Net Content Control Blog Series Part 2 – Shop Floor Operators

In the first blog in this series, we discussed the importance of net content control to many industries, most notably the Food & Beverage industry. Achieving optimal net content control is a hidden source of untapped profits for many Food & Beverage manufacturers, as well as a way of avoiding unnecessary operational and business risks. InfinityQS’ Quality Intelligence platform, Enact®, can help you overcome the challenges of net content control.
 
Data collection is the essential underpinning of any successful net content control strategy. And data collection is the shop floor operators’ purview. In this, the second blog in our series, we will take a close look at the role of operators, and the importance of data collection to your net content control efforts.
Net Content Control
 

Net Content Control is a Team Game

A broad range of roles and teams need to be involved in your net content control efforts, including:
  • Operators need to have visibility in to how their packaging processes are performing in real-time in order for them to keep those processes as close to target as possible.   They must be able to respond to anomalies, trends and events to address potential issues quickly.
  • Quality managers need to know that net content checks are being performed correctly and at the right intervals and are within acceptable limits. They need to be aware of anomalies in net content performance and quality violations and ensure the corrective actions are followed swiftly.  Ultimately, they are responsible for the quality of the product leaving the plant.
  • Maintenance engineers need to be able to identify equipment that requires attention (like a faulty filler nozzle or failing pump) before there is a significant impact on net content performance. They need to understand the variability in net content performance across different production assets in order to focus their improvement efforts.
  • Plant managers and manufacturing operations executives need to able to monitor overall packaging performance and quality trends over time—and across products, processes, lines, shifts, plants, or even the enterprise—so that continuous improvement initiatives and capital investment can be directed to where it will have the most positive impact.
Continuous Improvement
 

The Importance of Data Collection to Net Content Control

The key personnel in your operations who are highlighted above can’t do much without data. So, the efficiency and accuracy in how that data are collected is critical. Writing the results of net content quality checks on a paper form is, indeed, a type of data collection—but it is inefficient and often unreliable. These scraps of paper are rarely seen by anyone other than the person who completed it—and if they are viewed at all it is typically at the end of a shift after the production period is completed.
 
Products produced during that period will likely be already sitting in the distribution warehouse, or on a truck on its way someplace. Ouch!
 

Efficient & Powerful Net Content Data Collection with Enact

Enact’s powerful data collection capabilities enable manufacturers to put in place efficient and reliable data collection foundations. And a wide-ranging set of data is important to your net content control efforts:
  • Process-related data collected from packaging and filling equipment (such as flow rates and line speeds)
  • Product-specific data collected from devices such as inline checkweighers or optical fill-level sensors (Enact can collect data from just about any device)
  • Data from manual quality checks entered directly into Enact via an intuitive data-entry interface and via the completion of online checklists
 Data Collection
Enact’s flexible data collection capabilities support three main methods of net content data collection: manual, semi-automated, and fully-automated data collection. (Please read my colleague Eric Weisbrod’s Data Collection blog series for further details on the wide world of data collection.)
 

Manual and Semi-Automated Data Collection

Where manual data entry is performed, operators enter data using any device connected to Enact—smart phone, tablet, or computer. Operators enter data directly into Enact’s highly visual and intuitive data collection interface. The software guides them through the data collection process, ensuring that data are accurately and effortlessly collected.
 
They receive immediate feedback as to where the data value entered fits against the target value—and the defined upper and lower specifications. Reasonable allowable values can also be defined as part of the data collection requirements to prevent erroneous values (such as keying errors) from being captured.
Semi-Automated Data Collection 
With Enact’s semi-automated data collection capability, digital gauges, such as scales or calipers, can provide data to Enact through the Enact Gauge Agent—either directly via serial, USB, or TCP/IP connections or wirelessly via wireless transmitters. This method increases operator efficiency by circumventing the need to manually key in data values and ensures improved accuracy by preventing keying and transposition errors.
 
The Enact real-time calculation engine automatically calculates net weight or net content volume at each data collection. Each of the three data points for tare, gross, and net weight for each sample are stored in Enact, and are then used for net content process monitoring, control, and analysis.
 
When quality checks and data collections should occur during the packaging process is an important consideration. While your quality team defines those requirements within their quality management procedures and policies, ensuring compliance on the shop floor should not be overlooked.
 

Accountability

Operators have continuous visibility when quality checks and data collections are due via color-coded data collection tiles:
  • When no checks are due, the tile is gray
  • When a check becomes due, the tile is green and displays a countdown timer indicating the time remaining to complete the required action (see the image below)
  • If the data collection is not performed by the due time, the tile color changes to yellow to indicate a late collection
  • If the data collection has not been completed by the pre-set time, the tile changes to red to indicate a missed data collection
Enact Data Collection 
If an operator fails to perform a collection at the required time, or performs a collection later than is specified, notifications can be sent to relevant team members to escalate corrective action—and an auditable record of non-conformance events are stored in Enact. Shift supervisors and quality managers can review up-to-date KPIs on quality control compliance metrics at many levels—from an individual operator or across the entire organization.  
 

Fully-Automated Data Collection

Manufacturers often capture data automatically—without requiring any physical operator action or intervention. Enact Automated Data Collection (ADC) seamlessly integrates data from sources such as Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) and Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, as well as from inline process equipment such as checkweighers or optical fill level sensors.  
Automated Data Collection 
Enact’s real-time data processing engine automatically performs data calculations. For example, gross weight data from a checkweigher can have tare weight automatically subtracted to calculate net weight or can have net weight transformed into net content volume. Those calculated values are then stored for monitoring and analysis. Enact’s event processing engine automatically triggers alarms and notifications if data values breach upper or lower specification or control limits.
 

Advanced Process and Quality Monitoring Capabilities

The advanced process and quality monitoring features in Enact are delivered through a highly visual dashboard (to learn all there is to know about dashboards in Enact, please see Eric’s Dashboard blog). When non-standard events occur anywhere in the manufacturing process, production personnel receive live notifications—ensuring they never miss an opportunity to improve net content performance. And prevents the operators from having to be fixated on monitoring a packaging process that is perfectly in control!
 
There are many facets of Enact that set this quality management system apart from the competition. A quick look at some of these can give you an idea of just how powerful Enact is as a net content control improvement tool.
 

Configuration

Enact ConfigurationEnact’s comprehensive configuration capabilities enable manufacturers to accurately define all of their process and quality parameters. For each individual part (or product) being manufactured, limits are configured across the required part features—such as net weight, gross weight, and fill level. Those manufacturing limits may include parameters such as upper and lower specification, upper and lower T1 and T2 variances, or upper and lower MAV (Maximum Allowable Variance). Industry standard statistical rules (as well as custom rule creation) can also be configured to trigger events and notifications when particular statistical trends occur such as “Consecutive points rising or falling,” “Oscillating up or down,” or “Run with in Zone C.”
 

Stream Summary

When a data stream (a combination of part, process, and feature) from packaging operations is added into Enact, that data are automatically evaluated against limits and rules in real time. Enact’s Stream Summary tile provides production personnel with a statistical overview of the performance of each of the packaging processes under their responsibility. Each Stream Summary sub-tile displays real-time key performance metrics, such as the number of data collections, out of specification (OOS), and out of control (OOC).
Enact Stream Grading
Enact intelligently displays these tiles in priority order; the data stream with the most issues displays first. This enables operators to easily monitor areas with the most impact on performance, or which are presenting the most risk to net content compliance. 
Enact Charting 
When Stream Summary sub-tiles indicate that problems are occurring, quality personnel have immediate access to additional information by simply clicking a Stream Summary sub-tile to view histograms, Pareto charts, and control charts. Users can easily zoom in and out to include more or less data over longer or shorter timeframes. These data visualizations are augmented with a comprehensive set of statistical metrics which provide a wealth of insight—and enable problems to be quickly identified and remedial actions to be taken. 
 

Alerts and Notifications

When packaging processes are running smoothly, operators should not be required to continually monitor data, waiting for a problem to occur. The Enact notification engine continuously monitors and evaluates the data streams that are entered. When a violation occurs—such as exceeded manufacturing limits, or when a statistical rule is triggered—Enact immediately issues a notification to a configurable set of recipients.  This prevents production personnel from being inundated with notifications that are not relevant to their area of responsibility.
 
Configuration of notifications by the type of event that has occurred also enables notifications of differing severity to be correctly routed. For example, a statistical rule may alert a production operator, whereas a T1/T2 or MAV violation may route to a quality manager. Event notifications display within the Enact interface and are emailed to required personnel.
Email Notification
When issues do occur within packaging operations, timely discovery and quick remedial actions are important to net content performance. And in the pursuit of continuous improvement, identifying root causes and learning from those issues are just as important.
 
Enact notifications can be configured to request additional information; they can also be configured specifically for the type of event that has occurred. This may be as simple as requiring an operator to select from a pre-populated list, such as “Blocked Filler Nozzle” or “Poor Seal.”
 

Analysis and Workflows

Notifications can be extended to include Enact workflows (see Eric's blog about workflows for details), which can be configured to request additional information depending on the cause selected for a particular event. For example, an operator may report a “Failed Vacuum Pump” as the cause, triggering a request to the maintenance team, who are then required to enter additional information (either mandatory or optional) such as: the action taken to resolve the issue, the identification of the root cause, and free-form comments.
Enact Workflow
This information can then be easily analyzed to support manufacturing excellence and continuous improvement initiatives to increase future operational performance and mitigate future compliance risks.
 

If net content control is a major concern for your organization, you can learn how Enact can help you address those challenges in our comprehensive use case.
 
Read the other two blogs in this series:
Take advantage of the technology at your fingertips today: contact one of our account managers (1.800.772.7978 or via our website) for more information about InfinityQS products and services.
 
Jason Chester
By Jason Chester
Director of Global Channel Programs
See Full Bio

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