05 December 2005 00:00 [Source: ICB]
Syngenta’s Huddersfield plant has boosted plant performance and staff morale by implementing a strategy of Total Productive Manufacturing. Helen Carmichael reports
Syngenta’s manufacturing centre in Huddersfield, UK, manufactures active ingredients (AIs) for several herbicide and insecticide products. But in 2002 plant and process problems were affecting the supply of an AI for one of the company’s blockbuster insecticides, constraining sales opportunities. The threat of plant closure and AI manufacture being relocated to the Far East was a real possibility.
Staff decided to take action, incorporating Far Eastern principles into a programme to restore business confidence and ensure AI supply. The Manufacturing Excellence Programme (MEP) was born and a full-time programme manager, Peter Goss, was appointed.
According to Goss, demand for insecticide can vary considerably due to insect infestation, the weather, and economic factors amongst others. ‘As the supplier of the active ingredient we need to be responsive to business demand. This means being able to turn up and turn down volume instantaneously as required. To do this we need reliable plant, a robust process and capable people.’
The main problems were due to plant reliability and the robustness of the process. Plant operators spent most of their time reacting to and solving problems. ‘The Manufacturing Excellence Programme is designed to identify and solve the problems in a sustainable manner, to ensure that they don’t reoccur and that gains in performance are held. Operators can then become more proactive and invest their time in coaching and continuous improvement,’ says Goss.
The programme draws on a Japanese strategy called Total Productive Manufacturing (TPM), which was developed to drive equipment improvement to maximise its efficiency and product quality. Aspects of TPM employed by Huddersfield staff include overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), the fives ‘S’s and the visual factory. The five ‘S’s refers to commonsense principles of workplace organisation which translated from the original Japanese words are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardise and Sustain.
The visual factory uses visual control so that minor deviations from normal operation can easily be detected. Simple visual measures reduce inspection time and ensure that operations are consistent. ‘An example would be to put red and green zones on a pressure gauge so if the needle is in the green zone the operator can easily see that the equipment is operating at the correct pressure,’ says Goss. The term also relates to making visual performance information available and making good use of communications, and a full time communications officer was employed at the outset to keep staff appraised.
Syngenta visited Lever Faberge and Advansa for inspiration whilst devising the MEP. ‘Both these companies have won national awards for their TPM–style manufacturing improvement programmes. The factories and products are totally different to ours but the principles used to measure and improve performance are very similar,’ says Goss.
MEP takes a holistic and cohesive approach to manufacturing focusing on plant reliability and process robustness. There is a strong emphasis on the engaging and developing staff, underpinned by communication, continuous improvement and sustainability.
The MEP began in 2002. ‘We started to see significant improvement in manufacturing performance in 2004 and it is still improving,’ Goss says. A typical TPM–type programme takes four to seven years to become a part of the daily routine of the plant so that good practice becomes a way of life.
Without spending money on upgrading or redesigning equipment, the Huddersfield plant has achieved an OEE improvement from 50% to 84%; output up 67%; 100% first time pass rate (FTPR) and a 66% reduction in the injury frequency rate. Job satisfaction has improved, as has morale among staff as their work has become more proactive.
‘We have received strong interest and visitors from other Syngenta locations as well as visits from other manufacturers,’ says Goss. This trend is likely to continue, as the plant was awarded the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) award for batch/speciality manufacturing improvement earlier this year. ‘Particularly impressive was the clear evidence that the operators own their plant,’ according to the UK’s Process Industries Centre for Manufacturing Excellence (PICME).
Although the plant is not a new installation, it has achieved world-class operation standards. The product has captured growth opportunities, increased its market share and boosted global competitiveness. The staff has truly mastered the art of excellence.
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