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Accenture helped this global steel manufacturer use Six Sigma techniques to identify 12 projects to reduce cycle time at one of its steel mills.
Within two weeks, the joint team had implemented four quick wins in a rapid improvement event that would yield estimated benefits of US$6 million.
The client is an international global manufacturer of flat rolled sheet, which is used in the appliance, automobile and construction markets.
Given strong market demand, the steel producer was looking for every opportunity to improve throughput and reliability of its primary steel-making assets. A primary unit was deemed to be a “bottleneck,” and cycle time improvement would be a challenge. The company sought outside assistance to articulate the process in a methodical way and identify rapid solutions to reduce cycle time.
For help, the client turned to Accenture. Several factors influenced the company’s decision. Accenture had background on the problem under discussion from another plant and had acquired deep knowledge of steel-making processes. Most importantly, Accenture had a wide range of process-improvement assets that could be adapted to speed delivery of a solution.
Several operating conditions presented initial barriers, including the process in question being shut down temporarily, which prevented Accenture from directly observing the workflows in question. In addition, key mill floor operators were unavailable, thereby limiting insights of the factors causing delays.
Accenture surmounted these barriers, however, by looking deeper into the organization and drawing on additional resources. Accenture helped form a rapid improvement project team that included client personnel from operations, maintenance, research and development and IT systems. As a result, the project team had the knowledge and resources to fully understand the process and map the workflow from start to finish.
Once the production flow was mapped into the Lean Six Sigma Value Stream format, project team members could easily see handoffs, time delays, rework loops and opportunities to improve the process. A brainstorming activity resulted in 19 ideas to reduce cycle time along with a future-state process.
Team members compared the 19 suggested projects in terms of expected benefits versus required effort. Targeting the most promising, they selected 12 projects, four of which were determined to be “quick wins.”
At the start of the project, one of the client leaders remarked, “Saving even one minute during the process would be a victory.” Accenture helped the project team develop action plans for four quick-win improvements that reduced cycle time by 3.8 minutes. The results were achieved shortly after the conclusion of the two week rapid improvement event.
Extrapolating accelerated cycle time shows that nearly 150,000 more tons of steel could be produced at this facility with ideas generated during the two-week rapid improvement event. The increased revenue potential for the plant, due to implementation of these improvements, is estimated at US$6 million per year.
The keys to the success of the project were threefold:
Project team members knew the manufacturing process being examined well.
Team members were in decision-making roles.
The plant manager made this project his top priority and insisted the same from his organization.
In addition, data was made readily available throughout the project to support the diagnosis and track results.
The project team also identified seven capital-dependent projects to reduce cycle time by another 1.75 minutes, and these will be considered in the next capital-planning cycle.
The success of the project demonstrated to the client the high value of rapid improvement events: a quick way to achieve results, inspire employees and make progress toward high performance.
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