Using the data to drive project development.
Composite materials are made when two or more materials are combined to form a new material with properties of each of the originals. The new materials may be lighter, stronger, or less expensive than materials previously used for the job. General Composites, based in Willsboro, specializes in custom applications of composite materials in a huge variety of industries including medical components, bicycles, snowboard bindings, golf clubs, race cars, jet engines, military applications and more.
In the spring of 2017, General Composites was producing a product for a medical application. Their prototype process was working well, but there was something about the production process that was hampering their ability to deliver enough product to the customer on time. They knew that Six Sigma was going to deliver the source of the issue, and they were eager to work with CITEC business advisor Kate Chepeleff to lead the project.
At project outset their production system was only hitting 38 percent yield. A shortage in one area was stopping work across the line. Those two factors meant they were not meeting their production goal of 10,000 pieces per week, which the customer was interested in raising to 20,000 pieces per week. In addition to the obvious customer service and financial impacts of this issue, employees were getting frustrated and morale was dipping.
The Six Sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) process — tools including SIPOC diagram, data graphing, controlled experiments, analysis of results, and repeating the necessary steps... yielded the desired results. The problems identified included resin mixing and hold time procedures, shot size, curing times, demolding techniques, and machine maintenance; the kinds of issues that arise when production is scaled for larger quantities.
After initial solutions were implemented, overall yield increased to 61 percent; still not at the 80 percent target, but significantly closer. The new process was able to perform with better yields so cell shutdowns did not affect the whole line.
Defects from the molding application alone decreased from 50 percent to 17 percent and fell within the target range. At this point General Composites was able to continue working collaboratively with the client, and had a blueprint for moving forward to continue to improve the process.
Contact Steve Lockwood for more information.