HELENA INDUSTRIES | Lean, Value Stream Mapping
Helena Industries, a wholly owned subsidiary of Helena Chemical Company, is a contract toll manufacturer for other chemical companies, focused on the agriculture industry. As a contract manufacturer, Helena Industries is located near an inland port in Cordele, Ga., with rail access to Savannah allowing for accessibility to incoming raw materials and for exporting finished goods to countries abroad.
A core component of Helena Industries business model is to keep their costs down so their customers can remain competitive in the agricultural markets and big box stores.
As their expenditures have gone up and more competition has entered the market space, the company’s executive team decided they needed to begin pinpointing cost-saving opportunities.
The team called Derek Woodham, West region manager for the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership
(GaMEP) at Georgia Tech, with whom they had worked on numerous lean initiatives.
To support the company objectives, Scott Braswell, operations manager for Helena Industries, took the lead on using the lean technique, Value Stream Mapping (VSM), as a test on a particular process before rolling it out within the manufacturing plant. VSM allows a team to identify waste within a particular process and develop solutions to eliminate that waste.
The team focused on a product for the lawn and garden industry, which had been formulated in one granule unit and packaged in another. With the help of Paul Todd, project manager at the GaMEP, Helena Industries mapped out their formulation steps and reviewed their packaging. They found they were handling the product too many times and that the formulation process was occurring much faster than the packaging and fulfillment processes. Since the product was being formulated faster than it could be packaged, the product was being stored in super sacks, or 2,000 pound bags. In each eight-hour shift, 75 of these super sacks were transported to the warehouse approximately 200 feet away, stored, and then brought back out once it was ready to be packaged.
Todd and Braswell and his team determined they could combine the G2 and G4 formulation/packaging areas, decreasing intermediate production by 34 percent and freeing up space to add equipment to the packaging area. Through the use of automation and increasing the production rates on packaging, Helena Industries was able to greatly increase throughput, allowing them to keep their costs low. By doing so, they could keep their contract manufacturing fees flat, keeping their customers’ rates competitive to the end user.
Additionally Helena Industries decided to add both a high-speed check weighing system and inspection cameras to their packaging line as error proofing devices. These changes helped increase quality control to ensure the weight of the product in the jug packaging was in the acceptable range. The cameras ensured that labels were automatically placed on the front and back of each jug and allowed immediate rejection of those on the line that only had one or no labels.
By combining formulation areas, adding equipment that supported the company’s goal of cost savings for their customers, and increasing their quality control, Helena Industries has been able to better utilize their staff to service customer demands in a more efficient and timely manner.
By working with the GaMEP, Helena Industries has:
- Eliminated the non-value component of moving 150,000 pounds of material per eight-hour shift
- Decreased their intermediate inventory by 34 percent
- Increased their quality control mechanisms
- Increased throughput by 100%
- Kept their toll manufacturing fees flat for their customers
Braswell says, “The GaMEP helped us identify the waste in our process and look for solutions to eliminate it, keeping our costs down so that we could help our customers remain competitive in their market.”