Questech Metals Celebrates Casting Machine Waste Reduction
Product: Decorative Tiles
Number of Employees: 50
Years in Business: 14
Location: Rutland & Middlebury, VT
Questech Metals manufactures a highly desirable line of specialized decorative metallic tile. Initial manufacturing involved mixing and hand pouring in batches, but as the business grew they invested in an automated casting machine. VMEC was asked to assist in reducing the start-up time for the equipment, but upon analysis a significant and unexpected impact was discovered.
Value Stream Mapping of the shop floor identified a major bottleneck to overall production capacity. As a result of the set up reduction effort, normal start up times were reduced to a predictable time of less than 30 minutes. However, an even greater benefit was realized as a result of examining materials usage. As part of the value stream mapping at the facility, inventory amounts were recorded for the metals, resin, and flushing agent used in a typical day. Keeping the same measures in mind, materials use during shutdown and changeovers became an issue. By instituting standardized work procedures and reducing the set up time, materials usage dropped dramatically. In addition, the employees started to think about how they would redesign the machines with waste reduction as a goal. These ideas are incorporated whenever possible into the existing equipment, or kept as ideas for future machine design.
With little or no investment, start up time was reduced 50-75% and the overall materials cost associated with shutdown and changeovers dropped 60%. This is a reduction in landfill refuse and a savings of approximately $200 per day in raw materials. The largest savings was a drop in the usage of flushing agent, which went from a cost of $900 per week to less than $100. This represents the total cradle to grave cost, because the flushing agent ends up being a hazardous material. The company is thrilled to be reducing the amount of hazardous material disposal, not only for its financial benefits, but also because it reduces the administrative burden and improves its environmental performance.