The pulp and paper industry is experiencing a drive toward efficiency like never before. We’re all looking for measurable ways we can create more efficiency in our process, and a great place to start is with on-site laboratory testing. Testing is an area where bottlenecks can happen that cause the entire process to slow down. Optimizing your testing process is an important tool you have at your disposal to increase overall efficiency.
Technidyne’s research of laboratory audits has yielded some interesting information about where slow-downs in the testing process are likely to occur. We have found that many labs do not automate their data collection. Instead, testers jot down a data point on a pad and later enter it in to the data collection system. Also, manpower is wasted and testing throughput slowed down because data from some instruments is not used for anything!
Efficiencies can be found through examining both lab instrumentation and the process followed by lab technicians in performing their everyday duties. Some efficiencies surrounding instrumentation include:
1. What tests make sense to automate? Just because you can automate a test doesn’t mean you should.
2. How many tests are you taking per turn-up and where the measurements are taken on the sample?
3. How much data is enough? Finding the sweet spot is critical to your QC and process control programs.
Some human factors and processes that effect efficiency include:
1. Operator training, how they do the test and how they influence the outcome?
2. Lack of automated data entry to DCS
3. Is the lab laid out to move the tester efficiently through the testing cycle?
A good question to ask across-the-board when examining your testing protocols is, “Why am I doing this test?” Make a list of all of the testing you are currently doing, and follow the path of the data you gather. What happens to that data? Where does it go? If you find that certain test results are not relevant to your process or that the test data is recorded and never used, you should consider whether it’s a test that should be removed from your process.
Test frequency is also an important factor effecting efficiency. Take a look at the tests you’re preforming and how often you’re running them. Would your process be affected negatively if certain tests were done less frequently? Much of this depends on how the data from a particular test is being used, if it’s data that is being averaged over multiple tests or if it is being logged for later reference only if a problem is identified. Making good decisions about how often to test is important. Be sure to include others who rely on test data to make decisions about frequency so that no one on your team is affected negatively by an adjustment to frequency.
These are just a few ideas about optimizing your process to create more efficiency. If you have ideas to share about creating more efficiency especially in the test lab, please respond to let us know. We’d love to provide updated posts about this topic that include your thoughts.
If you would like to discuss how testing instruments can positively affect your process efficiency, please contact Technidyne today. We’re here to help. Use this link to our global directory to find resources close to you.