Improving capacity and capital efficiency in plastics production.
With over 20 plants across Europe, Borealis were seeking to improve capital efficiency and grow capacity without major capital investment. It had already recognised the need for a consistent measure of asset performance across its plants, but lacked an effective improvement capability that would deliver continuous and sustainable process improvements. The group had already undergone a number of continuous improvement initiatives, but none of these had survived beyond the heavily supported pilot stage.
The first activity undertaken by OEE was to evaluate these past initiatives, and understand the reasons for failure, and then design a new programme that would address the gaps and develop a process improvement infrastructure that would deliver ongoing benefits. A new structured team based problem solving methodology based around 5 steps was developed, and this was piloted in 2 plants in Belgium and Germany.
The client project manager summed up the project approach:
“This project combines the best elements of processes we’ve used in the past and stresses the importance of including more people – especially those who work within the target area – prioritising improvement projects so that we can focus on the right problems, and finding the root causes of problems before looking for a solution,”
The two pilots lasted for 4 months, and successfully demonstrated the power of combining the correct team, problem solving methods and management commitment to deliver a demonstrable process improvement to key plant metrics. One single project in Belgium delivered savings of over 200k euros/annum with very little capital investment.
More importantly the pilots successfully generated the enthusiasm, understanding and acceptance that were essential to provide a platform for rollout across all plants across Europe. There was also a strong emphasis on capturing and sharing the best practice that was learnt throughout the projects. In the final phase of the project, Microsoft SharePoint was used to provide a knowledge management system for all aspects of the project – from training material (required in multiple languages) to communications articles and one point lessons.
Although the initial focus was on operational units and reducing Overall Asset Effectiveness (OAE) losses, the approach was also used in business support areas such as finance and logistics, with impressive results. The 5 step structured problem solving approach has also been adopted at all levels within the organisation.
Over a period of 2 years, 100 projects across multiple plants and countries were started, with over 6.7 million Euros of validated benefits signed off. An audit 12 months later, when a further 50 projects had been launched, showed total cumulative benefits of 14 million Euros. The ‘soft’ benefits have been just as important, and a real culture change, particularly within management, has been achieved around how to go about process improvement and solving problems.