Case Study: How Lean Six Sigma Helped Transform One Manufacturing FacilityWe’ve talked a lot about the benefits of Lean Six Sigma and the many different applications in which it can be used, from helping shape city government processes to managing healthcare services and everything in between. No matter the application, the goal is always the same: Improve operations to increase efficiency and eliminate waste.

Here’s a look at how our team helped an ammunition plant apply the principles of Lean Six Sigma to transform their new manufacturing plant into a lean, efficient facility.

Focus on Process First

Understanding how an existing manufacturing process works is often the first step in applying Lean Six Sigma to a project. During our evaluation, we uncovered a number of opportunities to increase efficiencies within the plant.

The original plan called for organizing the plant by equipment type — keeping the shell-case machines in one area, the gunpowder equipment in another and the bullet-installation machines someplace else. Not a bad idea, but this approach required extra space and a lot of unnecessary movement.

Instead, we looked at the sequencing of the cartridge-manufacturing process, which helped determine how the machines could be connected to create a single-piece flow. Rather than clustering machines by type, it made more sense to implement a cellular concept, where cells of four machines are linked to produce a complete cartridge.

The number of cells depended on the plant’s ammunition production target. For example, if the daily output of the plant were estimated at 100,000 cartridges, we would design the cell to produce 5,000 cartridges and then replicate that 20 times. That process reduced the amount of materials moving through the building and required less aisle space.

One of the most common mistakes we see is designing a building first and trying to make a process fit. Our team helped the client switch the perspective — improving the manufacturing process first and then designing a building to accommodate ideal processes.

The Result: Cost Savings and Increased Efficiency

By working closely with the client to understand the operation’s unique processes, the team developed a more efficient workflow that reduced the facility footprint by 10 percent, saving millions of dollars in upfront construction costs. The plant overall became more efficient at the same time.

By applying the principles of Lean Six Sigma, we can take a good idea and make it great by helping shape the process and shifting the focus on what really matters: improving your bottom line.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of implementing process improvement programs like Lean Six Sigma to enhance your business operations, we should talk. Feel free to comment or below or reach out on LinkedIn.

Chris Williams is a business development and project manager at Burns & McDonnell specializing in Lean manufacturing. He has more than 10 years of experience applying Lean Six Sigma principles and has a Master Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. Want to learn more? Connect with Chris on LinkedIn.

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