In many factories around the world, ramp-up management after the COVID-related shutdown proves to be a major challenge. In the operation of machines and plants, ramp-up management refers to the phase between the installation of the plant and the start or, in the case of a production stop, before production is resumed. Many industrial companies drastically reduced their production or even shut it down completely. This was associated with challenges: The hard cut and the subsequent restart required the creation and implementation of new safety protocols. In the complex automotive sector, which involves technologically highly sophisticated machines and numerous suppliers, the dilemma is even more acute. The production lines depend, among other things, on the logistics of the supply chains. If parts arrive late or the on-site coordination does not fit, the entire production can also come to a standstill. Since both shutdown and resumption of operations require the execution of an extensive and complex list of steps, perfect organization is particularly important.
Ramp-up management: challenges after COVID
The unpredictability of a global pandemic is a worst-case scenario for ramp-up management. Standstill is tantamount to regression and financial losses. Detailed plans and coordination with partners are needed to ensure that the return to production is as reliable as possible. Due to the very different international regulations regarding COVID-19, especially manufacturers and suppliers who rely on an international network of partners are limited in their ability to act.
There are also some things to consider at your own production site before restarting. The processes involved in the ramp-up management can involve dozens of employees due to numerous checklists and protocols to be worked through, including approvals and acceptances. It must be determined which machines and systems can be released again to what extent and at what time. In addition to the status of parts provided by suppliers, it may also be necessary to adapt existing hygiene concepts.
How the ramp-up management succeeds
It is likely that ramp-up management will have to adapt to an industry that is affected by the pandemic. At the same time, the current situation offers companies the opportunity to view existing processes against a new background. Within this framework, adjustments can be made that increase both the quality and speed of the ramp-up management. Three points are of particular importance.
1. Accumulate communication
Digital communication is the key to success – this also applies when it comes to resuming operations. A software solution can be used, for example, to document in detail any anomalies in the machines and systems during production ramp-up and to forward them to the right people.
The release of different plant sections can now be done virtually to a large extent. Open points are no longer recorded manually in Excel lists, but are described digitally in a few steps and assigned for processing. This accumulating and wrapping of communication to directly affected stations, machines, and components thus enables a much leaner and faster exchange between the parties involved.
2. Increase clarity of processes and progress
Ramp-up management is highly complex and includes hundreds of different processes and individual working steps in preparation for commissioning, which must be recorded in checklists among other things. The aim of these extensive checks is to ensure that all the work steps interlock without problems in a smooth process and that the corresponding cycle time can be achieved in the overall production. In this case, a virtualized, intelligent hall plan can be used to increase the clarity of the work steps and approvals and, within this framework, the display of the ramp-up progress. Open points can be recognised immediately and their solution can be controlled much more specifically.
3. Accelerate activities through digitalization
Until now, on-site document management on the shopfloor was characterised by almost endless checklists and Excel files. Achieving a more transparent status recording here hardly seems possible without the introduction of digital tools and the necessary hardware. However, if the recorded defect or completed activity is immediately recorded digitally, many working steps can be saved. Capturing the ramp-up management with smartphones or tablets ultimately not only puts an end to the unpopular paperwork, but also enables evaluations and real-time reporting with just one click – regardless of the size of the production line.
New ways of communication and improved clarity as well as the use of digital tools ultimately lead to better and faster execution of measures and activities related to ramp-up management. In this way, it is possible to achieve added value for the entire company by streamlining, modernizing and simplifying the ramp-up management.
How COMAN can help with ramp-up management
COMAN helps with ramp-up management in the aftermath of the COVID-19-pandemic through its detailed functional possibilities. Originally developed as a setup monitoring tool, COMAN software is a data hub. Even in the ramp-up phase, it continuously collects all relevant data from the applications used and makes it available to the actors involved.
While process design and project control are handled by the manager as the central instance, there are a number of supporting applications that fulfil various functions. For example, the LoP app is designed to document problems and open points in the ramp-up management, to pass on necessary measures to the responsible parties and to control the structured processing. To ensure that problems can be understood and solved as quickly as possible, it is possible to attach photos, video and audio files, for example. A configurable workflow accompanies the processing in an audit-proof manner until the final inspection. Here it is even possible to run real-time or retrospective reports in order to monitor and analyse the general performance and progress in defect management.
Thanks to the integration of plant schedules, progress can be quickly identified by integrating Smart Objects. Real-time operation and updating allows all authorised parties to keep track of the technology's performance at all times. Ramp-up management can thus be made clearer on the display level and restarts can be carried out more quickly.