First improvement projects underway

Posted on 6 Apr 2010 by The Manufacturer

More than 100 members of staff at Devon-based linear motion equipment manufacturer HepcoMotion have been working on a series of projects aimed at improving shopfloor efficiency, while gaining a qualification developed with the help of the National Skills Academy for Manufacturing — part of Semta, the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies. In his third diary piece for The Manufacturer, Barry Engstrom, HepCoMotion’s manufacturing director, outlines some of the projects that are now contributing to reduced lead times and other efficiency savings.

The first phases of the training programme have already proved extremely beneficial for the business. We were very pleased at how the staff had embraced the classroom elements of the Business Improvement Techniques (B-IT) qualification to NVQ Level 2 and Skills for Life training.

For many staff, it was the first time they had been in a classroom environment for more than 40 years but the fact that we used classroom facilities at our Tiverton plant helped them to feel at ease.

However, we always knew that unless this training in lean manufacturing techniques — and an earlier evaluation of skills gaps — delivered real benefits to the bottom line, all the hard work so far would have been for nothing.

This is why the practical element of the B-IT programme is so important.

Following on from the eight days of training the teams were split into four project groups that are now working on three projects each. Clearly there are benefits to having 12 projects underway that all aim to improve business performance by targeting quality, cost and delivery.

Projects they are currently working on focus on areas where the teams actually work, so any improvements made will directly benefit them in their day-to-day working environment.

Some of the projects include the introduction of standard operating procedures to reduce variation in processes and a thorough review of risk assessments.

One team will be looking at a system to reduce waste and another is hoping to reduce set-up times of up to 60% and processing times of 25%.

Quality of workmanship will also be reviewed and where necessary processes refined to improve the quality of product being shipped.

It is still early days on this project and we have yet to determine its affect on the bottom line.

All the projects have to be evaluated by gathering data on the shop floor before being signed off and as part of the process projected costs, savings and payback periods — ideally within 12 months — are defined.

The teams are nearing completion of their first project, which has taken around three months and so we should start seeing returns on the investment in training by the middle of this year.