Timberline Steel | Pueblo, Colorado

Company Information:
Timberline Steel is a full line steel service center that was founded in 1958.  Timberline has grown to expand its capabilities to include fabrication, in addition to distribution, and has four facilities: three in Colordado (Commerce City, Pueblo, Grand Junction) and one in Farmington, New Mexico.  Timberline was acquired by O’Neal Steel, headquartered in Birmingham, AL, in 2006.

Background of problem:
Timberline’s Pueblo facility has major accounts with Terex Corporation and Genie Industries to provide boom skins for their telescoping man lift equipment. These boom skins are processed using a high definition plasma burning machine at the Timberline Pueblo plant.  Demand for these accounts has steadily increased over time, with a projected doubling of demand for Genie products over three months. Current burning capacity couldn’t meet these demands, thus improvement was needed.

Center Assistance:
At the request of O’Neal Steel, staff from the Alabama Technology Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH-ATN) went to the Pueblo facility to facilitate an initial kaizen improvement event on the high definition plasma burning operation. A team of six Timberline employees, including representation from quality control, purchasing, engineering, operations manager, and two operators were assembled and focused on the problem for five days.

After initial training on Lean Concepts, the team observed the current burning process and discovered many non-value-added activities that consumed critical capacity.

This non-value-added time consisted of:

  • A large amount of  time is involved in removal of scrap skeleton metal after each burning program is run
  • Changing from one part/plate to another takes a long time due to lots of time searching, locating, and placing the next plates to be burned
  • Work area is cluttered and not organized resulting a lot of waste of motion looking/searching for tools, supplies, etc
  • Lack of documented operating procedures resulted in lots of excess movements by operators and inconsistent work methods from shift to shift
  • Based on the non-value added activities, or waste, identified by the team, the following countermeasures were developed and implemented by the team during the kaizen event:
  • Investigated/tested various skeleton removal methods to determine most efficient way
  • Identified correct locations for side stops on burning table to eliminate excess adjustments when placing plates
  • Designed and fabricated end stop and identify correct location on burn table to eliminate measurement steps in the program setup between burns
  • 5s the Sabre high definition plasma area to improve workplace organization
  • Developed a visual/auditory communication method using a flashing light and horn to notify material handlers ahead of time when plates were needed for next job
  • Developed Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to determine the best way to operate the Sabre high definition plasma burning machine and trained all employees. (includes material handling activities)
  • Created a staging area for both the next job’s plates and burned parts from the previous run
  • Investigated extending the Plasma table to be able to burn on both ends of the table so that scrap skeletons could be removed external to the next burning job being processed

With the countermeasures implemented during the kaizen event, the following results were achieved and measured at the end of the week:

  • Before kaizen event, it took an average of 35.8 minutes to transition from the time one burning job was completed until the next job started; the measured time at the end of the kaizen event was an average of 19.7 minutes, an improvement of 47%
  • Additional capacity created by these improvements was 16.1 minutes per burn program, equating to 144.8 minutes of additional burn time per shift
  • The average number of burn programs per shift before the kaizen was 9 programs (avg. 2 plates/burn program, so approximately 18 plates/shift); the additional minutes of capacity allows for 3 more burn programs per shift (6 plates), equaling 24 more plates per shift
  • Results of the kaizen event allowed Timberline Pueblo the capacity to burn 6 additional plates per shift; Timberline runs a 2 shift operation at the high definition plasma burning process, thus can now process 48 plates/day instead of the previous 36 plates/day (33% improvement)
  • This increase in burning capacity allows Timberline to address many of its upcoming increase in demand

“I underestimated what I thought we could accomplish.”
– Jim Wilkerson, Timberline Executive