System integration: Improve processes, then update, integrate new automation technologies

Upgrading processes sometimes can be the best course of action prior to applying the latest in automation. S&C Electric explains how it improved workflow, quality, attitudes, and safety.


Before integrating the latest automation technologies, consider looking at workflows for improvement opportunities. Upgrading processes sometimes can be the best course of action prior to applying the latest in automation.

Changing processes in a lean, consistent way can improve workflow, quality, attitudes, and safety, according to S&C Electric Co. experiences, and more than $3 million in savings over several years.

S&C implemented a 5S program to improve safety and lower costs. Robert M. Dempsey Jr., S&C Electric continuous improvement (CI) manager, helps implement the changes at the Chicago-based manufacturer of electric switchgear and related equipment. While different words have been applied to 5S concepts, the five used at S&C are sort, simplify, shine, standardize, and sustain.

"Safety is so important it always stands alone," Dempsey said, so as not dilute safety with any 5S measurement. (See safety graph.)

S&C Electric safety improves.

DART stands for the number of injuries per 100 employees that result in Days Away from work, Restrictions from doing the employee’s job, or having to be Transferred to a different job. DART is used by S&C, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and countries globally.

As S&C worked on safety improvements, however, lessons learned helped augment workflow, quality, and attendance as well, he suggested.To shape the S&C 5S program, Dempsey and CI his team visited Toyota, Vermeer, Pella, Honda, Danaher, Batesville Casket, Steelcase, Herman Miller, and others.

So where's the waste?

Here are a few things S&C found since beginning in 2003 for an estimated savings of $3 million (and probably an equal amount unmeasured), CI representatives said.

-95% of all lead time is non-value added. Most processes are less than 1% value added. Spend money on removing the non-value added steps.

-8 wastes: motion, transportation, over processing, inventory, rework, waiting, over production, and knowledge disconnect.

-Every second counts. Some forklifts moved 20 ft; others moved a mile. If 95% of the time a part needs one set of holes, why put 3 sets of holes in every part of that kind?

- Inventory: (as learned from Toyota) Make just enough to sell and have just enough (about 4 hours) to make. Having 4 additional days of materials on hand would require 5 more warehouses.

- Storage. 75 file cabinets and 27 tons of reports from 1965 were not needed.

- Buying the best machine tool then only using 40% of its capability isn't economical.

Device Management Software

S&C Electric WinMon Graphical User Interface Device Management Software

S&C Electric WinMon Graphical User Interface Device Management Software

S&C Electric's WinMon' Graphical User Interface provides full, on-line access to the configuration, real-time, and historical data commonly found in electric power distribution automation (DA) equipment. WinMon runs on PCs, giving authorized users real-time access to the DA system from desktop computers. WinMon's open architecture (shown) lets various field devices, protocols, and departments operate within a single network. The wide area network communication infrastructure can be shared with other applications. Learn from from S&C Electric about

S&C WinMon software .



Changes, lean, and eliminating waste

More general lessons learned, Dempsey said, include the following.

- A cultural change was needed to use lean principles to fix key challenges. Idea was to shift management focus from existing organizations, technologies, and assets to processes in the organization, enhancing value and removing waste by looking inward not outward.

- Waste is anything other than the minimum amount of time, material, people, space, and energy needed to add value to the product or service you're providing.

- Value is any activity that changes form, fit, or function of products or services you're providing. Keep asking, "Will the customer pay for the value you're creating?"

- Lean enterprise is an operating philosophy and system focused on elimination of waste to improve operational and financial performance across the organization, in manufacturing and administrative operations.

- Inconsistent processes yield inconsistent results while consistent processes deliver desired results.- Lean can be achieved as people use standard processes to get results. Don't be world-class firefighters. Working harder and longer doing the same things the same way yields the same or declining results. Seek to work smarter not harder. Don't expect change by doing things the same way.

- Practice continuous improvement, maintaining a passionate belief that there's always a simpler, better way.

Dempsey spoke at the CSCMP Annual Global Conference 2009 in September.

S&C Electric

S&C Electric

More about S&C : With a 38-year-old 1.1 million square ft, headquarters campus in Chicago, the company will celebrate 100th anniversary in 2011. The site, on 45 acres, includes 2,000 primary assets tracked and managed. In 2008, the company sold $500 million in products, including smart-grid automation, fuse products, and pad-mounted switch gear for utilities and industrial facilities.

S&C products include switching and protection for substations.

S&C products include switching and protection for substations.

S&C has engineering offices and manufacturing facilities in Chicago, IL; Franklin, WI; Alameda, CA; Duvall, WA; and Orlando, FL. S&C subsidiaries operate in Toronto, Canada; Curitiba, Brazil; Naucalpan and Aguascalientes, Mexico; Wales, U.K.; and Suzhou, China.

See the Control Engineering channels on: System Integration and Process Control .

- Mark T. Hoske, Control Engineering editor in chief,

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