Reducing transport waste can increase productivity and profit.
By Shari Held
Editor’s Note: This is the first article in a year-long series about how seven common types of waste in manufacturing can create unprofitable activity
and how to address them in your plant.
In an ideal world, all businesses would operate at top efficiency all the time. However, that’s tough to accomplish in reality. In the precast concrete industry, there are seven types of unproductive manufacturing practices that add to labor and production costs and chip away at profits.
The first of these is transport waste – moving products and materials that aren’t actually required by typical production practices. Much of this type of waste can be attributed to poor plant layouts or times when plants are running full throttle to fill orders.
Here are the transport issues three precasters are grappling with and their solutions for eliminating them.
Precast concrete product must be moved multiple times during the day to make room for more product, to place it in the stockyard or to position it for loading on a delivery truck. These movements take labor and time and increases the risk of product damage and worker safety issues.
“You try your best to plan for when production will begin or a delivery is going to be made, but this is just the reality of what happens,” said Travis Brousseau, general manager at Camp Precast.
One improvement Camp Precast plans to make in order to eliminate unnecessary product transport is moving its reinforcing cage manufacturing area/equipment closer to the production area. The process will only take one month while allowing the plant to remain in production.
“In the long run, it will save us money,” Brousseau said.
Like Camp Precast, Olympian Precast’s rebar cage manufacturing area is not located near its production area.
“We’ve considered moving it closer, but the solution doesn’t outweigh the problem currently,” said Clarke Jewell, president of Olympian Precast.
The company’s made several improvements over the years, though. For example, its forklifts and cranes have built-in, custom roller systems, allowing a worker to pick up product and rotate it all in one step.
To save time and steps, total daily production is loaded on trailers placed 50 feet or less from the production area. Small pieces such as stair treads are finished on the trailer and then palletized.
Olympian Precast plans to begin process mapping to increase efficiencies next year.
“I’d say we’re on the right path,” Jewell said. “But there’s still room for improvement. In the long term, reducing waste from a cost standpoint helps from a sustainability standpoint as well.”
Four years ago, when Clark Simmons, technical services manager, came to MBO Precast, he and his team members instituted value stream mapping for the entire plant and looked at where different processes were located. Rebar was cut, reinforcing cages manufactured and then moved by a forklift 2,000 feet to the production area. In addition, different types of finished material were randomly stored in multiple locations 600 to 700 yards from production, taking additional time for forklift drivers to locate and load it. Bucketloads of concrete had to be
transported 600 yards to where it would be used in the production area.
MBO Precast’s solution was to completely reorganize the plant, bringing production closer to the main batch plant and reorganizing other areas to eliminate transport waste wherever possible.
The manhole line was moved from 200 yards to less than 50 yards from production. The rebar cutter and cage manufacturing were relocated right next to production. And each finished product now has a specific loading zone, reducing retrieval time for shipment.
Making adjustments based on value stream mapping results made a huge difference for MBO Precast, and they have the stats to prove it. The company’s production day – once 10 to 11 hours – is now 8 or 8-1/2 hours.
“Depending on workflow, in labor hours we’ve been able to save $3,000 to $6,000 per week,” Simmons said.
As productivity increased, MBO was able to award workers with raises and provide cross-training opportunities. Increased plant productivity has also enabled MBO’s sales staff to bring in jobs the plant couldn’t previously handle. In addition, product damage was reduced from 6%-to-8% to only 2%. And Simmons said safety improved tenfold.
MBO’s entire production process runs much smoother and steadier now, allowing the company to manage inventory and labor force more effectively.
“The biggest bang for the buck in the precast lean process is value stream mapping, in my opinion,” Simmons said. “It allows the other areas of waste to become more visible to your team.”
While these precast manufacturers understand transporting product and material is a necessary function, they have also noticed obvious expenses associated with transporting items unnecessarily. And, transportation waste often creates a hidden cost – waiting, which will be the fourth type of waste covered in this series. Staff have to wait for reinforcement or product to be delivered which results in extended lead times. It also exposes the operation to greater opportunities for damage and loss of items during transport. Plus, the cost of equipment to move items, staff training to operate the equipment and more all add up. Consider reorganizing the plant layout, the fabrication area or the storage yard to reduce transport waste, and ultimately, increase your company’s profit
Shari Held is an Indianapolis, Ind.-based freelance writer who has covered the construction industry for more than 10 years.