IMC Facilitates a Value Stream Map for QCast Production Process Improvement
Located in New Berlin PA, (approximately 30 miles south of Williamsport, PA) QCast Aluminum Co. is a family owned, high–quality manufacturer of aluminum sand castings for commercial industries. QCast manufactures all their products in the USA and can produce excellent finishes and sizes of parts, including prototypes and small to large production runs from 1 oz. to 300 lbs. They work with customers to develop a mutually beneficial long-term relationship and have a strong commitment focused on service, quality, deliverability and affordability. They have grown to become one of the highest quality sandcasting companies at the most competitive price.
Working with our strategic partner PennTAP, who sponsored an E3 project (Economy, Energy & Environment), the Innovative Manufacturers’ Center (IMC) was engaged to facilitate a Value Stream Map (VSM) to determine why QCast’s production was unable to meet desired delivery times for their customers. The scope of the value stream map began with the core preparation area of production and ended at the finishing area. The VSM continued to track the various operations that included saw, belt sand, blast, drilling and inspection in the finish area.
The Work In Process (WIP) materials for the finishing area were stored in scattered locations causing some delays in finding them for finishing. In addition, the molding process continued to run at a faster pace than finishing could respond, creating a bottleneck in production flow. An accurate inventory was taken of the WIP at the finishing stage, and it was learned that 3x the original estimate of pieces was there. The mindset within the facility is one that is grounded upon ‘keep the molders running’, which caused overproduction and a choke point in finishing customer orders.
Adding to production flow delays, finishing operators performed excessive amounts of searching, stretching, reaching and bending for the parts resulting in additional non-value added efficiency losses. It was evident that in addition to the overproduction of parts, their multiple locations in the finishing area took time away from actual finishing work thus contributing to not meeting the delivery times promised to their customers.
At the completion of the ‘Current State’ VSM the project team, facilitated by the IMC, determined the ‘Future State’, which led the company to define several objectives. QCast wanted to exceed customer expectations by utilizing an effective pull system that would generate a 7-day throughput with a 4-week lead time, 99% on time delivery and a 100% quality level by September 1, 2023. Through the input of the QCast team, the IMC generated a series of challenges for the company to tackle and record the results over the next several weeks. The first two target conditions were designing a ‘supermarket’ that would visually control the work in progress inventory levels to 3-5 days and to improve the efficiency of the belt sanding area to 85%. The QCast VSM team conducted various experiments to see how best to meet their first target conditions.
Over the next several months the improvement in excess production was moving in the right direction; however, the team was still finding difficulty in addressing the finishing department’s challenges, which were defining standard work and overcoming a shortage of labor.
Actual inventory being produced was tracked on a weekly basis, which resulted in the reduction of WIP sitting at the finishing stage by 54%. The finishing department continued to see challenges to meet the target condition until a member of the VSM team tried an experiment with the finishing of parts by running them through a tumbler; a process used in their sister company’s metal fabrication process. The results were very promising. After continued experimentation with various aspects of the tumbling process including time, media and actual parts to be finished, the company has calculated that they could increase finishing productivity by up to 300%. Because of the IMC’s VSM facilitation, the members of the QCast team were able to implement a series of experiments and apply the continuous improvement culture that enables them to find a solution far beyond the original expectations. The company is planning on investing in the appropriate equipment during the first quarter of 2024 that will include the tumbling stage in their finishing process enabling them to reduce overall throughput and meet the delivery times their customers expect.
“The Value Stream Mapping exercise conducted by the IMC enabled us to visually see the overall production process and the areas we needed to target for improvement. Without this process, QCast may not have identified the key areas needed to meet our overall objectives. We look forward to continuing to work with the IMC in the future.” Terry Arnold, General Manager, QCast Aluminum
To learn how IMC can assist your Central PA manufacturing company with process improvement, contact us at 800-326-9467 or firstname.lastname@example.org.