OSD manufacturing is traditionally a slow, dusty operation. In the past, the high cost of equipment meant that more focus was put on initial capital expenditures than operational ones. With increased pressure to produce more, faster, and with reduced overhead, many are looking to continuous manufacturing — another large capital expenditure — for help. But in many cases, streamlining existing operations has a lower cost and large gains.
IBCs of WIP lining the corridors. Operators traveling long distances to accomplish routine process steps. Rooms closed off and unusable for extensive cleaning periods. The signs of excess capacity are diverse and ubiquitous. Where to start?
When a site wants to increase process efficiency, the first step is to understand what is going on. Process modeling is a great way to use computing power to understand many parallel operations. Software like SuperPro can help line up dependent operations, define the tightest production schedule possible, and identify how many operators actually need to be working at once. It can also identify bottlenecks — the unit operation that is tying up resources and forcing the entire production train to wait. Buying one extra piece of equipment may be the only thing required to free up production capacity.
Once scheduling is optimized, it’s time to look at updating the unit operations themselves for improvement. Can cleaning time be reduced by enclosing dusty operations? Can bulk be more efficiently handled with a single IBC instead of multiple drums? Or can you skip that material handling entirely by using gravity transfer, dense-phase pneumatic transfer, or some other innovative approach? Two powder transfers can be eliminated entirely by replacing a V-blender or double-cone blender with a bin blender. (All tumble blenders are SUPAC equivalents, and there is minimal regulatory paperwork required to switch from one to the other.)
Beyond the overall production schedule and the individual unit operations, there is still a goldmine of incremental improvements to be made through the magic of OI (operations improvement). Some of the lean manufacturing tools available to hone efficiencies are spaghetti diagrams, 5S, and SMED, to name a few. At this level, engaging the operators for ideas on how to improve their work processes is highly beneficial. For example, moving equipment for better adjacencies or providing duplicate sets of tools can reduce the amount of time operators require to complete their tasks.
There are many operational efficiency improvements — both small and large — that are available to be made in almost any facility. Before looking to large capital upgrades, it could make sense to maximize the efficiencies of current operations using low-cost tools and process modifications.
(Source: IPS – Integrated Project Services, LLC)