Sealed Air: Continuous improvement throughout the organization

Sealed Air, famous for its ‘bubble wrap’, started training employees to become Green and Orange Belt in 2014. At the same time, a number of improvement projects were initiated. A particularly successful project was the one in the “Mixing” department which led to annual savings of no less than €100.000. The success led to a nomination for the international “Key to Success” program from Sealed Air. Alco de Heer, production manager and Black Belt, talks about the continuous improvement processes within Sealed Air.

Diversey, a company from Enschede, was acquired by Sealed Air in 2011. Shortly after Sealed Air named Jerome Peribere their new general director. Jerome reviewed the entire organization, which resulted in the creation of three divisions: “Food Care”, “Product Care” and “Diversey Care”. The latter of these specializes in the sale of hygiene solutions and cleaning products, which are produced at the Enschede site.

Within the cleaning product market, there is a trend towards customization in increasingly smaller packaging. At Diversey Enschede, more than 1500 sku’s (stock keeping units) are produced and managed in 450 different formulas (cleaning agents). This places high demands on production, which must take place as efficiently as possible.

Alco de Heer received his Black Belt training at Sealed Air in Portugal. “We could have trained the other colleagues elsewhere in the world, but in my experience having a coach who is far away is difficult, because of a possible time difference and lessons in a foreign language. That is why we started looking for a local partner. After a tip from an old colleague at Grolsch, we came in contact with Symbol.”

The Projects

“We started very enthusiastically with training 8 employees as Green Belt and 8 employees as Orange Belt. The idea was to tackle 8 projects directly with these people, with the Green Belts as project leaders and the Orange Belts as team members. In practice, this turned out to be too large a burden on the organization because the same people had to be utilized. In the end we selected 4 projects to continue with, and these all started at the beginning of 2015.”

“Three of the four projects focused on reducing Waste (losses) in the process. The fourth was about ​​planning and improving Flow in the organization. The largest amount of loss appeared to occur during our “mixing” process and our “filling” process. In the first process, the raw materials are mixed to become an end product. The second process is packaging.

1st project: Mixing

“In the ‘Mixing’ process, the pipes and the matrix are cleaned when switching to a different semi-finished good. The substances that are lost in this process are discarded as waste. In this first Green Belt project a new way of cleaning has been devised, which resulted in much less flushing loss. The site in Enschede will invest € 80.000 in this project in 2016 in order to realize savings of €100.000 annually!”

“This project served as a great example within all of Sealed Air. To encourage organizations to continue to implement improvement projects we have an international program called “Key to Success”. All projects carried out within Sealed Air can be submitted here. A jury of experts views and assesses these projects. The project can then earn a “Gold Key”, “Silver Key” or a “Bronze Key”.”

2nd project: Filling

“Our semi-finished product is poured in bottles and the content must be at least the amount indicated on the package. After testing, it came to light that our filling installations were not very accurate. We wanted to be sure there would be enough product in the bottles, which lead to us overfilling them. However, the customer does not pay for the excess delivered. That is a waste that we want to prevent. We have since improved the installations to such an extent that there is a minimum of overfill. Initially, we would just look at the average. Now, each individual filling pipe is precisely adjusted at the start of the batch using a fixed procedure which is consistent among all operators.

We have carried out this project on 5 production lines. The biggest saving is €20.000, the smallest has been € 4000. With 12 production lines, there is an opportunity to save even more.”

3rd project: Entry and exit

“The third project focused on waste during the start and finish of the semi-finished product. We pay for raw materials that do not make it into the end product. Operators appeared to work in different ways, for instance: one let out 8 cans, the other 12. Together, a standard has now been devised so that everyone works the same way, there is minimal product loss and it is consistent across the board.”

“Another thing was that we pay for the processing of this waste, therefore, the entire waste stream has been reviewed. Seeing that it will contain less dirt, there are also cost benefits to be gained from the waste processors.”

The waste stream

“We then investigated the total waste stream. In total, processing the waste stream now costs us €320,000. If we could save 10% on this, it would be € 32,000 in savings. We are now investigating whether that is feasible. We are already well on our way and can make a good estimate soon. We have already indicated to the water board that we expect to supply fewer units of polluted water. If we supply fewer units of polluted water, we will be in a different category and the rate that we have to pay will be reviewed. The savings that this will yield is still unknown.”

4th project: Planning

“Planning is a complex process for us. For example, we plan for 500 pallets. If there are variations, it means that there are too many or too few trucks available. One of our Green Belt employees is now investigating what exactly happens in this process. With the help of Lean instruments, he maps the entire process in a Value Stream. Using the ‘Pull’ principle, it should be possible to properly coordinate transport. So limited fluctuation with the lorries, and overall a better flow in the factory. This project is currently running.”

“Lean Six Sigma all through the organization”

“Internal communication about the projects and the results achieved are very important. Only a small group of people initially carry out a project. But because these people seek help from others and with an increase of communication, we noticed that the idea of ​​improving processes is spreading across the entire organization. As a result, interest in the projects has grown. More and more employees want to follow the training for Orange Belt or Green Belt themselves. We already have at least 10 applications for a Lean Six Sigma course. We are keen to stimulate this interest and would like to educate people with the aim of continuously improving and further implementing the Lean Six Sigma concept and techniques in the organization. We must, however, keep the processes internally manageable, and to do so we have a training coordinator who oversees the process.”

Many more initiatives from employees

“We see a movement in the organization where employees are starting to take initiative, to collaborate much more and to coach one another. As a suggestion I would like to tell other organizations not to tackle too many projects at once. Set a deadline, but understand it might not be met. People are in a learning process and must occasionally be able to take a step back if they are unsuccessful. You have to accept that, as that is a part of a learning process.

A lot of time and energy is going to be spent on the employees. The employees do not always have this time available due to production pressure. This leads to the risk that the accumulated knowledge drops. That’s too bad. As an organization, you must handle this with care. You also need to give people the peace and quiet to follow a learning trajectory.

Before we started working with Symbol, we compared several providers. We also viewed multiple websites. For us, the entire Symbol concept was the deciding factor. The culture of continuous improvement is also in the genes of Symbol itself. We think the series of books by Dick Theisens, “Climbing the Mountain”, are very good, combined with a specific focus on people and mindset. Anyone can offer theory, but there has to be practice as well. We found the coaching of the Symbol consultants to be very pleasant. I have already distributed several books from the “Climbing the Mountain” series at all our European locations. We are going to roll out the entire Lean Six Sigma concept on a European basis.”

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