decades. So for those truly local supply chains, absolutely. That resilience is much higher. It’s just that there are so few that don’t have some global components built into that supply chain. Is that what you’re seeing as well?

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yes. I believe so. It’s some… this is actually something that I’m still looking into and don’t have a lot of, you know, set things in my mind yet because it’s still something I’m looking into. But the whole idea of sourcing … during the pandemic, has — we use that same word over and over again? — disrupted. But I’m just wondering how people are dealing with this and one of the ways has been to try to find more local suppliers, but I don’t know that that’s always the solution from, you know, finding what you want, the quality of it, being able to vet those suppliers. There’s a lot of activity going on in that area.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
But I think you nailed it by saying there are so few supply chains that don’t have a component of global-ness to them and you know anytime you have that in it, it’s going to be —forgive me for using the same word in air quotes — disrupted.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, so, uh, I think most of the people that are listening are going to recognize already, because they’re living it, that we’re in a new age of manufacturing, which you’ve said in earlier conversations with us. So explain to us what you mean by a new age of manufacturing. What is that?

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah, what I mean by a new age of manufacturing is essentially three things. So first is that, historically, great tools and real time visibility have been something that … you know, the biggest factor is the biggest manufacturers could always afford all the bells and whistles. But one aspect of this new age of manufacturing is its democratization of great tools enabled by the cloud, making the things that were formerly extremely custom and bespoke now plug-and-play so that they can be accessed by a much broader spectrum of manufacturers.

The second thing is connectedness, so that the team as a whole can share a source of truth and be empowered to work together with shared visibility. So in our business, what that means is everyone from the operator to the CEO can share a single source of truth about what the machines are doing of course also enabled by both the cloud and the fact that everyone is holding these very powerful smartphones, laptops, tablets now in a way that wasn’t true in a decades ago.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Sure.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
And then the third thing is that, also because of the cloud, this new age of manufacturing will have systems that are not just static but are getting smarter and better over time the more that they’re used, and the more plants, machines and users are using them. And that of course is exciting when we think about what the potential of this new age holds. 

Canva, Packaging DigestLauren-Dunford-Guidewheel-OEE-quote-web.jpg

So it’s those three things:

• It’s democratization of what was historically only accessible to a few or the largest manufacturers.

• It’s connectedness; man and machine, operator and CEO, fully empowered teams and then third …

• It’s that the systems themselves are going to be getting smarter and smarter than the more that they’re used. And then, of course, the more manufacturer’s machines that they reach.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Excellent, I love that. Very logical and I can definitely see it. I like your last point too because you just assume that people are learning from the tools that they’re using, but a lot of times that learning doesn’t make the full cycle back into version 2.0 or moving on from that. So that’s really … Do you really think that that’s a benefit of the cloud?

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah, I do think it’s enabled by the cloud. Lots of other things of course need to happen, but in, you know, prior worlds when a given plant or a given company would have on Prem systems, those systems would be pretty stack. They would be, you know, getting more and more data coming in, but the system itself wouldn’t necessarily be improving, and certainly it wouldn’t be connected to other systems to be able to improve alongside what the cloud is enabled is.

Not only that, different plants and companies can all be benefiting from the system as it continually improves, but also that because the cloud enables continuous release of software development, it’s not like to benefit from those improvements someone would have to come install a new system. It’s the same I could. I mean with our system. You know folks can log in today and see a version that then improves when they log in 10 minutes later or 15 minutes later.

And so it’s that the … what the cloud enables is that continuous improvement of the tools themselves at a much more rapid pace, and we haven’t even talked about the machine learning aspect and the app, which I know you’re interested in as well, but that comes in.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yes, that is fantastic.

As soon as you say it, Lauren. Of course, it makes total sense, but I had never thought of it that way until you said it. You know, I’m a little bit old school. I started many, many decades ago when we didn’t even have in the packaging industry … We were just … the new technology for machine vision, which just coming out, which tells you how long ago that was.

So the idea of being able to leverage the electronic technologies that we have and that we use ubiquitously in our consumer lives, to be able to really tap into the strength of those on the manufacturing side is pretty exciting.

So you’ve also said that you believe 2022, this year coming up here, is going to define this new age of manufacturing. Why do you say that and how is this year going to define it?

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah, definitely. So what we saw was the past two years COVID the disruption. Although words you mentioned before, everything was trying.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yeah, I love your air quotes. I’m sorry I saw those nobody else saw those but I’m seeing air quotes there.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah, so basically what was happening during that time. From what we saw was folks were trying to keep their heads above water they were dealing with the resin shortage. That disruptions in the supply chain and the labor shortages and just making do. And you know, keeping going resilient, strong, courageous. All you know how we see people deal with real challenge what’s happening in 2022 is that it’s clear now that the band-aid option to keep your head above water, these things around for the long term so it’s no longer that we’re seeing folks looking for the quick fix.

What folks are doing in 2022 is digging in to make the right decisions to define how they want to move forward into that new age, and so what defines that new age as we’re seeing it is that people are making the decisions that will define it, how they want to manage points in a world with increasing remote workers, how they wanna be connecting human and machine in their factories, what decisions they want to make now about technology that will define what that next decade or more looks like. So it was past couple years: Let’s just keep our heads above water and wait for the challenges to go away. 2022 it’s clear they’re not. So let’s dig in and make those decisions that turn those challenges into opportunities and competitive advantages for our company is what we’re seeing from each of the manufacturers that we talk with.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Sure, we’re learning how to live with the new reality. OK, instead of denying and or finding a work around, we’re learning how to work within the reality, to the best of our optimization. OK, got it. Thank you for that.

So you know, we’ve already kind of talked about how technology adoption is going to help manufacturers stay competitive. I think anyone in manufacturing knows this, because, again, they’re living it.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
You say that you believe technologies can help dramatically improve revenue and margin. Which you know, I agree. I think everyone would agree with that, but what do you mean by dramatically? Like what are we looking at here?

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah, let’s get specific. So we work in a world where typically the manufacturers we work with have a mix of older and newer equipment, different makes, models, ages. Within each plant, there might be a patchwork of different types and ages of equipment and then certainly across the company. If there are multiple plants, there will be that patch work. So the example I’m closest to is how manufacturers are leveraging technology to get more throughput and revenue out of those existing assets.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yeah.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Which is where that word dramatically comes into play.

So an example might be, for simplicity sake, if you assume we’re working within manufacturer who has 100 machines.

They might be running those machines around, so 65% of the time would be a typical number that we would see using manual methods of tracking. That availability of runtime other machines, clipboards, Excel, the ERP input, and what we see is that leveraging technology so real time sensors cloud powered visibility can typically get them from 65 to 80 or 85% of that runtime on their machines.

And in a world in which, if we’re assuming for simplicity sake, when your machine is running, you’re making product you can sell, so she’s running or making money. Of course, lots of other.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
You better be.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Exactly and lots of other things you can enter into that, but, for simplicity sake, if you can run your machines more, making more money going from 65% to 85%, an increase of 20 percentage points. When we run the ROI analysis for that, it’s typically if you have 40 plants that could be, you know $10 million, $20 million. And because it’s from your existing assets, your existing machines, an existing team, that money goes straight to the bottom line. It’s the equivalent of getting, so we had those hundred machines. You’re using a 65% of them every day. You’re essentially getting 20 brand new machines added on to that 100.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Without the capital expenditure.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
With zero capital expenditure, exactly. So that’s when I say that word dramatically … it’s not an exaggeration. This is typically a very, very big deal. For EBITA, margin and business value and a very big opportunity that a lot of folks are sitting on right now to leverage technology in ways that maybe it’s a little less sexy. It doesn’t involve the word machine vision yet. But this is a big, meaningful opportunity to get more straight to the bottom line.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, excellent. You used a couple of abbreviations that I just want to clarify. ERP enterprise resource planning. I think most of the listeners are very familiar with that, but I thought I would just point that out and then the financial term EBITDA.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yep.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
And I know I’m sort of, you know, have this sense of what it means, but I don’t know what it stands for. But it’s just basically the profitability, correct?

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Exactly, Yep.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yes, OK, OK, excellent OK, so that’s the high-level look at our conversation today. Now let’s get into some of the nitty gritty here from a packaging operations point of view.

So as I mentioned in the intro, your company — and this is not going to be a commercial by any means, but — You have to explain a little bit about what it is that your company does and the product that you have. So you have a plug-and-play solution to where you’re able to put a smart sensor on packaging machines and that smart sensor then captures the data, the performance data on the machine, and you have a software program that analyzes that data and bam, there you have actionable information. Not just pure data, but actionable information.

So did I get that pretty close?

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah, pretty close. Where we typically focused first and the principle behind this is low lift, high return. We find that when we try to boil the ocean, you know with all the sensors or a full sandbox, sometimes you know it doesn’t result as quickly in that improvement to profit, which is what most folks are looking for. So we focus first, typically on downtime, making sure your machines are running when they should be. And in two kind of specific ways we can dive in this as much as you want to the details, but we see two really important things helping their the first is visibility into exactly when and how the machines are running. And the trend, so you know second by second and overall, how is our runtime if we make money when our machines are running for simplicity sake, how is that changing and then the second is escalating alerts so that instead of firefighting and realizing too late that something bad has happened were catching that in advance. This could be you know helping prevent catastrophic breakdowns and it could also be simple human staff. Changeover is set up times things were re training and support, especially in the labor and workforce world in which were you know, seeing so many changes happening can make a really big difference to help the team be able to shorten changeovers, run the right set up time and just get more runtime and product from their existing machines.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
OK, and as you explained it that way, it’s a little bit more than just preventive maintenance, which I know, you know, a lot of factories are pretty good about being as efficient as they can with their preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, whatever, but obviously the real time data is always going to help in that regard because you do have a tendency to push it as far as you can to get those you know the next production run out and the whatnot. OK, so then how can smart sensors in general, yours specifically, how can those smart sensors on packaging lines help the operations then reduce their operational risks and hit their production goals consistently. You had pointed out to me those two benefits. So tackle both of those.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah, love it, I’ll tackle first that “hit production goals” and then the “reduce operating risks.” So in terms of hit your production goals, if you have the right visibility so you can go from guessing what was happening with any machine at any given moment to knowing with certainty when it was down, when it was up, when it was running at speed, etc. That’s a big initial benefit.

The second thing is being able to go from firefighting and reacting a little too late sometimes to problems to getting that, you know, escalating consistent, dependable system in place so you can stay ahead of problems.

And then the third one being going from knowing that you’re not quite hitting what you could be in terms of profit from your existing machines, but not knowing exactly why to being able to put a time and a name to that unplanned downtime. So as a team when this goes to that earlier point of we’re all more connected and visibility across the team is really important. Roll it up. Let’s see where is my top cause of lost production time? Let’s attack that one, run a continuous improvement cycle and narrow in all of our efforts towards focusing on limited time and resources where it can drive the most impact.

So in terms of hitting production goals, what we see is from those three things, the visibility, the escalating, dependable system of alerts, and then also the ability to focus in limited resources on the biggest area for impact that can typically drive down unplanned downtime.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Uh-huh

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
And help you be on time deliveries hitting that number because you’re not waiting on a set up for a changeover that end up going on going long. Waiting on a machine breakdown that you didn’t expect. And from sort of the first question of let’s hit our production goals, reducing that unplanned downtime helps a lot.

On the second area of reducing operational risk, if you have a lot of information that’s locked in people’s heads like when if a given machine is having trouble, the supervisor should know. Or when a machine exhibiting a pattern or a sound or a vibration that it shouldn’t. When that’s problematic and when it’s just normal. If that information is locked in people’s heads, you’ve got a lot of risk if that person happens to be sick or happens to have to take care of like a family member who is home after all. And so what we find is that having a consistent and dependable system where that escalating alert, that historical record of what happens with the machine, and what’s normal and what’s not lives can really reduce the vulnerability of the company to all the things that that will happen in this new age that we’re living.

So that starts to touch on the problem. Feel free to dig in deeper on any of this.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
It does because you know, we’ve been talking for a number of years already about the knowledgeable staff that’s retiring, and you know they’re taking all their knowledge with them.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
In some cases you know people look at it as an opportunity for the new technologies that are out there to maybe come into their own because the younger generations seem to be a little bit more comfortable with the newer technologies and, it’s kind of like, old school/old guy. Now they’re both gone. Starting, you know, kind of fresh with the smarter technologies and the people with the necessary skills to work those smarter technologies. So I get both of those.

But the one thing that I think is very interesting is how these smart sensors are getting … are learning to be a lot more intuitive like the people have learned over time to be intuitive. Exactly what you said, where the guy that’s running the machine kind of has a sense of “Well, I can push it this far, but no further. We gotta start making a change.” Or you know do this, do that. They have all that knowledge in their head. So I’m talk a little bit about the smart, how these sensors are getting smarter.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah, love it and the interesting thing is, well is, this goes back to the earlier part of the conversation. The sensors themselves or not necessarily … There’s some instances where the sensors are getting smarter, but a lot instances where the sensors are just getting lower cost and easier and what they’re doing is feeding that real time data into a cloud powered system that enables the system as a whole to get smarter and smarter in what it provides in terms of actionable information.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Right.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Without any change actually needed to sensors. So it is, I think some cases there are sensors that are getting super smart. What we see a little bit more frequently though, is that it’s more about the system as a whole, taking in that data from the sensors, and then combining it with the data from the very knowledgeable team who knows the machines, knows what’s normal, and combining those two things is then what lets the system as a whole get smarter and smarter over time — taking in both the human context, plant floor context, and that real time sensor data.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Oh, I love that you still include the human context in it. A couple of, I don’t know if it was last year or the year before, but I started thinking about … so much was in the news about artificial intelligence which has made advancements so quickly that it’s almost scary. But the thing is, there are some limitations obviously still to artificial intelligence, and I was thinking of the acronym AI and how useful it is still to actually have Actual Intelligence, which is still AI just a little bit of a different AI. So yeah, I love how you made a point of saying both are necessary and helpful.

OK, so we’re gonna end on a real high note here because I saved, I think I saved the best for last, as far as like our listeners go, because they’re always looking for how to do things better. This whole idea of continuous improvement. So give us your tips. I don’t know how many you’ve got. But give us a couple of tips here on how packaging operations can improve their OEE in 2022.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Yeah, in the spirit of the tip I’m about to give, I’m going to keep it to 1 tip to focus on one thing and really the tip itself is Focus. You know, 80/20 Pareto principle is going to be something that’s very familiar to most folks in this space already, and I’ll give a couple of specifics on how I’m seeing that play out. Which is, there’s the 80/20 of where do you focus your attention right now overall, and what I’m seeing is … A lot of folks are finding that, especially because new equipment might be delayed, you don’t know what you’re going to have in terms of talent and workforce. Folks are focusing the 80/20 on “What can I get more from my existing equipment team assets that I already have?”

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Makes total sense.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
And folks are within that, focusing their 80/20 on reducing downtime so you know, there’s if you got overall equipment effectiveness as a combination of availability, our machines running when they should be performance, or they’re running at the right speed and quality is the quality of output good? What we see is that availability metric affects the other two and of the plants I speak with for most of them it’s the 80/20 focusing on getting that availability dialed in.

Reducing all those small micro stops, all the things you wouldn’t necessarily think about. And really getting that dialed is the 80/20 on the plant floor for most folks. And then within the availability piece, the 80/20 we’re seeing is actually just using the 80/20 rolling up where you’re losing the most time. Why? And focusing as a team together on that top area getting that right and then moving on to the next biggest area. So I’ll have one tip which is 80/20, focusing rather than trying to boil the ocean on the things that really move the needle both within your operations on that plant floor, and then as you tackle that area, actually using the 80/20 which I think most of your listeners probably is, is that accurate that most folks use 80/20 or Pareto in some aspect already.

Lisa McTigue Pierce
I would think so. I would hope so, yes I would.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
The leading in …

Lisa McTigue Pierce
Yes, OK, excellent and again, the tool if, if I could say it, use this as a tool. The data is really what’s going to allow them to identify that 80%, the 80/20, and it’s nice that we have such precise information now on that. Whereas before it was a lot more intuitive, so the measurements that we’re getting from smart sensors and these overall systems, I think are gonna enable our listeners to be able to do exactly what you’re suggesting that they do: Focus on that 80/20. So excellent.

See how we went full circle with all of that. Lauren. Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.

Lauren Dunford (Guest)
Such a pleasure. Thanks so much, Lisa.

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