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PLANT

Lean Assessment : Making the most of time and space


December 5, 2008
by Corinne Lynds, senior Editor

An oil removal filter vessel used in heavy oil production is loaded onto a truck for shipment.

Photo: Plains Fabrication & Supply

Three years ago, Chester Nagy was facing a number of challenges. “Our factory was very old, with very old-school ways of doing things,” says the president of Plains Fabrication & Supply, a Calgary-based steel fabrication company. It was struggling with labour shortages, cash-flow issues and organizational challenges that were crippling the bottom line. “I wanted to make some changes but wasn’t sure where to begin.”

Nagy turned to the Alberta government’s lean assessment program, which helped kick-start his plant’s productivity improvements. Now the company is breaking ground on a new, state-of-the-art manufacturing operation to produce sweetener packages, heaters, separators, pressure vessels, skid packages and other custom fabrication.

He heard about the program offering to do free lean assessments for local businesses from a competitor, and was intrigued. He contacted Clif Skrypnyk, director of manufacturing systems at Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry, and set up a preliminary meeting.

“Clif came down and we discussed what I wanted to do, and he explained all about what lean is,” says Nagy. “It turns out this was exactly what I was looking for, I just didn’t know what to call it, or how to go about it.”

Plains Fabrication & Supply soon arranged for Skrypnyk to come back and complete the lean assessment. “It takes roughly four hours,” he explains. “First we spend a half hour or so meeting with senior management, then we spend one and a half to two hours doing a walk about at the plant to look for potential areas of improvement. After that we sit down with senior management and give them our recommendations.”

How lean helped
Clif Skrypnyk, director manufacturing systems at Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry, facilitated Plains Fabrication & Supply’s lean development process. Some techniques used to improve the process included:
• Attendance by every shop employee, office employee and contractor in Lean 101.
• Attendance of specific employees at lean conferences and workshops around Canada.
• Improvement of communication between groups through meetings, lean communication boards and visual production boards.
• Improvement of inventory flow and organization.
• Placement of shadow boards at workstations.
• Use of kanban cards to identify all components
• Use of kanban inventory shelves to organize shop contents and tools for optimum efficiency.