6S efficiency initiative at FLSmidth's Dawson Metallurgical Laboratory

FLSmidth’s Dawson Metallurgical Laboratories (DML) began following the basic 5S principles in August 2013 and has expanded with a sixth S, for Safety, to better suit the laboratory environment and corporate goals.

5S, developed in Japan and made famous by Toyota, is a workplace organization program designed to better enhance efficiency and effectiveness by employing the principals of Sort, Store, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.

FLSmidth's Minerals Testing Center began implementing lean programs, such as 5S, to maximize customer value in 2011 throughout the Solid Liquid Separations Laboratory, while the Ore Characterization and Process Mineralogy Laboratory was already built on a similar foundation.

FLSmidth’s Dawson Metallurgical Laboratories (DML) began following the basic 5S principles in August 2013 and has expanded with a sixth S, for Safety, to better suit the laboratory environment and corporate goals. The ultimate objective is for the 6S program to foster high productivity from all the lab's employees in regard to project preparation and execution, as well as clean-up tasks. This is to be accomplished by identifying, standardizing and maintaining all tools, instruments and equipment within the facility. The 6S program will subsequently minimize the potential for contamination and enhance safe practices in the workplace.

Lab employees have spent over 1,000 hours dedicated to 6S activities to reach a goal of sustainability in making these practices into enduring changes. As of this date, the 6S program is not fully sustainable within DML; however, all efforts are pushing to reach that vital stage and encourage a 6S culture to grow within the department. Maintenance schedules, training events and regular audits currently occur as building blocks to reach the fifth S. Once sustainable, management estimates that 15 minutes of 6S activity per employee per day will be needed to maintain and progress the labs under the 6S ideologies.

Based on the current figures, 6S efficiency improvements can save an average of 30 minutes per day per employee, thus allowing the labs an additional 210 hours per month to devote to customer needs. Improvements and efficiencies to date have included:

  • Elimination of lab tour clean-up events (previously costing a maximum of US$21,000 per event)
  • Improvement of flotation testing preparation work flow (reducing from 1 hour to about 20 minutes per day)
  • Improvement of safety and work flow in various areas, such as the batch mill grinding bay

Employee and managerial support have been critical during the initial implementation of 6S in the Dawson Metallurgical Laboratories. This needed support has also been the greatest challenge because the historic laboratory culture can be resistant to change. The 6S system is designed to always progress as new habits and continuous improvement efforts are applied. As with any lean program, the success depends on the cooperation of each individual within the lab. Without total synergy, the project would be a failure. Our employees will soon adhere to 6S principals naturally as part of every task, every day to create a successful and sustainable efficiency program.

CONTACT: Kallen Konen