Milwaukee Tool recently took on a small-scale pilot project involving MEMEX Inc's Manufacturing Execution Real-time Lean Information Network (MERLIN) system. With just five licenses in hand, Milwaukee Tool got a look at just what MERLIN could do, and the results proved impressive enough for Milwaukee Tool to step up the project in a big way.
Now, Milwaukee Tool's involvement with MERLIN is up 53 licenses, as the company brought out a follow-on order to the original slate of five. Even that's just for starters, as there are reports of a multi-phase project that will bring MERLIN to 130 additional industrial machines at the Greenwood, Mississippi plant.
So what got Milwaukee Tool's attention so markedly with the MERLIN system? MERLIN offers a “shop-floor-to-top-floor” tool that can both track and report on efficiency in the operation, on a real time basis. It uses a variety of different tools to get the most information out of the various processes, and in turn, produces actionable insight on how to improve.
Reports suggest that MERLIN use can mean anywhere from a 10 to 50 percent increase in average productivity, which in turn means at least 20 percent profit improvement as based on a 10 percent improvement in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). The MERLIN system has a routine payback period of under four months, and can connect to most any breed of machine that's using either MTConnect or can accept several different adapters.
This worked out well for Milwaukee Tool, who—according to the Greenwood plant manager Jack Bilotta—was trying to bring OEE in as a key performance indicator for some time. MEMEX's vice president of sales John Rattray gave a note of assent here, comparing Milwaukee Tool to other companies who have successfully put MERLIN to use like iMech and Magellan.
Manufacturers are eager to find advantages, and with good reason. With prices of most everything going up and consumers extremely sensitive to the bottom line, saving money anywhere it can reasonably be done is worth looking into. Getting the most out of expensive machines, meanwhile, is a great place to look and something that's been done effectively since back in 1984 with the book The Goal. While our means to identify places to save on production have only improved—the MERLIN system is proof positive of that—the basic idea remains unchanged.
Getting the most out of an operation is vital to its ongoing success, and tools like MERLIN are a great way to get that improvement thanks to real time communications. It may not work for every operation, but a sobering look at processes overall will identify some waste, promoting overall efficiency.