By: Kyle Robertson, Industrial Engineer at Melfred Borzall
HDD drillers are always looking for ways to streamline operations. After all, more efficiency means greater speed, safety, and profitability.
“Lean” production principles aim to minimize waste–of time, resources or extraneous processes–that doesn’t add value to the finished product. This philosophy emerged from the Toyota Production System, which is an effective method for attaining maximum efficiency at every process stage and was popularized during the 1980s by the car company of the same name.
Today, drillers and manufacturers of HDD equipment can benefit from these proven strategies to save money and time. In this article, we’ll show how we apply two important lean principles to our own operations and give you some tips on how to get started using lean in your HDD operations.
5S (pronounced, “Five-S” or sometimes, “The 5Ss”) are five directives that keep a workspace organized, in order to achieve greater efficiency. The five Ss are: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain.
HDD operations have a prime opportunity to use 5S when crews are idle. Run the 5S treatment to organize equipment on trucks or in the tool shed. Standardizing HDD tool boxes and equipment trucks means less time running back and forth from the truck to the pit to pick up forgotten tools and less stalled jobs while waiting for equipment delivery. As an added bonus, by handling and organizing tools to match their workflows, your crews develop a stronger sense of ownership over the job process itself.
This idea refers to regulating your component supply to keep your operation running smoothly.
It means setting an upper limit of on-hand supplies while ensuring you always have access to what you need so you can avoid slowdowns while waiting for resupply.
For example, in the Melfred Borzall factory, we use many different bolts during the production of HDD tools. Running out of something as small as a bolt can have major consequences. In some cases, it can bring production grinding to a halt. Therefore, we always keep two bins of each bolt at the ready. The bin in use occupies the space at the front of the shelf, while the backup bin is placed directly behind it. When the first bin is empty, the engineer turns it over to the shop supervisor for reordering, then begins using bolts from the backup bin. When the original bin is restocked, we replace it behind the current in-use bin. This small adjustment makes for an uninterrupted process.
As manufacturers of HDD equipment, we see drilling operations get stopped cold because crews run out of supplies or need replacement equipment. We get too many calls from HDD drillers asking us to rush-ship a new blade or adapter in order to keep their operation going. It’s not a big issue for us (we can overnight anything we have in stock), but drillers are forced to pay hefty shipping fees and wait for deliveries.
A Kanban system helps keep drillers drilling. For your most-commonly used tools, this idea would save you from expensive overnight shipping fees. If you normally carry five of a certain type of blade, make a rule that you reorder when you get down to two. This isn’t just a system for storage, either. You can use Kanban for your reorder process for any part of your operation. Bringing in used tools or empty bins tells your purchaser what needs to be ordered. An electronic bar code system eliminates time spent filling out request forms or re-order paperwork. The point is to make sure you never run out of the supplies you need to keep working.
Lean principles can enhance every area of your operations, not just your actual job site. Apply these concepts to your tool shed, work trucks, back office organization, or any other area where you’re not achieving maximum efficiency.
We’re proud to put these principles to work every day at the Melfred Borzall factory. If you’d like to swing by our shop to see firsthand how we’re eliminating waste and inefficiency to bring greater value to drillers, contact us to schedule a tour of our warehouse.