Key Process Indicators - Measuring for Improvement

“What gets measured gets managed”

Peter Drucker, Social Ecologist

It is surprising how many processing plants do not accurately or comprehensively measure some of their most important variables. This can lead to inefficiency, expensive, and process problems. There are varying reasons for this, but the main one is focus - the company is more focused on their bottom line and profitability than process. Little do they realize that running a process efficiency and minimizing raw materials consumption will almost always improve the bottom line.


Another issue can be the lack or inaccuracy of instrumentation. If the primary water input does not have a flow meter, then the plant cannot identify whether any changes have occurred, and what their impact can be on the process.

“Knowledge is Power”

Sir Francis Bacon

Identifying which process variables is critical, which are important, and which can be ignored is often a valuable exercise. All the thousands of pieces of data can be summarized in just a few key process indicators (KPI), with 5 often selected to represent the entire site. These are then compared with historic plant performance or against an agreed upon target. If a certain indicator is not reaching the target, then it gives an action to follow up on.

One common approach to collaborating all these KPIs is through the use of a scorecard. Upper management may only be interested in the following pieces of information, which give them a general overview on plant performance:

  • Total daily production
  • Number of quality parameter targets met
  • Raw materials and energy consumption
  • Extraction efficiency

Each individual unit operation can have its own KPIs which when added together create the scorecard of the operational area. For example, a heat exchanger could have the following KPIs:

  • Throughput
  • Availability
  • Heat Transfer
  • Fouling Factor (UA)

Another example could be of a horizontal belt filter with washing capability:

  • Throughput
  • Availability
  • Wash water consumption
  • Final cake moisture
  • Average vacuum applied

KPIs can be used to measure the effectiveness of many areas of a business, not just the process. The employee turnover rate, total number of full time employees, salary budget, and average wage could be taken as the key indicators of a HR department.

Keeping track of each process change is impossible, but managing the key process indicators is achievable and focuses your attention on the variables which actually matter.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please comment below.

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