Stroud partnered with a leading national roaster, manufacturer, wholesaler, and distributor of high-quality branded and private label coffees. The goal was to quickly reduce Saturday overtime without any added capital investment or automation.
America runs on lots of different types of coffee! This was quickly apparent at a large coffee manufacturing facility which imports beans from all over the world and delivers freshly roasted coffee to millions of Americans.
Over the past year, production demand had been growing. Amidst the increasing number of orders, the plant seemed to be facing unavoidable challenges every week– a broken grinder, operators calling in sick, severe weather– which required the plant to operate with overtime hours on Saturdays. At first it seemed like hundreds of problems needed to be solved to avoid this. Stroud was called in to support an improvement team tasked with tackling this seemingly impossible challenge to eliminate Saturday overtime.
One of the top priorities was improving a packaging line that produced 25% of the plant’s volume. This line was mostly manual – operators had to move heavy bags of coffee by hand. At first glance, it seemed that the line was running as fast as was humanly possible. Leadership feared the next step would require investing in another packaging line, or automation, both of which were costly and unpopular.
To begin improving, the team needed the facts on the ground so they gathered stop watches, clipboards, and went out to the floor. What did they find? Occasionally, the line went down for a mechanical issue or an upstream delay. However, after looking at all the data collected, they concluded that these downtime problems were just highly visible distractions concealing the most valuable opportunity: increasing the packaging line’s speed.
Contrary to previous assumptions about the machines outpacing the human operators, the investigation revealed that the operators were waiting over 15 seconds out of each minute-long cycle for the sealing machine. With this new insight, the team focused resources on sealing the coffee bags faster. With input from both maintenance mechanics and the quality department, the team reexamined the sealing machine’s programming, which had not been altered in many years. The team successfully eliminated unnecessary pauses, improved the airflow process, and ultimately, sealed the coffee much faster. Within 2 weeks, the team had enabled the line to run 25% faster while delivering the same top quality coffee.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars were saved annually in Saturday overtime costs. Employees appreciated having the full weekends off, and there was more time available for preventative maintenance.
Via a series of such targeted improvement projects, the facility achieved its performance goals with no automation, no capital investment, and no chasing thousands of different problems! The plant ended up with more coffee and less Saturday overtime.
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