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Green light for go ahead packaging company

A traffic light production system is one of the smart systems a Cheshire-based manufacturer of packaging machinery has introduced to ensure the business is more competitive internationally.

Packaging Automation, whose heat sealing machines are market leaders in the global food, healthcare and DIY sectors, has been working with the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) at The Manufacturing Institute to boost productivity.

One of the major projects they jointly tackled was speeding up manufacture of Packaging Automation's new generation Vision 400 machine.

This began with a major rethink of how the whole sourcing and build process was managed – identifying that by breaking down the build into discrete sub assemblies they could plan component manufacture, labour requirements and bought out parts deliveries just in time to support a smoothly sequenced modular build.

As well as speeding up manufacture from 9 weeks to just 13 days and gaining four days additional capacity in the machine shop, this approach also relieved cash flow as the company ordered components and materials on a just in time basis, rather than holding them as £100,000 worth of stock.

The new assembly methods have been captured in a detailed build manual and the same approach is now being applied to the company's other key machinery products.

The traffic light, or Andon system, was introduced to identify the root of production problems and design them out. Traditionally, assembly teams rectified most build problems themselves as this was perceived as quicker and less disruptive. It also meant that issues remained hidden and the same problems occurred repeatedly.

The Andon system, which is used in automotive industry, shows a green beacon light when production is running perfectly. This is switched to red if the assembly team encounters a problem signalling an immediate request for help from the team leader to address the issue and agree a course of action, then turning the signal to orange to indicate action underway. Once the problem is fully resolved the light is switched back to green. Downtime is automatically recorded and the issues can then be analysed and countermeasures discussed and applied.

An added bonus for Packaging Automation is that the company designed and built its own Andon System which it plans to take to manufacture on a commercial basis.

The company, which employs 100 people at its Knutsford site, first worked with MAS in 2006 to improve productivity and introduce 5S good housekeeping measures in the tooling area. This led to reduced production lead times and better labour productivity, enabling the company to redeploy staff to new product areas.

With current help from MAS the company has now re-energised its 5S housekeeping activity and extended it across the entire factory – with volunteer champions leading the improvements and ensuring their sustainability.

Mick Davis, general manager for Packaging Automation, said: “By challenging traditional methodologies and setting out clear standards and protocols for the way we do things our productivity has improved, but we are also raising quality and staff morale, through involving everybody in the improvements.”

MAS Practitioner Stuart Mitton added: “Part of our work has included training and coaching staff in lean manufacturing techniques and the Packaging Automation team has the dynamism to take the improvements much further. By applying the new assembly methods used on the Vision 400 to other product areas, it will gain powerful competitive advantage globally.”

North West manufacturing companies of all sizes can benefit from an annual funded performance review visit by MAS. For further details contact MAS NW on 0800 093 9077, www.mas-nw.co.uk

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