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Spacesaver: A TPM Success Story

Line 5, a highly automated coil feed fabrication line and one of the core processes on the shop floor, made every day a challenge at Spacesaver.

"We basically all came in every day and kind of crossed our fingers and asked, ‘How's it running today' It really would determine what your day was like," recalls Jim Muth, vice president of operations at Spacesaver. "The machine was older, it wasn't consistent or capable of responding quickly enough, and we thought, ‘We need to replace it, it's past its time.'"

But a full replacement, with retooling and automation, would have required a capital expenditure of $750,000 to $1 million. "We were willing to try something else first," Muth says.

Spacesaver Corporation, with 475 employees based in Fort Atkinson, manufactures high-density storage solutions, which include mobile and stationary shelving storage systems for the justice, healthcare, library, museum, business, and governmental sectors.

This year marks the company's 30th anniversary; it was acquired in 1998 by KI (Kreuger International, Inc.), a Green Bay-based office furniture manufacturer that introduced Spacesaver to lean manufacturing principles.

"We adopted lean as our manufacturing philosophy and started out with value stream mapping," Muth says. "We do that yearly, and we hold between 10 and 15 kaizen blitzes per year."

Implementing TPM

This year Spacesaver decided to take the next step and implement two total productive maintenance (TPM) projects, after the troublesome line went down for three weeks.

"We'd hit a wall, and TPM helped us get over that wall and back on track," Muth says.

After receiving TPM training in the spring, a team of 20 people began the first project in late spring and finished in early summer. They've already seen improvements from that project, and are currently in their second project targeting another line. They have yet a third project scheduled for late in 2002.

What they discovered in their first project was that although the machine was supposed to run 90% of the time, 40% of that time was consumed by idling and minor stoppages, breakdowns, setups and adjustments.

Machine operator Tom Smith says that the numbers from the OEE data sheets, filled out by every operator on each shift, told the tale. He explains that a total of seven people were trained to work on the line, and each operator had a system for adjusting the machine. The OEE sheets showed what each operator was doing and helped the team devise some middle of the road solutions.

"We were able to identify what really needed adjustment and what didn't, and we cut the adjustments in half," Smith says. The team still keeps the OEE sheets as a reference log to troubleshoot problems.

Seeing Results

"We're a high-volume production facility, and we fabricate and paint around 1.1 million parts per month," says Jim Heathman, Spacesaver's plant manager. "After TPM, our productivity for parts produced on Line 5 each day increased by 30%."

Heathman adds that emergency maintenance on the machine was significantly reduced, thanks to daily maintenance and productive maintenance that caught potential problems before they happened. Setup time, stoppages, and idling time all have been significantly reduced.

"Our uptime on the machine has skyrocketed," Heathman says. In addition, TPM has increased the quality and reduced the scrap work from the machine.

"What we were able to improve the most was reduction of our overtime," emphasizes Marty Weber, Spacesaver's fabrication superintendent. "We're no longer working Saturdays and Sundays, and we can produce more in a five-day week than we were doing in six- and seven-day weeks."

Heathman and Weber note that they now have planned, not unplanned, downtime for maintenance and preventive repairs, without losing productivity. And the company is very pleased that they avoided the $750,000 to $1 million expense for new equipment.

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WMEP provides technical expertise and hands-on implementation assistance to small and midsize manufacturing firms on advanced manufacturing technologies and business practices includinglean manufacturing, ISO, value chain management, and strategic repositioning services for manufacturers and manufacturing facilities located in Wisconsin.

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