New Zealand-based manufacturer Hansen Products recently invested in AspectPL manufacturing productivity software to improve how the company utilises data in managing its operations.

A family-owned company, Hansen Products has been making fittings and valves since the 1950s. Based in Whangarei, the company originally made brass fittings for the agricultural industry in New Zealand. Known for high-quality products with great tolerances, Hansen continues to make technically advanced plastic fittings and valves for the domestic and international markets. The company believes in ‘Best Installed Value’ and achieves this with in-house R&D, product design, toolmakers, manufacturing, assembly, marketing, sales and distribution.

In 2018 the team at Hansen saw there was a gap in their production data and decided to install AspectPL manufacturing productivity software to digitise its production floor. Jon Kirby, Manufacturing Manager, explains how the management team came to the conclusion that implementing AspectPL would benefit production

“We were aware of the benefits that AspectPL would provide from our research and site visits,” says Kirby. “We realised that we also wanted to have the team ready to take advantage of the information AspectPL made available – along with the benefits of the scheduling function.”

To help with this decision, the team implemented two of the benefits of AspectPL manually. Firstly, they started recording machine alarms. After three months, this information helped them to determine exactly when screw tips needed replacing so they could do preventative rather than reactive maintenance. Secondly, the team changed its manual production board to represent the digital version on AspectPL.

“This immediately showed us constraints to achieving our plan,” Kirby adds. “For example, we had five scheduled changes on the plan but only had three setters on at that time.”

Ian Kleingeld, Production Planner at Hansen, explains what steps were taken to encourage buy-in from the production floor staff: “To prepare the team, we started collecting data at the machines a few months before the AspectPL install date. This instilled a discipline of using data and it also achieved a data framework. This meant going from paper-based data to tablets wasn’t too much of a change for them. Changing our manual production board to match the AspectPL TV screen before the install date also helped the team get used to the layout.”

Kirby adds: “We went live on 1 October so we said September is our ‘Get used to it’ month – we needed to get into good habits to facilitate this change. We had great buy-in from the setters and by the time we got to 1 October we asked the question ‘Are we ready to go live?’ And the answer from the production team was ‘Yes’.”

One thing the team at Hansen weren’t anticipating was how quickly the installation of AspectPL would take place

“Yes, our install was a lot quicker than we planned,” Kleingeld says. “I had all the machines showing on the schedule in the first week. I really enjoy this kind of thing and it was an easy change because it added value. There was no resistance from me and certainly the guys in the production office had really good buy-in. We weren’t dragging guys kicking and screaming to adopt it. They were into it.”

Once AspectPL was live, the Hansen team took baby steps. The decision was taken to only worry about anything greater than five minutes of downtime, and also not to worry about rejects in the initial stages.

“We got used to downtime and then we added rejects and carried on like that,” says Kleingeld. “Now we are decreasing the downtime parameters so we are slowly getting better and better. We didn’t go in there and say ‘This is the new system. Good luck!’”

Bob Dedekind, Technical Manager at AspectPT, adds: “Hansen Products handled the training and change management process very well. They took time to implement change. Their team was ready and very keen to start working with AspectPL and they were a pleasure to work with.”

Delivering benefits

Kleingeld remarks that while there was some initial difficulty in learning how to use AspectPL, this was soon overcome: “A little bit of a learning curve at initial set up, trying to set up family tools and working out production rules. But Bob from AspectPT was there to help us and I enjoyed playing with the software. The beauty is it’s all changeable.”

In the time since the installation, the team at Hansen are seeing significant benefits from using AspectPL.

“The day to day is good – really enjoying it,” says Kleingeld. “The planning and scheduling is great and it is easy to make changes and know what jobs are coming up.”

The biggest improvement, according to Kleingeld, has been its live planning functions, with the system offering the ability to make changes on the go and then see the production changes flow through straight away.

“In our old system we just had pieces of paper – that was the plan,” he explains. “You only had a rough idea of when jobs would happen and now with it going live you can see it on the board and know when jobs are actually going to run. You can plan better in terms of people and production flow. It’s a lot better than what we used to have.”

Another unforeseen benefit emerged when Hansen Products did a raw material stocktake and found massive variances after the AspectPL data revealed they weren’t taking into account start-up rejects and were only counting actual production. With the new system, Hansen Products can now take into account the start-up rejects and the raw material stocktake is much more accurate.

“The biggest benefit is that AspectPL has increased the transparency of our manufacturing processes,” Kirby explains. “Because of this we are learning about the constraints of our current manufacturing processes. Once you understand your constraints you can find ways to solve, eliminate or plan around them. What we have learnt about our constraints by putting in AspectPL has been beneficial.

“Once we had the AspectPL data it became clear there was a lot of general knowledge amongst the setters that was not known or shared with the planning team. For example, we identified some tools that if we set up a certain way it could take two hours longer than the prescribed set-up time. Because AspectPL made this anomaly visible we were able to ask the question ‘Why does this take two hours longer than the prescribed set up time?’ AspectPL helped us identify constraints like this and we have been able to plan according to our constraints.

“AspectPL has also given the setters a greater understanding of what we require. It’s visual, there is nowhere to hide. Now our setters know what tool change they have to do in what order for us to achieve the plan. Another anomaly AspectPL revealed was the plan was not taking into account that a setter needs 30 minutes post tool change to complete admin and do machine checks. Now these 30 minutes blocks are scheduled into the plan. Hansen Products even uses AspectPL to schedule product trials and machine maintenance into production.”

The team at Hansen were impressed with the support they received from AspectPT throughout the installation process, most notably in the case of the company’s Netstal moulding machines. These machines set a challenge for AspectPL because they can run unattended, meaning some jobs are started during work hours and continue into the night. When a job is completed Hansen can’t start a new job because the setters are tucked up in bed at home. Consequently, when jobs stop at night AspectPL has to push the next job into the ‘manned’ window when the die setters return the next morning.

Dedekind explains: “The ability to push jobs into a manned window was a very sensible suggestion from Ian. So much so, we have implemented this feature into AspectPL and rolled this out to all our clients.”

“I have never been told ‘no’ from AspectPT – even when we asked for customisation,” adds Kirby. “Accessing the data in the factory and the planning office is fantastic. The single most important thing is the transparency that AspectPL affords our manufacturing processes and the team. We are now able to plan what we are physically able to do. Before the plan was theoretical.”