Increases in Automation and Capacity Are Only the Start of Manufacturing Enhancements
More companies are under pressure to make changes to improve operations due to increasing raw material costs, environmental regulations and technological advances. Chemstar is no exception. Over the last year we have been implementing changes to our production facilities to add capacity and streamline efficiencies to overcome these challenges.
With a surgical approach to improving our facilities we have been focused on reducing lead times, achieving more predictability and meticulously improving quality. Moving closer to these goals has required new production equipment and maintenance management systems put into place, but that is just a brief overview of the exciting and innovative changes that are underway. Here is more detail on what’s happening in each of our facilities:
We’re currently in the throes of a major upgrade to increase drying capacity by 40-50%. Over the past year we’ve installed new equipment for our dryer, mixing and grinding processes, in addition to running our previous dryers and mixers. Along with increased capacity, the new equipment comes complete with programmable logic controllers and digital reporting capabilities that allow us to better understand and manage our drying processes and improve quality controls. By the end of July we will have tested several different products at various speeds to ensure peak operation performance.
Another major initiative over the past four months has been an intense focus on quality improvements. This includes ongoing S88 batch control efforts and strategically organizing our engineering staff to take advantage of opportunities to improve quality and consistency. We’re also able to use data more effectively to determine process variables and narrow production variability.
Carlton is going through automation upgrades as well. We just completed a fully automated raw starch storage area, complete with programmable logic controllers and a new maintenance management system. By automating many of our processes, we’ve been able to reduce make-ready times by up to 10%. As we increase our automation processes we expect to increase that percentage significantly in the coming months. Production will continue to improve due to our increased ability to capture and analyze data such as start and stop times, temperature readings and batch times in real-time.
Maintenance management has been the focus of the McPherson facility for the past year but has really taken hold in the past six months. We have inventoried and created a hierarchy of all equipment at the plant (and all other plants). Our maintenance management system allows us to more closely monitor our equipment, including computer-based inspection routes, temperatures and pressure. We can now predict when equipment will need maintenance and when it will wear out. This allows us to reduce variability and increase the reliability of production equipment and overall product quality.
Maintenance operation managers are crucial to implementing this process which allows our engineers to focus on the big picture tasks of improving efficiency and product quality. This is an ongoing process and will continue to improve our equipment lifespan and operational efficiencies.
Chemstar continues to grow with the help from its people
This is an exciting time for Chemstar and our customers as we continue to deliver on our commitment of continuous improvement. We’ve also made personnel changes and are providing them the tools and support to be more successful. If you would like to learn more about our efforts in automating our processes, increasing capacity and improving efficiency, please feel free to contact me.