Metal fabrication has an image problem. The work of metal machining is often synonymous with the three Ds: dark, dirty and dangerous. But walking through the metal fabrication department at Raytheon Integrated Air Defense Centers facility in Andover, Mass., one is struck by the bright, spacious layout and the lack of fumes in the air.
This was made possible through a dramatic culture change, implemented over the last two years, in which Raytheon tapped the experience of its staff and made dramatic improvements in processing.
Broken up into six different cells, each team would focus on one element, ranging from work process optimization, to safety or set-up reduction.
That type of engagement had really been missing from here and it was a big piece of the puzzle, says Michael Furey, maintenance manager at Raytheons Andover facility, a 2010 IndustryWeek Best Plants winner. We had to tap into that tribal knowledge. A lot of our workforce here is 58 years old or older.
At one of the first kaizens, the focus was on reducing large sources of waste. Almost instantly, everyone thought of the sheer time and resources that went into setting up the machinery for a job. According to Furey, set-up times averaged anywhere from eight to 16 hours.
It was constantly breaking down, setting up, breaking down, setting up, says Furey. Its astounding how much time was wasted. So we gathered everyone together and asked how they individually went about setting up their jobs and what we could do to reduce those times.
The metal fab department began standardizing its fixturing process, using best practices and establishing a library thats computerized within the machining system. Over the last two years, there has been a 50% reduction in changeover times for major equipment.
Of equal significance, the group had to address its growing waste issue. Coolant for machine tools was creating thousands upon thousands of gallons of waste. Oils such as hydraulics and way lubes, which drip into the coolant, can create bacteria that turns into sharp fumes.
The team members researched options both in and outside the company to address the issue and found that a product had recently reached the market called coalescer, which filters tramp oils out of coolant.
On a bi-weekly basis, we were dumping our coolant tanks, which is anywhere from 100 gallons to 250 gallons, says Furey. That would cause about two hours to 16 hours of downtime, depending on the size of the tank.
Instead, using the coalescer, waste is collected into a bottle the size of a household detergent container, which only needs to be changed every six months. Over the last three years, Raytheons Andover facility has seen a 44% reduction in hazardous materials. The results have had such a profound impact, in terms of reductions in waste and department cleanliness, that other Raytheon facilities are following suit.
You really have to tap into the knowledge of your workers to make any kind of significant, long-term change, says Furey. But you look around here and this doesnt look like a lot of metal fabs. Weve saved time and taken out a ton of waste.