Optimising operations effectiveness and capacity at a heavy engineering plant
This study focuses on optimising operations effectiveness and capacity at a heavy engineering plant, namely Heavy Engineering Vereeniging, a division of DCD–DORBYL (Pty) Ltd. The implementation and adoption of technology was included in the investigation. The company operates from 2 premises in Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark (Gauteng), and consists of 5 factory buildings. A literature review was conducted to ascertain current industry best practises and technology implementation initiatives. This review included a discussion on the following aspects: Capacity and its utilisation, flexible technology and advanced manufacturing systems, technology in manufacturing, capacity expansion and scheduling, factory layouts, technology and capacity utilisation in a South African context, and finally future trends in capacity and technology at Heavy Engineering Vereeniging. Data collection from within the organisation was done via the issuing of a questionnaire and conducting interviews with various management and supervision employees. The gathered data was analysed for employees’ opinions on current utilisation of capacity and use of technology, as well as suggestions regarding improved working methods, factory layout and the implementation of new technology. The quantitative data was analysed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences software, with the provided descriptive statistical test results used for the identification of possible trends and further interpretation. It was found that current capacities and equipment are being well utilised, but not to their optimal level. The well entrenched management information systems, measurement systems and operating procedures currently in use will aid to increase the level of utilisation of the available capacity and equipment. The implementation of technology and latest best practises within the operation will gain HEV a competitive edge, ensuring their future sustainability and market leadership. However, this implementation must be done with the input and buy in of the work force. The variances in perceptions and attitudes between the various job functions, discovered during the statistical analysis, must be taken into cognisance during any capacity optimisation or technology implementation initiative. Continued capital expenditure and the current drives in research and development need to be maintained to further ensure sustainability. Various inefficiencies were identified and recommendations were made to improve the current operation’s effectiveness and factory layout, primarily by decreasing operating inefficiencies. The recommendations were made based on the results of the study and included the expenditure involved in their execution. Financially viable options, calculated using payback periods and net present values (NPV), included the purchase of phased array ultrasonic testing equipment, horizontal SAW for longitudinal flanges and a modular type furnace. Other options, which could improve operations effectiveness, but not returning financially positive results, included the moving of the Hausler roll into the main fabrication workshop and the moving of the Sachems drills to alongside the lathes. A number of new processes and initiatives were recommended, for which cost comparisons to current similar practices could not be performed. These included the full production implementation of the punch through tandem arc submerged arc welding for wind turbine tower manufacture, implementation of a customer interfacing and communication platform and internal communication display boards. Current practises regarding touch time measurements for welding and drilling were validated. By undertaking these recommendations, it was felt that HEV would continue to be wepositioned to capture the predicted ongoing growth in the mining market in which they currently operate, and to fully benefit from the future upturn in the energy market.