Improvement projects are now delivering measurable results

Posted on 6 Aug 2010 by The Manufacturer

Devon-based HepcoMotion is hoping to save more than £60,000 every year thanks to a number of projects managed by staff as they work towards a qualification developed by the National Skills Academy for Manufacturing - part of Semta, the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies. In the final part of his diary for The Manufacturer, HepcoMotion manufacturing director Barry Engstrom talks about the projects that have been completed, the benefits they have brought to the company and the sense of achievement felt by staff who have taken part in the Business- Improvement Techniques (B-IT) NVQ programme.

Over the past few months I have been updating readers on the progress of our journey towards greater efficiency through B-IT, and I’m pleased to report that the four projects undertaken by staff are now complete and already making a significant contribution to our performance.

The first project was aimed at improving efficiency in the Hardening Process department at our Tiverton facility, which produces linear motion products. It targeted better organisation around the use of our 3m and 5m machines and, as a result of the efforts of staff assigned to the project, set-up time has been reduced by 45%.

A 70% reduction in set-up times of the 3m and 5m machines in the profile grinding section has been achieved as the result of a second project, which has also addressed a number of health and safety issues. The team behind this project have also identified ways to reduce set-up times further; it is often the case that improvements continue to be made long after staff have completed the B-IT qualification.

Meanwhile a third project concentrated on improvements in our Vertical Milling Centres which have seen an improvement in quality of product produced as well as a 40% reduction in process times and 75% improvement in set-up times. To achieve this the team responsible developed a Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) document that ensures every part is made to specification. A similar project was undertaken in the Cutting Cell department, where the new SOPs have achieved equally impressive results in terms of both set-up and process times.

All four projects have embraced 5S principles, which focus on visual order, organisation, cleanliness and standardisation to deliver improved profitability, efficiency, service and safety.

The principles of 5S form the foundation of Lean manufacturing, which companies such as ours need to adopt if they are to remain competitive.

Whilst HepcoMotion and its customers are now seeing the benefit of this approach to continuous improvement, the staff who have taken part in the Skills Academy’s B-IT programme and other training initiatives are also enjoying the rewards.

They have a newfound confidence to speak up if they can see where improvements can be made on the shopfloor, and feel part of a larger team that is driving the business forward.

Alongside B-IT, with the help of the Skills Academy, we have also established literacy and numeracy programmes and more than 100 staff have now been introduced to the principles of Lean. Many of them are using what they have learned at home as well as in the workplace! The training developed by the Skills Academy has really helped to change the culture here and we would recommend any company to get in touch with them to see how effective training can deliver immediate benefits as well as helping to develop the skills they need in the longer term.

We will certainly be continuing our learning journey with more than 20 members of staff beginning work on B-IT NVQs in the coming months.