The final OpExChange plant visit for 2021 took place at Sulzer Pumps in Easley, SC. Sulzer shared their recently implemented digital platform for work instructions along with an in-depth tour of their factory. Thomas Holcombe is their Managing Director and hosted the event.
Value Stream Manger, Robert Yoder, joined in the discussions and assisted with the plant tour. Thirteen organizations from across South Carolina participated in this benchmarking event.
Sulzer is a multinational company with 15,000 employees and $3.3 billion in sales. The Easley factory is 85K ft2 with one hundred associates on site. They produce approximately 1,700 vertical and submersible pumps annually primarily for industrial, clean water, and municipal applications. Currently, they operate on one shift (four 10-hour days). Daily milk-runs are made with their partner, Sunland Logistics (also an OpExChange member), where they have about 60K ft2 of dedicated storage. Sulzer has been an OpExChange member for nearly eight years.
Fill the Factory – “5 by 25”
A strategic goal for the factory is to achieve a fully burdened plant. Their objective is to achieve 5,000 pumps annually by 2025. In deploying this objective, the leadership team tasked themselves to answer this question:
“What could we do to improve customer loyalty while enabling and empowering our team?”
The prior situation at the Easley plant exhibited several similarities to other South Carolina factories. The workforce was highly tenured with a high dependency on tribal knowledge. Work instructions were lacking in detail, and the training program was unstructured, relying heavily upon on-the-job training.
The team utilized results from both monthly employee pulse surveys and customer net promoter scores to guide their direction. This information indicated they needed to improve:
- Training of employees
- Delivering information to associates
- Efficiency of their operations
Dozuki Digital Platform
Sulzer realized that a transformation of their work instructions was essential to address their needs. They needed a system that would provide “YouTube-like” learning that would dispel tribal knowledge while also capturing key details of the process. They laid out the system requirements and the “nice-to-haves” and created a short-list of digital platform providers. They found two that equally met their requirements but chose Dozuki for implementation. Dozuki provided a scalable solution that greatly minimized initial cost.
The Dozuki implementation at Sulzer is now about 50% complete. Each employee has their own tablet computer which they store and charge in a locker overnight. Large touch-screen displays are in the work-centers on the shop floor for group meetings and trainings.
A key improvement that comes with this system is the enablement of employees to offer suggestions for improvement. Each work instruction concludes with “any errors or ideas for improvement should be submitted via comments.” Thomas added that this is the “heart of the system” that enables engagement and continuous improvement. He provided an example where one employee suggested an improvement that proposed a quick visual queue for pallet stacking. This simple implementation reduced processing time and increased efficiency. Year-to-date, they have received seventy-five opportunities for improvement.
Early indications are showing success from this digitization effort. Employee pulse survey results improved, net promoter scores from customers significantly increased, and customer complaints have dropped.
Thomas and Robert provided a very open plant-tour of their operations where they shared examples of their assembly, paint, and testing operations. The visit concluded with a peer discussion from observations from the tour along with suggestions for improvement. All OpExChange members received a summary of the visit including pictures and videos.
About the OpExChange
The OpExChange is a peer-to-peer network of companies in South Carolina known for generating data-driven success for members through benchmarking and best practices sharing. Companies host events and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to South Carolina companies that provides access to others who are on similar improvement journeys. If you are interested in joining, contact Mike Demos (Mike@OpExChange.com ) or visit the OpExChange website to see current companies: https://www.scmep-online.org/pages/memberlisting
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