Vulcan Threaded Products
Headquartered in Pelham, Alabama, Vulcan manufactures and distributes a wide array of threaded products to customers throughout North America. In addition to their 325,000 square foot facility and 200 employees at headquarters, Vulcan maintains warehouse and sales representatives nationwide in order to be responsive to customers’ urgent needs. Vulcan is ISO 9001:2008 certified.
Vulcan has recently begun pursuing continuous improvement and energy improvement efforts at the manufacturing facility in Pelham. After training key champions in continuous improvement concepts, a pilot area- the drawing operation- was chosen to host the initial implementation project. The drawing process had been flagged by management due to a desire to increase throughput in that operation.
Vulcan utilized the assistance of the Alabama Technology Network center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH-ATN) to facilitate a team-based E3 (Economic, Energy, and Environment) assessment and kaizen improvement event on one of their drawing lines. A cross-functional team of Vulcan employees consisting of operators, supervisors, maintenance, and IT specialists was assembled to attack the problem.
UAH-ATN began by training the team in a 4 hour Lean Concepts course with simulation. This allowed the team to learn to see non-value-added activities and develop camaraderie. Next, the team divided into sub-teams and observed the process as it was currently operating. An assessment of energy savings in the areas of lighting, compressed air, and motors also was conducted by UAH-ATN as part of the activity. The team collected data on the current process (including blasting, drawing, sawing, and straightening operations, and energy use) and noted non-value-added activities. Key problems observed included a lack of workplace organization, frequent delays due to waiting for material, and a lack of standardized procedures for all processes as well as energy wastes. Based on the observational data and the opportunities for improvement that were identified, countermeasures were developed.
The kaizen team worked 5 days on implementing several ideas to improve drawing throughput. Tool boards were fabricated to store tools at the point of use. A die removal station was created at the line to reduce internal travel time during changeover. The equipment was cleaned and visual indicators were installed on the sawing operation to prevent the need for manual measuring during adjustments. A staging and communication system was developed between the blasting and drawing processes to ensure the availability of material. Once all improvements were finalized and tested, standardized procedures with visual pictures were developed for all related processes- blasting, material handling, drawing, sawing, straightening, and changeover of the drawing bench.
Based on the implemented improvements during the kaizen event, Vulcan has experienced the following results in the drawing operation:
- An increase from 16 draws/hour to 25 draws/hour (56% improvement)
- This allows for an additional 11,809,978 lbs to be drawn annually
- This is equivalent to an additional 112 days of capacity for the drawing operation
Additionally, the E3 assessment conducted by UAH-ATN during the kaizen event offered Vulcan potential energy savings as follows:
- § $88,147 annual savings by replacing existing light fixtures with energy efficient lights- average simple payback of 1 year
- § $68,584 annual savings by fixing 44 identified compressed air leaks
- § $44,019 in annual savings by replacing all standard efficiency motors with high efficiency motors
- § $2,289 annual savings by replacing all v-belts with cogged belts