Editor's note: A couple of years ago, Ron Irwin retired as president of Impressive Labels, in Safford, AZ, to pursue other opportunities in education and business. Last year he landed back in the label community with a product and a concept that few in this industry have explored. Irwin has developed a system integrating Direct Machine Monitoring (DMM), which analyzes all of the operations of a press and press operator in real time, a valuable tool for reducing waste in materials and labor, and increasing profit. His research into DMM, as he explains below, led hint unavoidably to a deeper understanding of Lean Manufacturing principles. Irwin has made several presentations of his ideas to industry associations in recent months, and has offered to share his insights into Lean and DMM in a series of articles written specifically for the readers of Label & Narrow Web.
Before discussing the relationship between DMM and Lean Manufacturing, I want to tell a story about how I came to be involved with DMM technology (Direct Machine Monitoring, data collection and presentation).
After leaving the day-to-day of the converting business, I pursued a career in college education and business consulting. Through a series of events I was introduced to DMM. I first observed DMM in use at the Phelps Dodge Copper Mine in Morenci, AZ. Phelps Dodge had integrated DMM technology into their large Caterpillar and Komatsu haul trucks and shovels. Each of these units included a PC, which accesses analog sensors and GPS (location) data. This real time data was converted into colored maps and performance graphs for quick and easy feedback to the shovel operators and haul truck drivers. Operators, using DMM, were given the opportunity to see the impact of their actions based on several variables, including tire wear, engine condition change, and grade of ore scooped. Operators, when aware of conditions negatively effecting tire wear and engine longevity, could request to be re-routed if their own actions could not bring these conditions under control. In short, they could graphically see their performance indicators. At $15,000 a tire, and engine overhauls costing $60,000 plus, this is their version of scrap. Through DMM, the operators were able to access their own performance and were empowered to participate in the profitability of the copper mine. For the drivers on the haul trucks, these onboard PCs also gave a somewhat repetitive job a new dimension of interest.
Needless to say, I wondered why DMM had not been applied to our industry. Through discussions with leading system providers I discovered that only one, Radius Solutions, had DMM available. The other providers understood the potential, but did not see a demand for the product. Radius Solutions also questioned the low demand demonstrated by our industry. This was in 2001.
Times are changing. Today, with industry margins thinning more each year, we are going through a serious reevaluation of how our businesses should be managed. Up...