Thursday, October 5, 2017

Ran like a scalded cat

Today I worked in production.

My job was two-fold.

One part of my job was to inspect incoming material for quality.

The other part of the job was to throttle material entering the system so downstream processes were not overloaded.  A belt stripped parts out of the bottom of a bulk container and I had some plates I moved to choke the flow.

The first time I did this job I was told to throttle material so the escalator only carried a single line of parts into the process on each paddle.

It occurred to me that the bottleneck is at least partially driven by the weight of the material.  Depending on the parts that I am processing, a single line of parts on the conveyor paddle varies by a factor of four.

Since there is a lot of excitement when the bottleneck gets jammed, people operating this job tend to error on the side of starving the bottleneck rather than pushing it.

One of the old-timers who repaired the equipment told me of another way to gauge how close the bottleneck was to getting jammed up.  It had to do with the width of "spillage" of processed parts on the conveyor out of the bottleneck.  It was not easy to see from my work position but I could lean back and rifle sight up one side of the out-conveyor.

My educated guess is that the typical operator was giving away 25% of the equipment's max capability.

I am not saying that my running the machine differently gained that much, but we over-filled a finished goods bin and spilled parts into the aisle before the old-timers thought to check it.  That was a bit of a surprise.

This would be a great application for a webcam and a cheap video monitor.  That way the inspector/throttle man would only need to lift his eyes to see whether he needed to press the gas pedal or the brake.  Even a mirror mounted on the wall would be helpful.

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