Standardizing Set Ups and Reducing Re-work for a Fiber Products Manufacturer
To improve throughput and reduce re-work, a leading producer of sustainable non-woven fiber products needed to find ways to standardize, streamline and increase reliability on a major production line.
Daniel Penn Associates was asked to help the company improve throughput for one of the company’s sheeting lines that included cutting, folding and packing areas, focusing on equipment in the cutting system, conveyance, case erector, heat sealer, stretch wrapper, printing and palletizing.
DPA senior consultant Mike Beauregard worked with the company’s Kaizen team to assess issues on the line. The team included participation by all 12 of the line operators, who ran the line 24/7 on four shifts, producing an average of 214 lbs. an hour of medical-grade shrink-wrapped bulk sheeting material on a 340-day basis. The company needed to increase productivity by 25%.
The team observed that there was no standardization on how the line was being set-up and run. Each shift had its own methodology and tinkered with different set-ups and settings in their attempts to produce every day. During one team observation, more than 50% of the already shrink-wrapped packages had to be opened and reworked. The case erector and the palletizer were subject to frequent breakdowns. Boxes had to be manually assembled because the case erector had broken down, could not be configured correctly or crashed because the corrugated had too much in-lot variation. The line went down whenever the cutter or packer had to step away to attend to support activities.
After making their initial observations, the team identified 69 improvement ideas. They implemented a number of these ideas to improve the line’s productivity and created an action plan going forward. Recommendations included the following:
- The line’s main bottleneck was in the cutting and folding operation. To increase capacity in this area, they recommended changing out the main belt, which eliminates manually stacking half of the products and improves productivity by 8 to 12%.
- The team determined best practices, trained the operators in those practices, and then created set-up sheets to standardize the line’s operations, eliminate process problems and adjustments, reduce downtime for jams on the case erector and palletizer, reduce rework in packaging and manual assembly of boxes. By exactly following the setup sheets, downtime on the line caused by the case erector and palletizer is reduced by four hours per day.
- Installation of an auto flag detector will enable wheel operators to leave their work area to help the cutter or packer. The wheel operator can provide line support to allow the cutter and packer to focus on production in these bottleneck operations. This saves the packer at least an hour per shift and increases the cutter’s productivity by 5%.
Before the Kaizen event, the sheeting line produced an average of 214 pounds per hour. After all feasible recommendations are implemented, the line is projected to produce 291 pounds per hour, a 36% improvement.