Man­agers sent back to school

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - CONTENTS - By Steve Hart

Re­al­is­ing that keep­ing all its pro­duc­tion ma­chin­ery in tip top con­di­tion would help the bot­tom line, Tim­pack In­dus­tries put its se­nior man­agers on a course to help them un­der­stand the ba­sics of pneu­matic and hy­draulic ma­chin­ery.

The firm has been in busi­ness since 1984 and op­er­ates from seven lo­ca­tions across the coun­try, and serves the tim­ber-based pack­ag­ing in­dus­try.

Its first prod­ucts were wooden pal­lets, but to­day it has ex­panded to sup­ply ca­ble reels, crates, and boxes to the coun­try’s dairy, hor­ti­cul­ture, meat and man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­tries.

It em­ploys around 180 peo­ple and while its head of­fice is in Hamil­ton, it op­er­ates fa­cil­i­ties in Auck­land, Hamil­ton, Mount Maun­ganui, New Ply­mouth, Nel­son, and Dunedin.

The com­pany re­lies on a wide range of pneu­matic and hy­draulic equip­ment to pro­duce its prod­ucts.

The firm’s Ja­son Ton­gia, JOB TI­TLE, says he wanted to train the com­pany’s man­agers to un­der­stand the ins and outs of the man­u­fac­tur­ing equip­ment it used, fig­ur­ing the more they un­der­stood, the bet­ter it will be looked af­ter.

Ja­son says: “Some­times we for­get… we think all the ac­tion hap­pens on the shop f loor – and the big fo­cus is on the shop f loor staff. But as I dis­cov­ered by do­ing per­for­mance re­views with se­nior staff, there was a gap around the un­der­stand­ing of some of our plant and kit by some of our man­agers.

“They did not un­der­stand some of the ba­sic prin­ci­ples around our hy­draulic pumps and pneu­matic equip­ment. The man­agers un­der­stand what each ma­chine does, and what they need to work.

“How­ever, to re­alise if a sys­tem is work­ing well or not, you re­ally need to un­der­stand the key in­tri­ca­cies around the process of each of those pieces of kit.

“And it turned out that not too many of them could tell me if all the ma­chines were op­er­at­ing at peak per­for­mance. Few had a clear de­ci­sive an­swer, and it was al­most a case of them say­ing ‘no one’s com­plain­ing, so the ma­chines must be okay’.

“And then at some point we dis­cover a given ma­chine is not work­ing so well and we have to call in an ex­pert in hy­draulics to re­pair it. We were op­er­at­ing a re­ac­tive main­te­nance sys­tem, not a proac­tive one.”

Ja­son says that dur­ing the past three years the firm had a hefty cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture pro­gramme, and it was dis­cov­ered (dur­ing the pro­cure­ment pro­ce­dure) that when man­agers needed to iden­tify the right type of equip­ment, to es­tab­lish what size com­pres­sor was need for ex­am­ple, that it “high­lighted a few ques­tions”.

Like many firms, some of the se­nior man­agers at Tim­pack In­dus­tries do not have in­sti­tu­tional knowl­edge of the gear used to make the prod­ucts they mar­ket and sell. Ja­son de­cided to take his man­agers back to school.

In all, 10 mem­bers of staff spent two days at Manukau In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy (MIT) learn­ing the ba­sic prin­ci­ples of hy­draulics and pneumatics from Larry Wiech­ern, se­nior lec­turer at in­sti­tute’s Main­te­nance and Re­li­a­bil­ity Cen­tre. Fur­ther cour­ses are planned to cover the ba­sic prin­ci­ples of PLC and pro­gram­ming.

“Those are prob­a­bly the three ar­eas where my man­agers get ex­posed the most,” says Ja­son. “They are over the moon with the train­ing, say­ing they have never been ex­posed to this level of de­tail. It has cer­tainly opened their eyes to the point where they have all gone out and done shop f loor au­dits of our equip­ment now.

“They are now able to walk around the shop f loor with peo­ple such as hy­draulic main­te­nance en­gi­neers and un­der­stand what’s be­ing said, and point out any is­sues that need ad­dress­ing. These man­agers now know what to look out for, such as the cor­rect run­ning tem­per­a­ture of ma­chin­ery, how clean the oil is, to check the sight glass, and to even get a sam­ple of the oil to check it is okay.

“One man­ager didn’t re­alise he ac­tu­ally had 15 hy­draulic pumps in op­er­a­tion. But once he started look­ing prop­erly he re­alised some were run­ning with the wrong fil­ters, oth­ers had no fil­ters at all… so a whole range of things are com­ing out of this that I think will be a good long-term ben­e­fit to the com­pany’s over­all out­put.

“We are think­ing re­sults, ma­chine out­put tar­gets. This fo­cus will in­crease the longevity of the gear, im­prove ef­fi­ciency, and just help us bench­mark the busi­ness – we can say ‘this is where we are’ and ‘here’s where we want to be’.”

With staff only hav­ing just com­pleted their train­ing, Ja­son says it is too early to tell the level of pay­back for the firm.

“It will take time be­cause it will take around six months to get to a point where the gear will should all be run­ning as it should be,” he says. “Ini­tially there will be more ex­pense as ev­ery­thing is brought up to spec, but af­ter that we ex­pect greater ef­fi­cien­cies and lower down­time.

“But I al­ready have a good feel­ing that we are start­ing to get pay­back from the man­agers.”

The com­pany’s new fo­cus on hav­ing staff un­der­stand what’s be­ing used on the shop f loor means new staff join­ing Tim­pack In­dus­tries will un­dergo sim­i­lar train­ing.

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