Small steps in CI make big differences to Air Products

Small steps in CI make big differences to Air Products

Implementing continuous improvement (CI) initiatives allows a modern organisation to realise hard benefits in terms of costs and efficiencies on an ongoing basis. This is certainly true for Air Products South Africa, which has enjoyed substantial benefits from recent CI implementation at its Cape Town facility.

Hein Brink, production manager: Industrial Gases at Air Products, notes: “Continuous improvement is a ‘universal language’ which applies to everyone and every process. Everyone understands CI, because essentially it is about increased job satisfaction, and everyone benefits.”

Air Products uses tried-and-tested problem-solving tools, or methodologies, such as Kaizen, when implementing CI. The process is guided by its internal qualified CI facilitators and managers, and driven globally by the parent company, Air Products and Chemicals Inc. In accordance with the Kaizen methodology, change occurs in small, incremental steps; and, in many instances, is based on suggestions and input from workers on the “shop floor”.

At the Cape Town facility, process improvements related to upgrades in equipment have resulted in increased capacity for high purity (HP) gas analysis, as well as significantly enhanced efficiencies in cylinder handling.

“Investment in analysis equipment has given our Cape Town team the ability to perform HP gas analysis on-site (whereas previously this had to be done at our Kempton Park facility), thus eliminating considerable transport and distribution costs,” explains Sugene Vickernand, regional sales manager: Cape at Air Products South Africa.

Further improvements have been implemented in the cylinder handling process at the Cape Town facility, which have removed 80 percent of manual cylinder handling.

Increased availability, shorter lead times and enhanced security of supply are among the benefits to Air Products’s customers in Cape Town.

“It is important to make changes that are both specific and measurable. When carefully planned, CI should eliminate waste in any existing process, and prevent waste in future processes.

“At the end of the day, CI is about making life easier – and better – for our customers and staff alike. It is an ongoing, dynamic process which, itself, is subject to continual improvement!” he concludes.

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