Operators on the shop floor are all too familiar with new Continuous Improvement (CI) initiatives. There’s usually new processes, new tools and new expectations placed upon the operators. Significant effort goes into designing new tools and processes; Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, MES and paper have been the go-to tools for quick implementation and deployment of new CI initiatives. But with each new initiative there is a repeated layering of tools and processes, most often leaving operators overburdened with cumbersome, difficult to use and often conflicting mechanisms. Digitising Sustainable Continuous Improvement (SCI) on the shopfloor aims to align the shop floor and form the foundation for ongoing and persistent process optimisation.
According to a global Harvard Business Review Analytic Services survey, new digital tools will lead the way in frontline enablement. As many as 87% of the 464 business executives responding say their organisation will be more successful when frontline workers are empowered to make crucial decisions in the moment.
In this case study we document an example of how the Cyzag Whiteboard was used to align shop floor activities streamlining work processes and consolidating multiple tools into one so as to minimize burdens and complications for operators.
There are three key elements for SCI: 1. Align, 2. Optimize and 3. Scale (as seen in below image). This case study focuses on a pilot project that was run to focus on the first element, “Align”.
One of the largest barriers to SCI is misalignment of work processes, tools and multiple versions of the same data points. Alignment of everyone on the shopfloor and getting them working in the same direction is the first step towards making continuous improvement sustainable.
The primary goal of the “Align” element in our approach is to create a single source of truth supported by robust working processes. If done correctly it provides a basis from which process optimization and scaling CI can succeed.
Cyzag was invited by a leading specialty chemicals company to implement the Cyzag Whiteboard. The scope of the first phase of the project was to consolidate and align shopfloor activities and work processes.
The image below describes the data flows and the activities on the shopfloor. The blue dotted lines show all the manual processing of data, while the red lines show the only automated data flows.
As is evident, there is limited automation of data flows, discorded activity management and a burdensome reliance on manual processing. By any measure, efficiencies were highly limited in this scenario.
Whilst the Cyzag Whiteboard was the obvious solution, one of the biggest challenges was getting operator buy-in and unwinding existing tools and processes without disturbing day-to-day operations of the plant.
The project was started by conducting multiple onsite interviews with all stakeholders, including multiple shift crews, site management, CI managers and global OPEX and IT teams. Within 3 weeks a first version of the Cyzag Whiteboard was delivered to the shop floor.
This first phase delivery included multiple use cases including logbook, disturbance entry, recurring task management, and visual boards (HSE and KPI tracking of connected live data).
Following the initial delivery, incremental updates were made based on operator feedback. In addition to direct feedback from operators, an idea log was setup in the Whiteboard to give operators the opportunity to make improvement suggestions.
The below image shows how the Cyzag Whiteboard was able to incorporate several use cases and align shop floor activities and processes.
Time savings were estimated based on the initial assessment done during the interview stage. This was compared to the analysis done after the solution was delivered.
As a result of introducing the Cyzag Whiteboard into the control room, the following benefits have been realized:
Following a three-month pilot project, delivery and evaluation, the pilot was deemed a success. While all the goals were reached it is clear that strong support from project, site and global leadership contributed heavily to the success.
The attitude of the operators in the control room was also very positive – the fact that they were involved from the outset, and that their comments and suggestions were incorporated into the solution, had a significant impact on driving engagement and generating a sense of ownership. In particular, the suggestion board, within the Cyzag Whiteboard, was a fundamental channel to communicating ideas and requirements to the offsite delivery team.
Hands-on training and defining the frontline manager as a facilitators to provide support was vital to keeping the energy and empowering frontline employees.
The extensive chemicals industry domain experience of the delivery team also had a substantial influence on a successful outcome. Understanding the specific vocabulary and having experience in similar environments contributed to a clear transfer of understanding of the requirements.
With the base implementation complete, any new use cases can be rolled out in the same tool. This will significantly reduce the change management effort and increase the likelihood of success of new initiatives.