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Major improvements made in manufacturing operations

A programme of work with PICME, the Process Industries Centre for Manufacturing Excellence, is said to have enabled Surface Specialities UCB to achieve a series of “radical improvements” in its BOPP manufacturing operations. Waste minimization on slitting and coating operations, change-over reductions on the film bubble process, and rationalization in the mill roll store have all been achieved on the Wigton, UK, site. The company has now formed work improvement teams of its own, founded on the manufacturing improvement principles adopted from PICME.

“The PICME approach is down to earth and it works for us,” says Allan Cowan, process technology and support manager. “No longer do we only have managers and supervisors aiming to meet targets; our shopfloor operators are now using their knowledge and experience to make further improvements. Since the PICME exercise has got underway, our total waste figure on one process, for example, has dropped by 15-20 per cent.” The company is now working to apply these and other savings across the other lines at its plant.

In the main bubble process area, an improvement of 40 per cent in change-over times was achieved through the application of SMED (Set-up Reduction/Single Minute Exchange of Dies) and other techniques. “A very simple technique,” he notes, “that can now easily be applied to other areas.” And in the mill roll store, the company team succeeded in clearing out redundant stock, and made a full map of the store and the processes within it. All four teams worked in parallel with each other, following a brief to aim for waste minimization across the board.

A number of additional bonuses are said to have occurred from engaging with the continuous principles demonstrated by PICME. “One big benefit,” according to Allan Cowan, “is the general increase in motivation and involvement from all in the cross-functional team, and from there, to all colleagues on the shopfloor. We now have a situation where our operators are doing their own unsolicited continuous improvement work, including their own calculations of impact and cost savings.”

He adds: “The quantifiable and measurable aspects of the work in all areas have exceeded management expectations.” Annualized cost benefits of at least £250,000 a year have been shown to be possible at the plant through the work with PICME.

The Surface Specialties UCB BOPP business started work with PICME in the spring of 2003, after sister Cellophane operations on the same site, had successfully worked through a number of waste minimization issues with the centre in the previous year.


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