Methods, Patterns, and Continuous Improvement

I’ve blogged about the fact that I am married to an amazing woman and we have been blessed with three incredible daughters before. My wife and I are constantly being reminded of just how different raising kids in this digital and rapidly changing world is compared to when we were kids. And, just writing those statements makes me realize I have truly entered the next (I’m old) chapter of my life.

My oldest, who is 12, is at that point where she is gaining some independence at middle school, and at the same time is getting sucked into social norms where she can easily be consumed by social media and screen time. The challenge I took on was to find something analog that we could both pick up and enjoy, maybe even challenge each other with. Enter a classic that I was never able to master, and still can’t without the aid of another (my 12 year old), the Rubik’s Cube. I was honestly shocked when she took the time to review a video from our library and learned the patterns to solve the cube. Turns out a few of her friends are even able to solve them and thus the education began.

A traditional 3×3 Speed Cube in a solved state then converted to a checkerboard pattern.

What I once thought was an impossible task was broken down into patterns and a logical path to correct and straighten out the tangled squares. The are a number of methods to solve the standard 3×3 cube. No matter what, the pattern has to be recognized, implement the steps to solve, and then improve through repetition. Not many people pick something like this up, solve it once and then sit it down. It becomes a process of continuous improvement and that is exactly what my daughter took on. For me, it reminded me of Lean Manufacturing and every process I have ever looked at professionally. It was truly rejuvenating for me to see her take on the challenge and then have an urge to improve her process time.

When I came into work the next day, it clicked. That same process of methodical movements could all connect to our Six Steps to Compressed Air Optimization. Each of these steps is solving another layer of a mixed up cube. While at first, the process of optimizing a compressed air system can easily seem out of reach it is easily broken down into steps that result in a solution. Then, instead of taking all of that new found knowledge to only conduct the six steps once, you can easily make this a recurring event. Because even though your facility may not change, the air system will, new leaks may appear, items on the supply side may wear, demand side application may change as processes are added or modified.

Processes lead to continuous improvement.

Continuous improvement is a method that propels a system forward toward efficiency and improved outcomes and it is something that is needed to stay relevant. Even with the methods of solving a 3×3 cube, those methods continue to evolve and the main level of improvement is often on the person spending time with the process. If you want to discuss a compressed air application in your facility that could stand some improving or maybe you want to share your solve times on the 3×3 cube, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF

Six Sigma and The Compressor Room

Throughout my undergrad courses as well as during my professional career I have encountered Six Sigma or Lean Manufacturing in many facilities.  There is at least one component to the theory that can be implemented into any facility with a compressor room. That component is the practice of the 5 S’s.

The 5 S’s of Lean Manufacturing come from the Japanese terms  listed below with their English translations:

Seiri – Sort (Organize)
Seiton – Set in Order (Orderliness)
Seiso – Shine (Cleanliness)
Seiketsu – 
Standardize
Shitsuke –  Sustain (Discipline)

These 5 points can aid in keeping any air compressor room in a facility efficient, safe, and effectively supplying the company with compressed air. How you may ask.

Sort – Keeping a compressor room as originally laid out and preventing it from being a catch-all for items that have nothing to do with the compressed air system. This can easily happen when it is actually a room that has unused floor space in a small facility. By keeping the area clean and free of unrelated materials, maintenance and troubleshooting can be done quickly. Clear labeling of anything kept in the room is also ideal to make items easily identified.

Set in Order – To deliver the air in a single path/direction as well as keeping equipment in locations where they can be easy to maintain and clearly labeled eases the troubleshooting and understanding of how the system is laid out. Rather than having a spaghetti bowl of piping running all around the room to different components it is wiser to keep a flow that matches the process. From the compressor(s) to the receivers, dryers, filter, and regulators, out to the point of use. This shouldn’t be a tangled web of piping that introduces air to a process which bypasses key components such as the dryer or receivers.

Block diagram of a compressor room layout.

Shine – The compressor room shouldn’t be a dirty grungy area. The compressor pulls the air in from this environment. Any exposed components easily collect airborne debris. By keeping the equipment clean again makes labels easy to read and a clean machine is always easier to perform maintenance and sometimes even troubleshoot. If there are puddles of oil or other liquids on the floor and no surfaces are clean then any leak may not be easily spotted.

Standardize – The layout and processes used within the room should be repeatable. Maintenance tasks should be performed on a schedule, per a process that doesn’t allow for much differentiation on methods and end results. This mitigates errors and is always the desired result when focusing on lean manufacturing. LOWER THAT DELTA!

Sustain – This is sometimes the hardest part of any process. Getting the program up and running, starting with a fresh build is always the easiest.  Everything is fresh, new and you want to keep it shiny. Years later the desire to dust and maintain piping as well as keep receiver tanks and floors clean isn’t always at the top of the desired list.  It should always be a priority because cleanliness also promotes safety and reduces overhead by lowering downturns due to housekeeping related failures.

If you want to discuss how we can help lean out your compressed air usage, maintenance costs, and help to standardize the use of compressed air in your facility, contact an Application Engineer today.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer – Green Belt Certified
BrianFarno@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_BF