An educational endeavour for staff training purposes provided an interesting surprise for a Lincolnshire recycling firm, when they were able to make hefty savings and create a long lasting culture of continuous improvement.

The staff at Louth-based technical recycling and compounder, Luxus, managed to gain a £30,000 a year labour saving for the company thanks to a lean project which they proposed as part of their national vocational qualification (NVQ) level 2 studies. The project was one of three initiatives suggested by Luxus staff when they were asked to consider lean approaches to solve business problems in their day to day work.

Luxus managing director, Peter Atterby, explains: “We wanted to provide an opportunity where our staff on the factory floor would be able to influence how the business works by identifying problems that they could solve using lean thinking as part of their NVQ studies.”

As a result, three teams suggested the following projects: a system for improved feedstock management in the factory yard; identifying markets such as recovered fuel for scrap waste from its manufacturing processes and a re-use scheme for bulk feedstock bags.

One team believed that they could be more efficient in the management of materials distributed throughout the yard. As they had identified there were problems with the current manual system used to track stock and wanted to find a more accurate solution for tracking material movements. So they introduced a before and after survey which enabled staff to measure exactly how much time they spent searching and re-organising stock.

The team began the process by simply using a spreadsheet to monitor their time on a daily basis for four weeks.

As a result, it was found that staff would typically loose around 100 hours a week either searching for feedstock or re-organising the space needed for new deliveries at a cost to the business of £30,000 a year. These results were presented by staff to the management board and a new solution was proposed.

The team decided this problem could be better solved by introducing a computerised mapping system, which will be fully automated enabling staff to find stock instantaneously.

The new system will monitor all stock movements and by whom, so all feedstock can be easily tracked. This system data will also be more easily shared within the business too.

The team also decided that a reorganisation of the yard was needed so feedstocks that are never used together on the same job are stored separately so they are easier to locate. These locations are also logged on lot cards and blender sheets, with twice weekly checks so this information remains up to date.

According to Peter Atterby, “We are really pleased with the results of all these projects, they have effectively helped to engage staff with lean based challenges thanks to their team led approach. It has already delivered tangible benefits, making a better and more productive working environment for us all.”

This and the other lean projects are still on-going at Luxus as part of the teams’ NVQ study programme. The business now plans to introduce radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging to the feedstock management system to fully automate the procedure in the near future.