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Case Study

One 5S consulting project kicks off continuous improvement programs resulting in $100MM+ in bottom line impact

About this Project

With the right focus and thinking, small details can lead to game-changing advancements. File this one under “hard to believe, but true.”

Profile –

  • Sector: Heavy Industry – Mining
  • Opportunity: Broad implementation of Lean Six Sigma failing to deliver significant or sustainable results.
  • Why us: The 5S element of Lean was consuming lots of resources but neither sustaining nor adding value to the operation. We were offered the opportunity to demonstrate how to implement 5S as a sustainable and value added body of work.
  • Result: Focused implementation leads to a system of continuous improvement in maintenance and operations that ultimately puts $100+ MM on the bottom line.

Across a hundred acres of a filthy mineral processing plant, where do you do 5S and actually make a difference?

We earned an opportunity to work with a mining company that was having some challenges with their Lean Six Sigma implementation. The company had the right mentality; they knew that a system of continuous improvement could significantly help their operation and improve their bottom line, and they had invested heavily in LSS. Unfortunately, they weren’t seeing the ROI that they had expected. Across the board, they weren’t getting any traction and their efforts had resulted in little to no impact. They decided to take a step back to reevaluate how to move forward, and it was during this period that we were able demonstrate the thinking behind Radical Profitability.

Top leadership had heard 5S was the right thing to do’ so a directive came down from on high to ‘do 5S’ as part of their broad Lean Six Sigma initiative. This resulted in managers “doing 5S” at seemingly random locations across the operations.

We had been hoping to have the chance to work with this organization since we had first heard of their difficulties rolling out LSS. We knew that if we could demonstrate that it is possible to put real money on the bottom line by applying our approach to the application of tools like 5S, we would have other opportunities to help them make their business radically more profitable.

This is why we get up in the morning.

We went straight to work. The thinking behind Radical Profitability quickly identifies the key leverage points in the process and sets the stage for rapid implementation, testing, and development.

The plant was in the position of being able to sell every ton that they could produce, so we focused our scope on where we could leverage 5S within the plant’s operations to deliver the most tons out the door and thus the biggest bottom line impact possible. Our methods identified the location pretty quickly.

Here is the logical path we followed to pinpoint where 5S could actually deliver:

  • We started with a comprehensive understanding of how various departments worked together from end to end of their operations.
  • We identified which department limited the tonnage produced.
  • We then analyzed each process in that department to determine which process limited the tonnage.
  • With the limiting process identified, we turned our attention to the equipment within this process to identify and analyze the equipment to determine how it was being used and maintained.
  • More than merely targeting various efficiencies, we looked at ways to best exploit the most limiting piece of equipment in order to get more tons through it. Equipment availability was the biggest opportunity identified
  • During our analysis, we noted that the periodic maintenance shutdowns have the biggest impact on the equipment availability and, therefore, were directly strangling throughput.
  • We turned then to the maintenance process itself to pinpoint the resources and tasks that were dictating the time required to rebuild and refurbish the equipment during its periodic shutdown.

At this point we got really lucky. A young maintenance planner had been plucked from his role and trained as a Black Belt. His assigned project was to “improve plant availability”. He was perplexed as to where to start!. Our “5S” project and his “boil the ocean” Black Belt project merged.

During a major shutdown on the targeted equipment there were more than 300 maintenance tasks performed. Of those 300+ tasks, only 17 were directly impacting the duration of the shutdown. From those 17 tasks we selected the five that had by far the biggest impact on shutdown duration. A master mechanic joined the team and designed and built 5 custom tool boxes that had all the equipment, tools, materials, supplies, and information the maintenance crew needed to perform those tasks without delay or confusion.

The first shutdown using the custom tool boxes cut days off of that first outage that enabled the plant to put thousands of tons more product out the door, depositing tens of thousands of dollars directly to the bottom line. And it was a hit with the crews. And the outage cost less money to stage. And the mill ran better than it had in recent history upon start-up! The team was hooked! They wanted more, and a process of continuous improvement was born.

In just a few short years, the tools, techniques, and Radical Profitability thinking had spread to other mines in the system. The company now enjoys more than $100MM in bottom line impact directly traceable to this initial “5S effort”. And where is that young Black Belt today? He now serves as the General Manager for one of those other, radically profitable mines.

” … the mill ran better than it had in recent history … the team was hooked.”

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