When you’re making raw rubber products, it could be easy to just throw Lean Manufacturing Principles out the window. After all, making these products is a traditionally dirty job with lots of waste.
But tradition hasn’t stopped the continuous improvement engineer at a state-of-the-art custom polymer mixing facility from applying Lean Principles that keep his workplace clean and running efficiently. In fact, things are going so well that they’re in the process of adding additional capacity.
As a brief review, one of the methodologies in Lean Manufacturing is the 5S. Each “S” stands for a phase in the continual process:
- Sort (get rid of things that are not necessary)
- Set in Order (put things where they belong, and in a convenient location)
- Shine (keep things clean and well maintained)
- Standardize (use best practices throughout work areas to stay organized)
- Sustain (keep things in order, make it a habit and seek to make things better)
The facility we visited manufactures raw rubber that will eventually be used to make seals, gaskets and other compounds for pharmaceutical, food and other customers. The formulas used to make products for each customer area specialized and the facility has thousands of recipes that were developed to meet each customer’s specific needs.
It was great to see various Lean Principles used throughout the facility. Tool boards were labeled and bins were used to collect and transport reclaimed edge scraps back into the process. Walkways were clean and everything had a place.
The oil and carbon black used in the manufacturing process were both contained in piping and pumping systems. Similar manufacturers manually handle their oil and carbon black, which can lead to oil spills and carbon black dust clouds throughout the facility. Containing both of these feedstock items is a best practice that helps to keep the entire facility cleaner.
With sorting, setting in order and standardizing well in order, we were called in to help with the other two S’s: shine and sustain. The oil that feeds the manufacturing process is well contained and the machines that manufacture rubber products are well maintained. But, like many machines in industry, they leak as a normal part of their operation.
The facility uses absorbent mats and socks to control the leaking oil and keep walkways cleaner and safer. There are still areas, however, where oil from the machines is collected in pails, cans and buckets then carried to a collection area where the oil is manually poured into a container with filtering media to remove metal fines and rubber components. From there, the oil is piped to bulk storage tanks and held for recycling.
The buckets, pails and cans used to collect oil all looked dirty — a stark contrast to the cleanliness of the rest of the facility. It also doesn’t make the grade for “shine” or “sustain.”
They were looking for an easier, cleaner way to collect the oil that would also minimize the time it takes to drain the oil into the filtering container. We suggested using Oil Safe Containers with utility lids instead of buckets, pails and cans. This company was already using Oil Safe Containers in another part of their facility to store and dispense different types of oil and lubricating products.
This substitution will keep the collection containers clean and eliminate leaks and drips from the areas where the oil is collected to the area where the oil is filtered.
Spare Oil Safe Containers that are draining can be stored on a spill containment deck or pallet. The ports on the side can be fitted with a pipe or hose that allows them to drain directly into the oil collection tank.
In place of the small funnel that is being used to drain and filter the oil, a latching drum lid with a screen and thick liquids mat inside will allow the oil to be transferred quickly and with far fewer overfills, leaks and mess. Cleaning out the metal fines and other solids will also be easier.
Of course, it will take some time to get these areas cleaned up and train people on a new process. But, we’re looking forward to seeing how these solutions work out for them.
You tell us: Do you use Lean Manufacturing Principles and 5S at your facility?