Oxford Holt & Company

Line balancing

The client is part of a large privately owned group.  They had recently opened a new production facility and invested upwards of £12m in plant and machinery - the largest factory of its kind in the UK.

The manufacturing process consisted of several work centres, linked by conveyers.  Essentially, this was a production line where components and raw materials were fed onto the line and finished products came off the end.  Site Management wished to optimise the performance of the line and we were asked to carry out a line balancing exercise.  Our objectives were to:

  • Calculate the optimum speed of the line for the various products
  • Highlight areas where bottlenecks were present and suggest how they could be removed
  • Recommend the correct manning levels
  • Devise KPI's for costing and planning purposes

We approached the project by undertaking a series of time studies covering all the operations, both manual and machine controlled.  The data was then analysed and spreadsheets derived that were compatible with in-house systems.  We subsequently trained in-house staff in the use of our data and assisted them with the build-up of their product costings.

The line balancing project was delivered on time and within budget.  Savings resulted from higher output of around 10-15% with the same manpower, equating to c£35,000 per annum.

Capacity planning

The warehouse and despatch fuction at this medium-sized engineering company had become a major bottleneck.  The level of service was suffering and Departmental Management were being pressured by the Board to resolve the situation in the near future. 

Management had identified a number of problems, mainly relating to capacity planning and the control of manpower levels, but did not have the expertise or the opportunity to improve matters.  Initial fact finding revealed:

  • The staff claimed that extra manpower was required - Management disagreed!
  • Overtime and weekend working was occurring on a regular basis
  • Accuracy and quality of work had deteriorated
  • Morale was extremely low and there was a threat of "working to rule"

We were asked to carry out an investigation into how time was being spent and to recommend upon staffing levels and departmental capacity.  Also, to highlight where the processes and operations could be improved.

To achieve our objectives we conducted an activity sampling exercise covering a complete shift for the entire completent.  This defined the manpower levels for the various delivery volumes and enabled Management to plan resources accordingly.  The exercise also helped us to highlight any waste within the processes.

The project yeiled labour savings of around 15% due to enhanced capacity planning, with a further increase in productivity of 10% as a result of improved ways of working.  A total productivity gain of 25% plus a dramatic improvement in industrial relations.

Work measurement

The client, a medium-sized furniture company, was in the process of upgrading their MRP11 package and required a series of standard job times for all operations to provide some of the information for their new computer system. 

In addition, the times were required for a number of other business functions that had been neglected over the years to be similarly improved.  Including:

- Estimating and pricing     - Manpower planning     - KPI's

Although the project was of a variable nature, we were able to able to work on a fixed-fee basis and to provide the client with a complete data base of standard times covering setting-up, production and all other ancillary duties.  Upon completion, in-house staff were instructed in the use of the data and how to maintain the integrity of times in the future. 

Although not specifically part of the terms of reference, we identified a number of improvements in working methods that meant the project was fully self-financing, with a pay-back of just three months

Training and use of KPI's

Our client is a FTSE 250 plc with operations throughout the World.

The success of the company meant that the main UK manufacturing facility had become stretched almost to breaking point.  Although the group had adopted Lean principles, labour productivity was mediocre at best.  In some areas it could be described as poor.  Also, there was no reliable data available with which to monitor and control the normal production routines.  The company was lacking in several key areas:

  • There were no up-to-date KPI's to control productivity levels
  • Product costing and production planning was based on the same inaccurate data
  • Line balancing was required

In addition, the problem had remained for several years and in-house staff did not have the expertise to improve matters.  Sales volumes were expected to rise by a further 20% and this had to be produced in a plant that was at full capacity.

We were asked to train a number of staff in the rudiments of Lean, plus the derivation and application of time standards.  The training courses were a combination of theory and practical, culminating in a completed project by the team in a genuine production situation. 

The project was undertaken on a flow-line that had been underperforming for many years and had become a bottleneck.  With regard to the outcome, the line was balanced, working methods improved and KPI's were introduced.   The result was an increase in productivity of 43% and a pay-back on the project fees of 8:1.