In the manufacturing sector there are some well proven techniques for improvement — costs, scrap, and throughput. Usually these are referred to as ‘lean manufacturing’ which in essence takes a common-sense view of manufacturing and identifies waste; thereby laying down a method of improvement. One of the key tools within this is to measure OEE (overall equipment effectiveness).
   OEE is a percentage figure that involves availability, performance and quality, the resulting figure being set as a KPI (key performance indicator) for improvement. OEE is widely accepted as being a valid measure. Can this technique be meaningfully used in the business of bulk operations management? If availability is thought of as the equipment being available for use when needed then that will suffice, equally performance is a measure of speed, flow or rate per period, thus is a vessel being loaded or unloaded at an optimum rate — performance.
   Quality is harder to quantify in the context of bulk operations other than the quality of handling is e.g. the avoidance of admix; these tend to be stop-go issues rather than a relative measure of quality.
   But, automatic recording of performance and availability alone will produce a relative measure that will show improvement. It will also reveal other variables that you may wish to take into account in your business model; such as particular loads being slower to unload, weather and so forth — you know this, but to what degree? Equally, various associated issues can be also teased out of the data such as losses. The methods for gathering such data range from clipboards and stopwatches through to fully automated business information systems.
   If your start point is CommTrac then you have all that is required, the data is within the CommTrac Bulk Commodity Operations System, it has to be seen for what it is, and reported upon, and then acted upon. This is available with the DBIS’s (DB Information Systems) CommTrac OEE module.
The DBIS OEEmodule allows staff to monitor the ‘effectiveness’ of their operations — targets can be set within the system. The module provides an intuitive graphical display that shows operators the daily targets to achieve. As well as the OEE target the module also details where losses have occurred – for instance: downtime (availability); equipment failures — automated from plant equipment and manual through the CommTrac Stoppages module; set-up time and adjustments; speed losses (performance); idling/start-up losses (in holds/scale operation) and minor stoppages; and reduced-speed operations. The module allows the plant operators access to relevant sections so they can track OEE and use the information to aid them in planning and implementing equipment improvements and better arrange plant maintenance.
   It also provides them with a feeling of ownership and makes them focus on improving performance. An historical view of all operations can be detailed to the user allowing them to compare like for like operations and analyse where the differences are between the two — which provides ideas on streamlining operations and improving availability and performance.
   A history of all plant faults can be viewed and monitored to show the most problematic equipment based on operation types. In summary one module gives users the tools they need to realize the main goal of improved equipment effectiveness which provides the following benefits: cost reduction; increased productivity; full system overview; and operator ownership and a more ‘can-do’ attitude.
   The OEE module is aimed at both operators and managers and can realize all of their needs and wants. CommTrac OEE features include: real time logging of equipment along with the ability to add manual entries to give a fuller overview of OEE; minimal impact on operations as there is little input required; real time updates of progress and current OEE against planned — so ongoing adjustments can be made to improve performance; instantly viewable by all levels of users allowing them access to the areas they are interested in, without having to view the areas they aren’t; and customizable layout at setup and easy to add new graph/module types OEE module: a natural extension to CommTrac that delivers business efficiencies and profitability for all bulk commodity operations.