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Looking to improve efficiency and bottom line? Manufacturers show how

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Leaders at three Lehigh Valley businesses shared details of the projects they worked on to obtain Six Sigma Green and Black Belt Certification in a forum at MRC’s office
Leaders at three Lehigh Valley businesses shared details of the projects they worked on to obtain Six Sigma Green and Black Belt Certification in a forum at MRC’s office - (Photo / )

Manufacturers can boost production, eliminate waste and save money by following a scientific problem-solving technique created by Motorola.

Manufacturers Resource Center in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, said it has adapted this technique for training courses to help companies implement customized projects to ensure a return on investment.

Wednesday, leaders at three Lehigh Valley businesses shared details of the projects they worked on to obtain Six Sigma Green and Black Belt Certification in a forum at MRC’s office.

Their case studies delved deeper into how managers on the production floor used Lean Six Sigma to improve their businesses. The MRC programs show how to use the problem-solving methodology to create changes across a spectrum of areas, from product quality and capacity to organizational layouts on the shop floor.

“The most important thing to realize is, I don’t have to do it myself,” said Donna Warman, production manager for Sussex Wire, a manufacturer in Palmer Township. “It’s a team effort.”

For her company’s project, the goal was to improve the original equipment manufacturing on seven machines.

“We were capturing real time data on why the machines were down,” Warman said.

The team developed short-term action items, which included revising the machine site, and eventually found quality and production were not agreeing.

Often, manufacturers think they need to buy additional, often expensive equipment to solve production problems in the work area, but sometimes clearing and rearranging the organization of the production floor layout and using more vertical space can boost productivity.

At Sussex Wire, the company is now producing 2.5 million parts a week, which is an increase.

ADVICE FROM THOSE NOT INVOLVED

Warman was helped by buy-in from employees, which she said took time. But once they are involved and see the benefit, the project goes smoother.

“You really need to have the people that are doing the work involved,” Warman said. “We got people on the team that had nothing to do with that product line. That was key, to get people outside of the project you were working on.”

These employees often would see problems that people who worked on that product line all the time would miss, she added.

The program includes individualized on-site project mentoring meetings. The Six Sigma Green Belt course is designed for people with little-to-no prior experience with these techniques. Typically, these projects save at least $25,000 to $50,000 in process improvement.

Projects that help people acquire Six Sigma Black Belt certification typically save $50,000 to $100,000 in process improvement.

RETURN ON INVESTMENT

Richard Titus, an adjunct instructor at Lehigh University and a Master Black Belt who spent nearly 20 years at Ingersoll-Rand, is the trainer for the MRC program.

The purpose is to build a project pipeline and funnel resources toward it, Titus said. Each project is different, so it is customized.

“There has to be some payback to your organization,” Titus said. “We do want to generate value to the company.”

Taking the course and finishing it will give people confidence, but MRC also wants to show companies that they are getting a return on their investment, said Diane Lewis, manager of business development services at MRC.

“We want you to be successful and your company to be successful,” Lewis said.

ANNUALLY SAVING 36,000 POUNDS OF PAINT

A case study from Crayola in Forks Township showed how the techniques helped the company.

After completing a project on the watercolor line, the team saved the company money in the amount of watercolor paint it was shipping and by creating other efficiencies, said Lauren Migliore, process improvement engineer of Crayola.

Crayola is saving about 36,000 pounds of paint each year and saved 918 labor hours per year, Migliore said. Actions included implementing control checks and daily checks by team managers.

She said she is working on a Black Belt program at the crayon manufacturing site.

‘PEOPLE REALLY BUY INTO THIS’

Another case study from Computer Designs in Whitehall Township shared details of its project, which included on-site Green Belt training.

“People really buy into this, and you find you really get a lot of good information from them,” said John Lanford, an engineering manager at Computer Designs.

He said this was beneficial because the team projects had internal support and stakeholders.

The team put together goals and objectives, and one of the main drivers was to eliminate land scanners and create real-time monitoring of critical systems outputs with warnings and alarms.

The company also wanted to improve and redefine incoming inspection of raw material and refine the way it was capturing data.

The projects can be lengthy, sometimes taking nearly a year to complete, but those who shared their case studies said their employees understood the benefit.

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Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 4108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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