Syn Strand Goes Lean to Increase Capacity and Improve Quality

Client Profile:
Dorchester County – Located in Summerville, SC, Syn Strand, Inc, provides technical monofilament solutions to Voith Paper Fabrics exclusively for paper machine clothing and additional monofilament products externally to other industrialized end-use customers.

Established in 1987 as part of the SC APA PLC group, Syn Strand joined Voith AG, a leader in the global paper industry, in 1999 when it purchased Scapa. Syn Strand is the only monofilament plant within the Voith group. With an annual capacity of nearly 3,000,000 kilograms, Syn Strand is a global supplier of monofilaments for the manufacture of forming, press and dryer fabrics.

The Syn Strand plant is 24 years old with a current square footage of about 100k square-feet. Additions have included a warehouse and an R&D lab. The facility houses seven extrusion lines, a cable coating line, an R&D lab line and four membrane makers. The plant typically runs at 95 percent capacity and operates on a two-shift, seven-day schedule.

Syn Strand has over $30 million in annual sales. Almost 98 percent of current production is sold to internal customers with about 2 percent sold to external customers at higher margins. Most production (92 percent) is extrude-and-ship with just 8 percent of production requiring twisting. Since most customers are internal, repeat business is high with very little sales or marketing necessary. The plant employs about 62 people with most working 4-day12-hour shifts.

During the SCMEP Competitiveness Review, the management team was asked what they would like to see happen to improve the plant’s competitive position. Some of their concerns included:

  • Improved accuracy of order entry — problem areas include insufficient and incomplete information along with inattention to details.
  • Improved product realization flow.
  • Established systems with measurable inputs and daily reports for feedback.
  • Orders processed within 72 hours after receipt.
  • Greater capacity availability for meeting production schedules.
  • Non-measured quality issues.

Changeovers were listed as the number one cause for machine downtime, and breakdowns were listed as the number two cause. Changeovers took 3 hours for a simple changeover and up to 12 hours for a major changeover involving an equipment change. Machine changeovers were tracked manually. The plant did not track machine utilization or efficiency, and the most common reason for missing ship dates was machine capacity constraints.

SC MEP established several opportunities for making major changes in capacity and quality. One recommendation was that Syn Strand maintain its continuous improvement initiatives in the area of extruder changeover time reduction. At the time of the assessment, it took up to four hours to complete a full changeover on an extruder, and a high level of scrap was created. A current Six Sigma Greenbelt study is focusing on these changeovers.

SCMEP also recommended that key Syn Strand individuals be trained in the theory and application of Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED) for several reasons. By deploying these tools and techniques and reducing extruder changeovers,

  • Production capacity can be increased.
  • Overall manufacturing flexibility and reactivity can be enhanced.
  • Scrap created during changeovers can be reduced.

This initiative will provide increased flexibility and capacity – a critical need given the manufacturing trend of smaller orders/shorter runs and increased product diversity. A SMED implementation is scheduled soon. Another SC MEP recommendation was that Syn Strand utilize a lean expert to Value Stream Map the up-front process to assist in developing an implementation master plan. Projects initiated to achieve this transformation included training in Lean 101, Value Stream Mapping and a 5S Kaizen event.

A major impact was realized in the Syn Strand mezzanine area. A large amount of raw materials were stored in this area without any type of organization. Spare parts, raw materials and pellets for different extruders were randomly placed throughout the mezzanine. With SC MEP’s assistance and hands-on support, Syn Strand began implementing a 5S program. The company established a staging area downstairs and only placed materials ready to be run on the mezzanine. Appropriate pellets were placed beside each different extrusion line; excess parts and raw materials were removed.

The time savings produced by these changes resulted in impressive lead time reductions and increased throughput. Similar results were obtained by reorganizing storeroom setups in which maintenance parts were separated from regular, consumable and production parts. Here are some specific achievements resulting from the Lean initiative:

  • Reduced walking time from 100 feet to 3 feet to complete set-up, a reduction of 97 percent.
  • Reduced changeover time by 12 percent, resulting in savings of $40,000.
  • Improved quality in extruder set-up, resulting in savings of $10,000 per each use of non-matched pellets.
  • Realized $30,000 in cost savings
  • Increased sales by $500,000
  • Increased throughput by 15,000 pounds a month.

“SCMEP’s impact at our facility has been to solidify our continuous improvement program and provide the structure necessary to keep it on track. They were the ones to jumpstart our quality management improvement initiative. Whether we’re working with SCMEP or another contractor, I know that I can call SCMEP in at any time to assist us. One major difference I’ve noticed is in the way that our company culture has changed to one with a quality focus. Our workforce comes in every day ready to look for opportunities for continuous improvement. Thanks to SCMEP, Syn Strand is committed and ready to deliver leading technologies and value to our customers.” – Bart Burford, Operations Manager

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