Scotsman Cuts Lead Times with Leantek

The Lean Tek products have enabled Scotsman to create a lean manufacturing environment that has delivered real performance improvement to their business

Adopting lean manufacturing techniques supported by modular handling and storage equipment from The Tube and Bracket Company is helping leading drink cooling and dispense equipment supplier Scotsman Beverage Systems to reduce product lead times from six to two weeks. The company has also reduced lineside component stock levels by 85 per cent and factory downtime by 75 per cent while productivity has increased by more than 25 per cent. The Tube and Bracket Company supplied a number of live racking and workbench units created using the modular Lean Tek system for use in a new lean manufacturing production cell at the Scotsman Beverage Systems factory in Halesowen.

“The Lean Tek products have enabled us to create a lean manufacturing environment that has delivered real performance improvement to the business,” says Khalid Said, Process Engineer at Scotsman Beverage Systems who was responsible for the project to introduce lean manufacturing. “The Tube and Bracket Company worked with us to implement an effective solution to our requirements.”

Scotsman Beverage Systems is one of Europe’s leading suppliers of drink cooling and dispense equipment and part of Enodis plc, a global player in the food services and food retail equipment markets with 27 factories in eight countries and a large portfolio of premium brands. The company’s factory at Halesowen manufactures drink cooling and dispense equipment including bespoke and generic beer cooler/carbonators, soft drink dispense heads and towers, fonts, beer engines and a range of spares and accessories for major soft drinks and brewing companies.

Continued growth of the business and the need to integrate production being transferred from a German factory had placed pressure on the manufacturing facilities. The company needed to reduce delivery times, increase capacity and introduce more product lines. Its conventional batch and queue production system had created inflexibility which led to extended product lead times, too much stock being tied up as work in progress and finished items awaiting delivery to customers. It recognised that adopting just-in-time component supply and lean manufacturing principles would help alleviate these problems and deliver performance improvement.

“We need to be efficient and competitive so that we earn money as soon as we have spent it,” says Khalid Said. “We decided to adopt a system where we only build what we need so that we could shorten production times and reduce the inventory tied up in the process.”

One of the busiest lines in the factory was producing 100 different products using a batch and queue system. This had been adequate in the past but the increasing demand for greater efficiency and responsiveness meant that it was no longer providing the best solution. Batch production is more efficient when the number of items being produced is larger and changes in production are relatively infrequent, both of which are the antithesis of lean manufacturing.

Khalid Said demonstrated the lean manufacturing concept to the company’s directors by building two live racks for use on an existing production line. In September 2004 the company began a programme to introduce just-in-time supply throughout the factory. Its engineers attended a Six Sigma course to learn more about lean manufacturing and were soon streamlining the existing production lines.

“Our target was to reduce finished goods lead times from six to two weeks for our regular products which we call runners,” says Khalid Said. “Other products are built to order and we wanted to reduce the lead times for these from ten to four weeks.”

The company identified an underutilised area of the factory, known as Unit 13, where it could implement a new lean manufacturing environment and relocate production of a number of existing products including coolers. The new Unit 13 has been configured with four separate tracks or cells covering different product groups selected by product type and commonality of components. This ensures that changes to production schedules can be implemented quickly and easily because assembly staff are familiar with the product types and components are readily available.

Lean manufacturing delivers the best performance improvement when the production environment is planned and configured as a whole. It is key to ensure that handling and storage equipment serves rather than restricts the overall process. Khalid Said was familiar with the Lean Tek system and asked The Tube & Bracket Company’s to assess the storage and handling requirement and help develop a solution for Unit 13. The Lean Tek system comprises an extensive range of standard components including steel tubing, brackets and wheels that can be assembled into modular storage and handling solutions exactly matched to the process requirement. Each track in Unit 13 incorporates a number of installations built using these components including gravity fed live storage racking and workbenches.

“The combination of Lean Tek and lean manufacturing helps with cost reduction by supporting flexibility, with quality by enabling better working practices, and with delivery by allowing us to be more responsive to customer demands,” says Khalid Said. “It is also ergonomic and good for health because staff can see what they are doing and there is no need to stand items on the floor.”

The live racking was designed with the correct dimensions to hold the right number of component bins so that they whole installation occupies the space – no more, no less – to fulfil the requirement. The component bins are easily accessible from the working area but are replenished from the opposite face outside the cell to avoid any disruption to ongoing production. The open design of the racking also allows staff to see when any bin is low on stock and requires replenishment.

The workbenches have been also designed with the correct dimensions for the type of products being assembled. The specified racks were assembled at The Tube and Bracket Company’s workshops in Banbury before delivery to Halesowen. All components are reusable and the modular nature of Lean Tek ensures that future modifications can be achieved on site by Scotsman Beverage System engineers using basic tools such as a screwdriver, spanner and hacksaw.

“This flexibility is a major benefit because we can modify the handling and storage for the working area whenever we want,” says Khalid Said. “If we had welded racking we would have to cut and re-weld which can be very expensive and time consuming.”

To complete the configuration of Unit 13 four steel presses were moved from elsewhere in the factory. Each press serves a single track to make components on a just-in-time basis whenever they are needed and which can be supplied to the lineside with minimal handling.

The performance improvement in the factory has been dramatic. The flexibility and efficiency enabled by the lean manufacturing in conjunction with effective storage and handling using the Lean Tek system have helped streamline production and eliminate potential bottlenecks and capacity problems. Production downtime has been reduced by 75 per cent and productivity has increased by 25 per cent.

The changes have also allowed the volume of components held at the lineside to be reduced from three weeks’ worth of production to just two days, equivalent to an 85 per cent decrease. This has saved money and released valuable floor space for production and other value added tasks. It has been achieved by introducing a two-bin Kanban supply system, one bin in the live racking at the lineside and the other in a small storage area on the edge of the cell. Each bin holds enough components for a day of production. When the bin in the live racking is empty it is sent to the warehouse for refilling while a full one is brought over from the storage area. The two bins are rotated in this continuous supply process that is managed by a person known as the “spider” (because they need many hands).

Another major change has been the elimination of the batch and queue system. Now a product can be introduced to the production line whenever the company likes because the required tooling and components are always close to hand. This has increased flexibility and reduced the amount of work in progress because once an item enters the process it will only leave as a finished product. Scotsman Beverage Systems estimates that unscheduled factory downtime caused by production bottlenecks or lack of components has been reduced by 75 per cent since the start of the lean manufacturing programme while productivity has risen by around 25 per cent.

“We are on target to meet our objectives for reducing lead times and stock held,” says Khalid Said. “We will be introducing further improvements in the future and are looking to reduce component stock levels to just one day.”