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Get Set to Get Lean


Chevron Global Lubricants started the lean manufacturing process two years ago at eight of its largest lubricant blending plants. Michelle V. Long is plant manager of the Port Arthur, Texas, facility; Chevrons largest lube plant.

Lean manufacturing means less people, less inventory, ess time to develop products, and less space available to respond to customers, while producing quality products to meet customer needs and provide shareholder value, Long told this springs Petroleum Packaging Council meeting. Employees will make it happen.

The major oil companys first step in going lean, said long, was establishing an organization performance model, or value stream map – the plan that provides direction for the whole process.

Chevron took a holistic, six-point approach, Long explained. The points in the model are:

Tasks. All tasks in the plant were defined.

People. What skills are needed? Do they need retraining?

Structure. Chevron set up blending teams, packaging teams, etc., restructuring to be more cross-functional.

Decision-making. We want to empower people to make decisions at the line level, based on good information, Long said.

Information. Make sure people have the right information.

Reward. Both recognition and feedback are essential.

Production line work can be really boring and stressful, Long noted. Having ownership can make a big difference. And Port Arthur, a union shop, has a significant number of contractors on site, about 25 to 30 percent of the plants 240 employees. We needed to empower contractors as well as employees to implement the new processes, Long said.

The plant adopted the 5S tool to provide a foundation for improvement. These five steps, Long explained, are Sort (separate needed from unneeded items); Straighten (organize the work space); Shine (clean!); Standardize processes and procedures, very important for shift work; and Sustain (all about organizational culture).

We also looked at root-cause analysis, tracking unplanned downtime and finding the biggest gaps, said Long. Employees had a lot of questions about what was required of the plant, and how it compared to competitors. Employees buy in when they understand the process and the reasons.

A year ago, Chevron implemented autonomous maintenance, the operator-driven system under which the operator takes ownership of equipment. The goal is to maintain all equipment in its original state and catch any issues at the earliest evidence of problems. Operators become knowledgeable and engaged, Long noted, and efficiency rises.

Overall equipment efficiency is a key lean-manufacturing measure, where a world-class plant might score 85 to 95 percent. We were at 55 percent pre-Hurricane Rita, and our cartridge line was in the low 40s, said Long. Our goal for the plant is 65 percent on four lines by the end of 2006, up from 47 percent early in the year. Its a journey, not a race or a sprint.

Long noted that since 2001, accidents have dropped by half while volumes have surged. At Port Arthur, we had zero days of lost time in 2005, she said.

Were on a zero-loss journey; zero incidents, zero unplanned downtime, zero defects.

Whats Lean Mean?

Thomas C. Schoonover, director of lean thinking at Mauser Corp. – who had helped introduce lean manufacturing at the Port Arthur plant – presented a two-day Lean Boot Camp at the spring PPC meeting, providing an introduction to the key tools and processes. Schoonovers session was one of the PPC College series of in-depth presentations.

Schoonover, based in Bridgewater, NJ, defined lean as the maniacal pursuit of the elimination of waste from every business process, with the ultimate goal of providing world-class quality, delivery and service to out customers at the lowest possible cost.

The lean tool box includes eight processes to reduce overproduction and other forms of waste:

1.Value stream mapping, a management function, provides direction and a plan.

2.5S, the five steps of cleaning and organizing, is the prerequisite for improvement and a quality work environment.

3.Standardized and documented work assures efficient production.

4.Visual management is used to communicate throughout.

5.TPM – total productive maintenance – ensures equipment availability and improves equipment efficiency.

6.SMED – single-minute exchange of dies – reduces setup and increases equipment availability.

7.Kanbans and supermarkets manage materials.

8.Six Sigma creates discipline for high-end manufacturing.

Starting at Kaizen

The benefits of a mature lean manufacturing system are immense, Schoonover said. You can expect annual productivity improvements of 20 to 30 percent. You can reduce your space requirements by 30 to 50 percent. Product quality indices will improve by 50 percent. Work-in-process inventories are reduced 70 to 90 percent. Lead times will drop from weeks to just hours, and youll see significant improvements in customer and employee satisfaction levels.

Schoonover recommends launching the move to lean production with a Kaizen event. This is a formal, planned three-to-five day workshop during which the operators who do the work make changes that result in dramatic improvements. The purpose is to achieve major improvements in 5s, cycle time, cost or defects by envisioning possibilities and then immediately implementing changes.

Some ground rules for a successful Kaizen event include: serve food; no cell phones or pagers; exclude part-time participation; make team captains responsible for keeping the team focused and together. Little or no money is spent, and waste is identified and eliminated during the workshop. Conducting 5s cleaning and organizing on a targeted area of the plant, and taking before and after pictures, is an effective first Kaizen event. Managements support is essential, providing uninterrupted team member participation, empowering the team to make rapid changes, and providing follow-up to assure the action items are completed.

Kanbans and Pull Systems

In Japanese, kanban means card or sign and is the name given to the inventory control card or other signal used in a pull system. It is a work order that moves with the material. As Productivity Press writes in Kanban for the Shopfloor:

In the kanban system, the upstream process produces only enough units to replace those that have been withdrawn by the downstream process. Workers in one process to to the preceding process to withdraw the parts they need. They do this only In the quantities and at the time when the units are needed. The start of this withdrawal system begins with a customer order. This is called a pull system.

Kanban is a signal, said Schoonover. When materials have been consumed, it signals for replenishment, and under a kanban plan, enough materials are stored at the point of use to sustain production during the replenishment process. For a kanban system to work, you must have a material plan for each part, specifying who supplies it. Other requirements include implementation with a cross-functional team; adjustments as demand changes; point-of-use materials; repetitive manufacturing; discipline; and flexible and reliable suppliers and processes.

Assembly, sub-assembly, and other production processes can all respond quickly to customer demand because materials are stored at the point of use. There are very small or no changeovers, and the kanban signals for quick replenishment of consumed parts.

Suppliers also have material plans, and receive daily, weekly, and/or monthly broadcasts showing forecast demand. The broadcast has a firm demand period so materials will be ready for the kanban release; theres also a future demand so the supplier can plan raw material flow and capacity.

Push or Pull?

Push manufacturing is what we all do, said Schoonover. Youre going to buy it so I need to make it. It results in slow-moving or obsolete products. With push manufacturing, you make a product anticipating customer demand. It offers the advantage that you can run your plant efficiently. But theres a problem: What f nobody buys?

In contrast, pull manufacturing means less inventory, less capital investment, he continued. Total cycle time is typically four to six weeks in a push system. In a pull system, it takes one to five days. With pull, all upstream processes simply react to the demand.

For manufacturers and packagers interested in learning more about lean production, Schoonover recommends the books in the Shopfloor Series from Productivity Press, on the web at

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