Lean manufacturing is a method for minimizing waste in a manufacturing process without sacrificing productivity. Applying lean principles to the rubber mixing process enables a rubber compounder to drive cost from operations and improve quality and service.
Quanex Custom Mixing (QCM) uses many lean principles across its manufacturing processes to maximize custom rubber compound quality and consistency.
Standards of work are documented procedures for manufacturing processes based on best practices. Implementing plant-wide standards of work helps to eliminate waste during the rubber compound mixing process by consistently applying best practices.
In addition to standardized work, computer-controlled equipment allows for a high level of automation and process control that ensures compounds are mixed consistently from batch to batch and within tight tolerances.
5S systems are used to organize each work area in order to support standards of work. QCM’s 5S system ensures work areas are systematically kept clean and organized, while eliminating non-value added time looking for appropriate tools needed for a given process. The 5S system also promotes plant safety, making it part of the foundation on which to build a lean system.
Kanban systems regulate the flow of goods into and out of the plant by using visual signals to indicate when more materials are needed. Quanex Custom Mixing utilizes an electronic Kanban system for all raw materials. This helps manage inventory, eliminate waste and reduce production lead times.
Just in Time
Just-in-time (JIT) involves scheduling production based on real customer demand instead of projected demand to help reduce inventory levels and space requirements. In addition to planning and scheduling according to JIT principles, Quanex Custom Mixing also leases and operates its own truck for daily raw material pick-up.
Mistake-Proofing or “Poka-Yoke” is utilized to help eliminate the potential for human error and ensure the correct conditions exist in the manufacturing process. Both automated and manual bar code scanning are used to ensure the proper materials are used at the proper time and in the proper amounts.
Many critical chemicals are ordered in unique packaging or in uniquely-colored dispersions that create a visual poka-yoke to operators who manage them.
Downstream from the mixing process, guides and cutting tools are designed to only allow them to be engaged in one consistent direction. Finally, through additional bar code scanning and control system features, only product which has passed quality assurance specifications is able to be loaded onto delivery trucks and shipped.
Scoring Lean Performance
Continuous improvement is the relentless elimination of waste in manufacturing processes and a critical component of lean performance. Lean performance is scored using Kobayashi’s 20 keys, which covers aspects of continuous improvement ranging from cleaning and organizing to empowering workers to make improvements.
To help facilitate and monitor lean initiatives, QCM has a continuous improvement engineer on staff. This keeps a set of eyes on lean efforts at all times, ensuring that continuous improvement efforts are maximized.
Process reviews are also vital to Quanex Custom Mixing’s lean initiatives. QCM’s plant engineer is dedicated to reviewing processes and driving non-value-added time from every stage of the rubber compound mixing process, in turn optimizing process efficiency. This leads to more cost-effective, better quality rubber compounds.
Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)
Overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) measures productivity loss in a manufacturing process. OEE tracks three categories of productivity loss:
- Availability (amount of down time)
- Performance (slow cycle speeds)
- Quality (number of rejects)
OEE provides a baseline to track the progress of eliminating waste from a process, with the goal of achieving the manufacture of only good parts, as quickly as possible with no down time.
QCM records real-time OEE at each of its three intermeshing mixing lines, providing a live-feed on availability, performance and quality on monitors located throughout the plant.
For information on Quanex Custom Mixing, contact us.
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