Vermeer Gets Leaner with OEE

By Jim Camillo,  September 2014 issue of Assembly magazine.

By the late 1940s, many U.S. manufacturers began creating and building products for the post-WWII economy. Vermeer Corp., for example, opened in 1948 in Pella, IA, and started manufacturing agricultural machines.

In 1971, the company developed the first large baler, which revolutionized how hay is harvested. Vermeer implemented lean manufacturing practices in the 1990s to better compete in the global market, and the strategy paid off. Today, the company manufactures equipment ranging from wood chippers to horizontal directional drills at plants in the United States, the Netherlands, Brazil, Germany, Singapore and China.

However, until recently, all the facilities relied solely on kanban boards to track parts machining and product assembly. No facility had a system in place to quantitatively track worker or equipment efficiency.

Knowing the importance of continuous improvement, company management saw the necessity to accurately measure worker productivity, machine utilization and throughput. Vermeer needed a measuring system that groups operations into more logical cells to reduce redundancy and improve work flow. The company also wanted a
system that is built on a scalable database-driven platform.

Vermeer determined that an overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) system was the best option. More specifically, the company liked the Merlin monitoring system from Memex Automation Inc. A few were purchased and connected to machines in Pella plants in late 2012.

Merlin’s two main components are AxOEE software and an Ax9150 machine interface that provides automated data collection. The system also includes a handheld HMI for downtime recording, an ERP interface and a real-time key performance indicator (KPI) screen.

After benchmarking initial data, Vermeer adjusted downtime parameters, analyzed respective downtime elements and determined expected time savings to improve machine utilization. Over the past 18 months, the system has increased machine utilization by 50 percent and reduced setup time by 60 minutes per shift. Equally important, the company has verifiable data that eliminates the guesswork from managers’ decisions regarding utilization and capital expenditure.

Machine operators’ initial resistance to Merlin was soon replaced by the realization that the system is easy to operate and makes their job easier by collecting data automatically. Each monitored machine also features an audible alert that prompts the operator to action.

Operators especially like that they can send an automated email, via the HMI, to immediately contact the local administrator whenever any problem arises with Merlin. Several large KPI screens on the plant floor keep managers and operators informed of machine effectiveness.

For more information on OEE software, call 866-573-3895 or visit

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