Benefits of Frugal Innovations
Published by : Industrial Automation
Sureshbabu Chigurupalli presents a case study on production enhancement through low-cost automation and mechanisation.
Many manufacturing industries are facing enormous challenges with inefficient processes and inadequate technology. Relying on old methods and technology not only reduces the output but will also lead to raising the manufacturing cost and increasing cost pressure. Steep competition, pushing many players to improve the operations significantly. An ageing workforce and attrition further escalating the cost. Every industry is looking to bring more from less by many frugal innovations, automation scaling and low-cost automation and adopting new technologies without the burden of having to costly infrastructures changes.
The need of frugal innovation/automation scaling:
1. To create value throughout the business processes.
2. To eliminate the non-value-added activities.
3. To optimise non-value-added but essential activities.
4. To enhance value-added activities.
A cross-functional team has been made from different departments to map all the processes. The team has created a comprehensive study report by outlining the obese process, outdated technology, manual works, etc. Revisit of the process made at frequent intervals to scrutinise the study results further to optimise and redesign the entire business process. Process owners from different departments assembled for the brainstorming session. Implementing tools like Lean Manufacturing, Makigami, Low-Cost Automation and Flexible Automation have been identified. The steps followed in the implementation process of low-cost automation as a part of frugal innovation are as follows:
Step-1: CFT Formation
Step-2: Map the ‘As is Process’
Step-4: Redesign – Identification of non-value-added activities (NVAs), Kaizens and implementation of the action plan.
Implementation of proposed steps
Step-1: CFT Formation
A team of experts consists of the different areas, i.e., engineering, process, logistics and other required fields associated with the production system was formed. The idea behind the creation of the team is to study the process in-depth to understand gaps at the macro level.
Step-2: Map the ‘As is Process’
The approach of lean manufacturing was used for the study of the existing business process. This study is termed as ‘As is process’. As is process mapping is for creating more effective business process design by eliminating wasteful practices and improving efficiency. More widely referred to as ‘muscular’, the lean process has principles that focus on developing products and services based on what customers want and value. Lean mapping has been proposed to reduce waste and to improve customer satisfaction and overall profitability.
After mapping the ‘As is process’ of the system brainstorming is to be planned with the formation of the cross-functional team to generate ideas for implementation. This activity plays an essential role in developing unimaginative designs in a more structured and analytical way. Provides a free and open environment that encourages everyone to participate. Quirky ideas are welcomed and built upon, and all participants are encouraged to contribute fully, helping them develop a rich array of creative solutions. During the random collection of ideas, the facilitator must record every suggestion on the flipchart.
8 lean losses were focused during the brainstorming session:
1. Defects – Products or services that are out of specification that requires resources to correct.
2. Overproduction – Producing too much of a product before it is ready to be dispatched.
3. Waiting – Waiting for the previous step in the process to complete.
4. Non-Utilised Talent – Employees that are not effectively engaged in the process
5. Transportation – Transporting items or information that is not required to perform the process from one location to another.
6. Inventory – Inventory or information that is sitting idle (not being processed).
7. Motion – People, information or equipment making unnecessary motion due to workspace layout, ergonomic issues or searching for misplaced items.
8. Extra Processing – Performing any activity that is not necessary to produce a functioning product or service.
Step-4: Redesign – Identification of non-value-added activities (NVAs), Kaizens and implementation of action plan:
After the above steps, a hopper of generated ideas was further filtered and prioritised to redesign the business process, i.e., to eliminate the non-value added process from the system and to enhance the processes which are adding value to the system. A combination of ideas, viz.,
mechanisation and low-cost automation preferred for optimisation of the process. Reverse engineering methods are applied.
Mentioned below are the low-cost automation projects of little investment and maximum value creation:
1. Travel to weigh bridge of fines feeding dumpers and finished product shifting dumpers eliminated by installing of a weigh scale in feed conveyor in the finished product carrying conveyor and integrating it with the CMMS software.
a. Elimination of waiting time and rerouting
b. Losses were due to weigh bridge outages eliminated.
c. Number of dump trucks utilisation reduced from 5/day to 3/day, and
d. Speed of the process and logistics management improved significantly.
Total saving by reducing 2 dump trucks= 1.4 lakh/month.
2. Manual sorting and separation of boulder eliminated by providing unbalanced motors to create amplitude of vibration of the grizzly. Manual labour intensive work is drastically reduced. Labour driven work is mechanised to eliminate the dependency of turnover of labour, thereby optimizing the workforce requirement from 18/day to 9/day. This small frugal innovation improved efficiency in the overall feeding process and increased throughput. Starvation of the process and idle running of the machines reduced in a significant way and improved the ergonomics.
3. Ultrasonic level sensors provision and repositioned to reduce spillages. Auto-detection of hopper levels and bunker levels were introduced in place of manual monitoring. Interlocks with downstream further enhanced the process capabilities to match the demand. Labour managed system is eliminated with frugal innovation
4. Reduction in idle times of conveyor to increase the throughput.
5. Sensors provision and repositioning of feeding conveyors to reduce the manual labour and manual intervention.
6. Monitoring system for input and output moisture control improved by online moisture feedback to the operator to reduce the quality deviations in the feed mix. Manual intervention and operator based judgement has been significantly reduced.
7. Changeover time monitoring interlock with modified counters to increase the production time. Automated signals generated at different shop floor desks for better coordination and minimising the loss time.
8. Mechanised opening of jumbo bags to reduce the manual intervention, spillage, wastage and dust generation during handling reduced. Workforce utilisation in the handling system optimised from 15/day to 9/day.
9. Redesign of the screen with controlled vibration to optimise the separation to improve the quality and quantity.
10. Jamming of system avoided by auto Operation of bunker vibrator by linking with PLC.
Workforce optimised from 73 to 41 numbers through implementing low cost automation.
A person in need finds a way to provide a solution. The idea of frugal innovation of this case is the outcome of the brainstorming session conducted by the cross-functional team to optimise the resources. Small changes in the existing setup and low-cost automation projects made an enormous impact on the optimisation of the funds. As is process study directed to redesign the process with an action plan. Through Lean management technique, we have captured non-value- added activities and process deficiency. With the implementation of an action plan, the following benefits have been attained
1. Reduction in the spillages
2. Reduction in the labour intake
3. Increase in productivity, and
4. Enhancement in throughput.
Sureshbabu Chigurupalli is Unit Head – Plant Operations, Balasore Alloys Limited, Odisha. Sureshbabu is leading and managing all plant operations with effective utilisation of all resources and implementing industry best practices such as TPM, Six Sigma, Lean Management and other Business Excellence initiatives that contribute to improve productivity and efficiency. He has exhibited leadership in closely collaborating with numerous Japanese Consultants for implementing TPM to enhance overall plant effectiveness. A B.Tech in Instrumentation from Andhra University (1994), Sureshbabu is an enterprising leader and planner with a strong record of contributions in streamlining operations, invigorating businesses, heightening productivity, systems and procedures. He has achievement-driven professional experience in spearheading entire unit/plant operations to maintain continuity and match organisational goals through supervising Operations, Quality Control, Production Goals, Automation, Maintenance, Process Improvements, Safety Guidelines, Manpower Development, New Policy/Procedure Guidelines, Resource Allocation and Cost Optimisations.