Six Sigma Case Study
Productivity Improvement for Steel Hardware

This Six Sigma case study looks at how we increased productivity for a steel hardware manufacturing company. Capacity was increased with no extra investment.

The Problem

In this six sigma case study, we look at a steel hardware manufacturer which was already doing well. The biggest problem they had was that there were too many orders!

The factory was already running 24/7 and they were still falling behind. Worse, orders had to be turned down. This prompted some customers to move to the competition.

The Method

A team of shop floor workers and supervisors was formed to find ways to improve productivity and increase capacity.

The team was asked to conduct studies on cycle times, changeover times, as well as WIP levels.

The results of all the studies along with processes and flow were mapped out on a value stream map. This made it very easy to identify where the bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement were.

From the map, it could be seen that the product flow of the factory was not ideal. The layout was too process oriented rather than product oriented. For example, all cutting machines were in one area, all press machines were in another area, and the assembly area was way out at the other end of the factory. This created huge WIP and forklifts were heavily relied on to move items from one process to another.

Also, some critical processes had very large changeover times. Some taking over 4 hours.

A new layout was created for the factory which encouraged better product flow. Forklifts were now not required. Product was transported from one process to another in small trolleys - this also kept the batch sizes and WIP small. More efficient work cells were created. For example, now one operator could control 3 drilling machines instead of the previous 3 operators.

Changeover times were greatly reduced. Die trolleys were modified. Fasteners were used instead of bolts wherever possible. Gridlines and grooves were drawn on dies for quick installation. Dies were prepared in front of the machine before the machine even stopped.

The Result

Capacity and productivity increased by close to 25%. The factory is now able to work 6 days per week without turning down any orders.

--End of Six Sigma Case Study--

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