Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America (MEAA, Maysville, KY) manufactures a range of electronic components for automobiles, including starters, alternators and ignition coils. Last November, the company embarked on a $32-million, 40,000-square-foot expansion, adding another 60 jobs to the plant's nearly 400-member workforce.

A committed lean manufacturing practitioner, MEAA installed a Production IQ (Rocky River, OH) production monitoring and downtime tracking system in all eight of its coil assembly lines in early 2003. MEAA chose Production IQ because its system allows MEAA to calculate and display a real-time production target quantity, based on the cycle time of the process. The system also enables the company to broadcast real-time production performance to the factory floor, and provide network access to the data for reporting and monitoring in a visual format via a Web browser.

The fact that Production IQ offers a wireless installation option also influenced MEAA's final decision.

"We purchased Production IQ because the system is very flexible, accommodating our need for not only wireless connections between system hardware and production equipment, but also our desire for certain optional features," says David Maher, assistant engineering manager at MEAA. He adds that the wireless option allowed the system to be up and running in about 4 weeks, including a week of on-site system setup and training.

According to Maher, since all user inputs are bar-coded, the learning curve was fast and smooth. With the system in place there is minimal operator involvement, because the system stores all the production part numbers and the desired quantities scheduled for each shift. The system remembers the shift schedule and breaks, and assures that proper data collection and calculations are sourced at the proper time.

In addition to acquiring manufacturing counts directly and automatically from production equipment, the system calculates a running real-time target production quantity. This shows the exact quantity that should have been produced at the current time based on the cycle time of the particular process. Line workers as well as management know at any given moment whether they are ahead or behind in the production day thanks to large LED alphanumeric displays that show exact quantity produced, target quantity and current efficiencies for specific areas of the plant. The system also measures any downtime condition currently in progress.

According to Maher, having this kind of real-time data immediately at hand has proved to be a motivator as well as a source of information.

"I believe we pay more attention to our progress throughout the shift," Maher says of the system. "As far as continuous improvement, it allows us to see the results of any improvement we make to the process. All of our associates want to meet the goals and work hard to do so and this feature gives them the feedback they need."

Thanks to Production IQ's Webview Module, all data from the system is available for real-time production reporting so that any approved network user can view the data. This gives managers a chance to follow up on production volumes throughout the day and alerts them to any problems that may be developing. Managers can also chart past data for comparison. Any data collected and any calculations are graphically seen by highlighting the specific area of the plant shown on a monitor. Production reports and calculations are available immediately rather than after up to 2 days as in the past.

For more information on real-time monitoring, call 866-783-4747 or visit