Food for Thought "If you have the right people, with good, basic values and good work ethic, you can have a tremendous journey."

Buy Now
Food for Thought 2 "The follow-up in my Food for Thought series, with more focus on my experiences with Six Sigma and Kaizen."

Buy Now: Paper Back
Buy Now: E-Book

November 7, 2012

Six Sigma : The Biggest Savings & The Least Investment

Filed under: Six Sigma — Alec @ 3:41 am

Throughout my corporate career, I had probably done 30 to 35 Six Sigma projects before I retired in 2008. After retirement and starting MLP, the first project I did was very memorable for me. The biggest reason this project was so memorable is that it saved the most money for my customer and involved the least investment. Since then, I have probably told the story of these projects 50 times. But it still amazes me that it had the potential to save the plant and division $1 million dollars a year with zero investment – not counting customer approval paperwork.

When we have a weeklong Kaizen event we try to do two projects simultaneously. For this project, we focused on the same product but in two areas. The customer said that if they could reduce their cost by 35% they would double their volume. The initial charter was to [1] reduce cost by 35% and [2] reduce lead times by 50%. The second charter was to increase capacity by 100%. The product was a small titanium wrist bone plate in 7 sizes, for both left and right hand. This included a very complex process involving 4 CNC Horizontal and Vertical machining centers, in extremely tight tolerances and finishes.

The cross-section of the team of 8 was perfect; manager, manufacturing engineer, maintenance person, set-up person, supervisor, operator, lead person and a new employee. I mention the team membership because it is great to have a diverse mix of people and personalities. It was wonderful to have a new employee because they ask the best questions! After this project, we learned that starting all our Six Sigma sessions with Personality Profiles helps to insure a diverse blend of people: doers and analytical thinkers. You usually can get a nice make up of personalities if the group is large enough (8 to 10 minimum). But at this time, we were had not realized how important it was to have an assorted group – just by luck this team had the right synergy.

We started with the usual steps: Value Stream Map, Takt time, Elemental Breakdown, Speeds and Feeds, Spaghetti Diagram, etc. We investigated in-process queues, scrap, costs, etc. It was quickly noted that:

[1] the CNC operators were not balanced in cycle time

[2] There was a lot of wait time for operators

[3] A lot of the cost was in the finishing operations (tumble, grey wheel, deburr, inspection, etc.)

The team elected to try to set up a 2 or 3-man cell. The Manufacturing Engineer promptly came up with a program change that adjusted the stepover in an area that required extra polish. The Supervisor found us a draw down ventilation table. The Finishing Person located a small ultrasonic washer. And then…the cell was born!

There were a ton of obstacles. Some new tools needed to be utilized so that they could match the cycle times in the future. The process sequence was altered; 2 parts on a fixture was implemented on one CNC to help match cycle time, and the machines were rearranged into a horseshoe cell. We had achieved our capacity increase and most of our cost reduction, but not all of it. So, we started looking at the last steps of the process; final inspection, laser and passivate, and outside anodize.

This is where it gets fun! While we were investigating the finishing processes, the new employee kept asking – as she should – what is that? why do we do that? When it came to passivate and anodize, she asked the same questions. I had a memory epiphany (or maybe déjà vu?) from having run an aluminum anodize system at Bendix / Allied Signal in the 80’s. I suddenly recalled the process. With the new employee’s questions, I asked the Engineer:

 “Why do we passivate?”

He replied that it was on the print. I ask him to get a copy of the print and when we checked it said, “the part must be passive”. For all of my anodize experts, the first step in anodize is to dip the part in an acid, the same as Passivation. We called our anodize supplier and asked if they could provide a certificate of passiveness. The reply? Yes. For a nickel. We called our controller and asked about the cost of internal Passivation. Guess what? It was $0.95 per part. Poof, by having the supplier do it, we had saved $90,000 per year!! (Of course, we needed customer approval and that took forever to get.)

But the story does not end there. The company also made many, many more titanium parts that were all routed to be passivated and anodized. The other divisions were able to use this new process. The result is that this simple question – by a new employee – sparked the $1 million dollar savings (full formula). The net result was that the team was able to:

[1] Reduce cost by 35% to 40% full formula

[2] Increased capacity by more than 50%

[3] The best part? It came with very little investment from the client

The beauty of it all? This process was redone earlier this year – with even further savings. But that is another story!

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Powered by WordPress