Lean Improvement Success at a Large Fabrication Workshop

Lean Consultants with Lean Manufacturing Consulting Services to rapidly deliver successful Lean Manufacturing Improvements



Fabrication of large welded structures weighing 20 to 50 tonnes is difficult work. You do not want to move such large, heavy items because each lift will take a day to organise and do. For safety reasons it stops all work around the lift and along the travel path. Job times blow-out with every lift made.


LRS Lean Consultants did process improvement on P&H shovel boom and bucket fabrication


Our assignment was to identify opportunities to improve the workflow and speed the times from order placement, through production and final delivery to the customer. You can view the Fabrication Shop Interim Report and see our long list of recommendations to speed fabrication.

Drawing the current state map was the first activity undertaken by our Lean Consultant. From the Client placing their order through, scheduling, parts purchasing, fabrication, assembly and to Client delivery, the whole business workflow process was mapped. Fabrication and assembly in the workshop took about half the entire delivery time and became the focus of our Lean improvement analysis.

Each fabrication and assembly process was itself flowcharted and mapped step-by-step to look at three variables: the range of work activities, work times and materials movement in each step. Though timesheets were kept for each fabrication station they showed cumulative times and not individual task times. Because there was no information to identify variation in task activities detailed data capture was made by observing the work performed at workstations over several days and gleaned from discussions with Supervisors and welders about the work activities and their range of times.

Spaghetti diagrams of movements throughout the workshop were drawn and distances calculated. It was found that movement of fabricated large parts was minimised but component parts were moved all over the shop and stockpiled at work stations and interim holding areas awaiting use. It was a classic case of push production causing inventory build-ups. Often the smaller parts were later lost, or used in error, and then had to be remade urgently. Because the production times for assembled parts were long, our recommendation was to establish a supermarket inventory replenishment system for component parts. As parts were taken a kanban card triggered new parts to be cut and placed back in the supermarket in time for the next assembly.

A lot of time was also found to be wasted in reworking structural welds. Load bearing welds had to meet international welding standards and when they failed the problem had to be ground out and the weld remade. These repairs were all rework and caused production delays that knocked-on throughout fabrication. Part of the answer was to improve the work instructions and include inspection and test points more often during fabrication. Secondly, training was given to the welders suffering rejected welds to teach them higher quality welding skills.

Jigs and fixtures were used to locate parts in-place ready for welding. Many of these setting operations were manual and took more time to get right than it took to make the weld. The use of automated jigs and larger jigs to hold entire structures were opportunities to substantially speed the fabrication process. Though requiring capital to make suitable jigs, the money spent would be rapidly recovered on the workshop from increased throughput and lower cost of fabrication.

Change management was a great challenge for the operation. Current fabrication practices had been the same for many years. All past workflow improvements had come from the shopfloor and new improvements not developed in-house were stifled. This is a common problem when Lean process improvement is undertaken in an organisation steeped in tradition and using old, out-of-date practices. Lean improvement in such situations must respect the people and work with them from the beginning of the improvement project. As much as possible the supervision and shopfloor people need to be involved in the analysis phase so they can clearly see for themselves where the bottlenecks are and even help to identify the future opportunities for the business.

Over the following year after we submitted our report the fabrication shop reduced production time by 20 percent. They identified how to double their production from the workshop and put themselves into the position of being able to capture the great majority of the world market for their product.

This is our speciality—making Lean work in your company by recovering the hidden-factory you have, and turning what was waste into new, handsome profits for your business. Contact Us now and start working on your great and successful Lean future today.


My best regards to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions


Past clients include:

Lifetime Reliability manufacturing consultants did lean manufacturing improvements at Smorgon Steel workshops, Perth, Western Australia
Smorgon Steel Reinforcing
Perth, Western Australia
Lifetime Reliability manufacturing consultants did lean manufacturing improvements at P&H Minepro workshops, Perth, Western Australia
P&H MinePro Manufacturing Workshops
Perth, Western Australia and Cairns Maintenance Workshop, Queensland, Australia
Lifetime Reliability manufacturing consultants did lean manufacturing improvements at Imdex workshops, Perth, Western Australia
Imdex Limited
Perth, Western Australia
LRS Consultants (Australia) did lean value stream mapping for Bosston Autobodies, Perth, Western Australia
Bosston Autobodies
Perth, Western Australia
LRS Consultants (Australia) did lean value stream mapping at Park Body Builders workshops, Perth, Western Australia
Park Body Builders Workshops
Perth, Western Australia