Using iPads, QR scans, Sharepoint and Infopath to implement TWI

Franck Vermet‘s group at Schlumberger in Rosharon, TX, assembles and tests measurement instruments that operate deep inside oil wells. They are built for internal use by Schlumberger Oilfield Services, to collect data for customers. They are high-value products, with tight tolerances and the ability to operate in an environment that is not friendly to electronics.
With Mark Warren‘s help, Vermet’s group has been looking to TWI as a way to rely less on knowledge in the heads of experienced operators and more on documented processes for the following purposes:

  1. To ensure that the same work is done the same way by different individuals.
  2. To train new operators faster.
  3. To improve the processes systematically and in a controlled manner.
  4. To support the implementation engineering changes to the products and new product introduction.

In World War II, however, TWI was implemented with cardboard pocket cards and handwritten Job Breakdown sheets, but the Schlumberger team was determined to use more modern technology. After investigating the available options, they realized the following:

  • Sharepoint has a built-in revision management system that makes a Sharepoint site suitable as a repository of process specifications. This helps with traceability and ISO compliance.
  • Infopath is a form design tool they could use to generate TWI templates and store the filled out Job Breakdown sheets in the Sharepoint site.
  • iPads are an effective presentation device on the shop floor, not just for the equivalent of pocket cards,  but for drawings and photographs as well.
  • QR scans linking to job instructions are posted on equipment by means of printed magnets. They can be scanned using an iPad to retrieve the instructions from the Sharepoint site.

Implementation is still in its early days, but all indications from users are that it works. It should be noted also that the approach is sound from the point of view of data management. Unlike the proliferation of Excel spreadsheets that is so often seen in factories, with more or less accurate and up-to-date copies of master data floating around, this approach provides the necessary controls, with the current data retrieved from the server as needed.

As could be expected, the Schlumberger team is facing headwinds from two directions:

  • Among the TWI revivalists, there are those for whom, if it’s not handwritten on cardboard, it isn’t TWI, and they frown on the use of a gadget like the iPad. Never mind that many retail shops already use them as point-of-sale systems.
  • Within the company, TWI-authenticity is nor a concern, but the uncontrolled spread of computer and networking technology is, at least for the IT department. It supports the use of a standard configuration of tools, which does not include what Vermet’s group is using.

The Schlumberger team is  now training suppliers in these tools with the goal of getting them to inspect outgoing parts in such a way that incoming inspection at Schlumberger can be eliminated.