Lean brings efficiency savings for Sheffield Forgemasters

Sheffield Forgemasters has realised a £300,000 annual saving through the adoption of Lean manufacturing policies and anticipates doubling this saving within 12 months.

The company recognised the possibility of performance enhancement through Lean and employed business improvement specialist Nicholson Consultancy to provide staff with the knowhow and skills to make manufacturing processes even more efficient and cost-effective.

After establishing what the world's largest independent forgemasters wanted to accomplish by adopting a culture of lean manufacturing, Andrew Nicholson and his team drew up a tailor-made training plan, based on the highly successful Lean Consortium programme.

The corporate Lean Consortium Programme also focused on pinpointing opportunities to add more value to the products and services that Sheffield Forgemasters supplies.

Thanks to the support of Nicholson Consultancy, more than 1,500 employee improvement ideas have emerged ranging from simple changes to plant layout through to six-figure initiatives.

Projects have involved examining the consumption of raw materials, water and energy, how repairs and maintenance are carried out, the outsourcing of products and services, and the relocation of equipment and machinery.

Mick Dickson, Operations Director (Work Rolls) and Lean Champion at Sheffield Forgemasters, said: “We wanted to give our employees the knowledge and confidence to devise methods, not only to make manufacturing processes more efficient and economical, but also to add value to our products and services. This has been achieved through our work in partnership with Nicholson Consultancy.

“While not all improvements can be measured in terms of pound notes, all projects are meticulously assessed and monitored. The measurable benefits currently are running at about £300,000 a year, with a target to double this within 12 months. This is in addition to initial one off savings of more than £100,000.

Andrew Nicholson, Managing Director of Nicholson Consultancy Ltd, said: “To succeed in today’s fast-moving business environment it is vital that manufacturers embrace characteristics including a reasoned and comprehensive strategy, efficient and effective processes and the right people in the right places.

“Our experts empower employees at companies, such as Sheffield Forgemasters, to review practices and procedures to improve how they operate at all levels.”

Improvements at Sheffield Forgemasters have included:

  • A project led by two apprentices has lowered nitrogen usage by 20 percent and made the process more efficient.
  • The rigorous recycling of scrap and excess steel – even dust is recycled and reused – has led to a reduction in raw materials. Re-positioning of plant and equipment to save unnecessary transport and movement.
  • Previously outsourced operations, such as tool grinding have been brought in-house.
  • A newly implemented scheme aims to cut down on the substantial amount of fresh mains water by recycling water from the company’s reservoir.

Staff, ranging from directors to team leaders to shift managers, enrolled on the bespoke Corporate Lean Consortium programme.

This equipped the participants with the knowledge to examine ways of improving processes across all Sheffield Forgemasters’ manufacturing divisions and support functions.

Staff then shared their vision and new business intelligence with colleagues, who have been encouraged to scrutinise their working environments and practices.