Business associates reviewing notes together in a meeting.

How A Plant Manager Tapped Tribal Knowledge To Deliver A 38% Productivity Improvement in 60 Days

April 11, 2018

By Ray Young

Have you ever wondered why there is such a struggle with productivity and consistently executing a process?

Vice President of SBTI Ray Young

Vice President of SBTI Ray Young

A major bottling manufacturer of carbonated beverages faced an on-going dilemma; a constant turnover of production associates and floor supervisors along with ever-changing production demands. This resulted in several issues; first was a lack of institutional knowledge required to operate each piece of equipment without depending on the few long-term employees doing all the training. The same condition existed for training new supervisors and maintenance personnel, only the responsibilities were greater. Secondly, due to changing production demands, mechanical changeover frequency was increasing and  new mechanics were also learning on the job.

In the spirit of collaboration, the plant manager first agreed to video the machine changeovers in order to identify non-value-added steps with the goal of streamlining the changeover process, thus reducing the downtime and increasing production uptime.

Secondly, he agreed to allow the senior-level employees to be interviewed in order to capture the “tribal knowledge” necessary to properly and efficiently operate the machines. Part of this activity was to allow the individual operators to form a team with the intent to identify the most efficient method of operation.

Based upon the gathering of this information from the group, it became apparent that three critical training areas needed addressing:

  • operator and mechanic on-boarding training was necessary, as well as on-going training for the mechanics in troubleshooting techniques
  • agreed-upon and proven process steps needed to be documented, used for operator training and future on-boarding opportunities for consistency and repetition
  • a process verification needed to occur on a daily basis to insure all process steps/settings and required training were taking place and on track

 

Trials, Triumphs & Transformations

Forming the groups provided challenges as differing personalities and experience levels resulted in several lively conversations. But eventually, consensus was reached and a set of process steps, training requirements and critical measurements for each machine were developed. From this exercise, each operator was trained on these deliverables and the new process was implemented and measured for effectiveness. Monitoring for understanding and proper feedback was instituted and minor changes made to the controlling documents were incorporated. A new spirit of cooperation between operators and management was mentioned as one of the key benefits of this exercise.

A transformation took place as standard work and visual standards were developed, documented and posted at each machine. This documentation highlighted the steps necessary to properly run the machine, along with critical measurements and settings that needed to be maintained in order to operate at optimum levels of production. As part of the visual standards, photos of critical settings were laminated and posted at the machine so a management representative could monitor for compliance on each shift.

 

Benefits

The first 30 days of the productivity exercise was spent identifying the critical areas of concern, assessing deficiencies, capturing baseline productivity data, and working with local management and employees to agree upon the project plan, form the group, develop the improvements and craft an implementation plan and schedule.

At the beginning of the last 30 days, the deployment plan was executed, training occurred, and post-improvement data was captured. At the end of the 60 days, productivity had increased by 38%, changeover time by the mechanics was reduced 50% and in effect, an additional 1.5 shifts/week of production was added, due to the reduction in downtime and changeover time. This combination of improvements increased the plants sales margin by $480,000/year.

SBTI offers a step-by-step proven methodology to capture constraints and the issues around most business constraints that often center around human dynamics and a lack of a clear, concise process standard. With our repeatable methods, process complexity can be delineated into manageable chunks, which then can be tactically addressed. We offer a simple strategic model of Listen/Design/Execute, and the Listen step is of no cost to you. We meet with you and your team and have a conversation involving your business goals, profitability needs and to assess our ability to partner with you toward those goals.

 

If you would like to request a Listen session for your business, you can contact me, Ray Young, at 615.403.6909, or by email ryoung@sbtimail.com.

Let's Talk

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *