May 30th, 2013
Six Steps to Reducing Waste in Your Aggregate Operation
We've discussed Lean principles before -- essentially, that ‘lean’ is a systematic, top-down approach to identifying and eliminating waste (in other words, activities that don’t add value) in all aspects of business. But how does this apply to your aggregate operation?
As an example of non-value added activities to eliminate waste, let’s envision the process of scraping barnacles off the bottom of a cruise ship. While a critical task, the cost associated with this activity adds no value to the ticketed customer who bought a state room on the cruise ship and is sailing his family to Bora Bora.
Chances are, your aggregate processing facility has pockets of barnacles within it as well. In fact, research indicates that 95 percent of all operating costs/activity are non-value added. Here are just some examples that you may take for granted at your own operation every day:
- The cost of operating loaders and other material handling equipment
- Settling ponds
- Maintaining attachments
- Dust suppression
- Drilling and basting
- Crusher liners and consumables
- Screening media
- Electricity and energy consumption
- Transfer point maintenance
- Conveyor maintenance
- Safety programs
While all of these tasks are extremely critical, they really do not add any value to the end user or the customer of your products and services. They represent a cost which by definition means a waste center which should be targeted for reduction or elimination.
So what can you do about it?
- Appoint a Value Stream Team. Identify employees from various aspects of the organization, including production, management, the office, even accounting, safety, or other non-production-related areas of the company. The idea is to find cross-functional associates who have fresh ideas that are willing to work without bias or pre-disposed ideas. These small teams will address the needs of individual work areas in hands-on proactive workshops focusing on quick and easy ideas as opposed to groundbreaking solutions. The mindset should be "continuous improvement."
- Apply the 5S. Once the team has selected the first work station, it is recommended that they apply a “5S” process to that workstation. This includes 1) Sort; 2) Straighten; 3) Standardize; 4) Shine; and 5) Sustain.
- Identify and Analyze the System. Identify individual components of your system and how they function together. Recognize that each component may work at a different rate, and ensure optimum production is achieved by analyzing the system holistically. For example, what is the role, capacity and performance of the secondary crusher as it applies to the entire circuit? How is it performing? Where are the issues? How much is it costing to operate? Is it a bottleneck? If the 5S process was thoroughly performed in step 2, it should help identify the above.
- Identify a Focus Area. The status of the 5S system and identification of bottlenecks should help provide good indicators of where to find opportunities to rapidly improve a specific area of the system. Some common opportunities include: crusher configurations, screen configurations (throw/speed/media), waste water (what's going to pond), conveyor flashing, transfer chutes/liners, safety/inspection reports, and calibration/controls/connections.
- Count and Reduce the Number of Pieces. During the past 15 years, stationary plants grew to support unprecedented growth in residential and commercial construction. As a result, following the recession, today many plants are underutilized with excess processing equipment needed to fulfill their core material demand. This might create an opportunity to reduce waste by decommissioning unnecessary equipment from the plant. Ask yourself, do you really need that chip screen, coarse material washer and additional material handling equipment that was installed for the runway project back in 2003 and requires 150 GPM of water just to turn on every day?
- Accelerate Flow. Accelerating flow is one of the main objectives in creating a lean operation due to the many benefits flow provides. These benefits range from improved lead time to delivery, better quality, higher production capacity, reduced work in progress inventory, less wasted motion, fewer interruptions, greater space utilization, and much more. Ultimately, what we are really talking about here is identifying and relieving production bottlenecks.
This systematic approach may sound complicated, but all it really takes is a group of people who are dedicated to making small, incremental changes on a daily basis in pursuit of a better workplace.
While we all dream of making the large groundbreaking change that make everything better overnight, we have found that dozens of small, quick and easy ideas tend have a viral effect on an organization and provide even greater rewards over time through a stronger culture, improved safety and increased profits.
Start scraping them barnacles!