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The Key Skills of My Professional Development

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Table of contents

  1. Demonstrating Leadership
  2. Communication of Ideas and Plans
  3. Lean Manufacturing
  4. Problem Solving
  5. Data Analysis

As a process engineer, communication with different departments around the company, as well as outside of the company, is very important. This communication is typically achieved by means of e-mail, phone-calls, skype and personal meetings. It is part of the job to find ways to make the production process as efficient as possible under any circumstance.

A lack of communication would lead to difficulties in the planning and organization of the process and could potentially cause troubles for the business. Within the company, I must often liaise with the safety, facilities, planning, packaging, quality control and analysis departments (etc.). These departments all contribute to different aspects of the production process.

Within production, I must work hand-in-hand with the operators, cell and cell engineering managers, as well as the other engineers. It is of utmost importance to gain the trust of the operators running the lines. These are the people that understand the lines and the processes the most and are the first to be aware if there is a problem. The first couple of months of my placement year were spent getting to know the lines and the operators by helping to run the lines with them. I work with the managers and other engineers to investigate issues and provide the necessary solutions for them.

When making improvements, I also have the opportunity to work with people from external companies. This involves tasks such as requesting quotes, raising purchase orders, making inquiries and arranging trials. As part of several projects it has been extremely helpful for me to contact various companies that may specialize in a particular area of the process in order to better understand its operation and how to resolve an issue. For example, the Assembly lines utilize Robot pick-and-place systems.

These are complex systems which require programming expertise which is not available on site. Normally, programs are loaded onto the machines and allocated to the appropriate format, which the operators and engineers can easily change when switching to a different product. If there are issues with the robot placement or vision system, I must communicate these issues to the French company, ADMV, who supply the Powders robots and vision systems.

The priority line on site is in Mouldings, namely, line 416. This is a new assembly line which uses brand new technology and is undergoing a lot of improvement. During the last four months of the placement year, a lot of my time has gone on to working on this line with the ‘Stop-the-Stops’ team. This required having to get to know and earn the trust of a different group of people in a significantly different department. My work on this line has mainly been to standardize processes – bringing in similar standards from powder production.

This work required me to follow the operators and assess what worked best with certain tasks, as well as understanding the most suitable tooling required for a particular product etc. Once the process was fully understood, I would create a standard in the form of training cards, work instructions, visual guides, colour-coding and labelling, as well as verbal training. Once these were finished I would have the technical operators trial the method to see if they agreed with the standard and also had them checked by other member of the Stop-the-Stops team; other process engineers who are focused on improving the performance and efficiency of 416.

Demonstrating Leadership

Being a process engineer requires a lot of responsibility. The role involves having to take ownership of the departments that I work in. One of the main concepts used at Coty in exhibiting ‘Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)’ is the use of 5S – Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, Sustain. The most difficult part of this is the fifth ‘S’: to Sustain. Often when a new standard for the process is put in place, it can be difficult for operators to adapt or adjust to having to follow a new routine as they already have their methods which they are already used to. This is where taking leadership is very important.

When demonstrating leadership, it is important to set a good example. When a new procedure is implemented, I make sure to spend more time on and around the lines, helping the operators out where I can. This way it can be clearer for the operators if they see how the new procedure is more beneficial to the process, if they see it work how it is intended. If the operators can see its benefits, the more they will be inclined to keep using the new procedure. Having good relationships with colleagues is also beneficial in a leadership role.

This allows for easier and more open communication. Operators will feel more comfortable sharing things they do not agree with or things they find difficult and therefore compromises can be made to make their lives easier whilst still having high performance operation and motivation. It is also easier for myself to discuss issues with them; for example, reminding them to wear the correct PPE when undergoing certain tasks.

As a process engineer, I represent the Powders and occasionally the Mouldings departments in various meetings. The regular meetings I attend are with the Planning department and the New Product Development (NPD) department. For both meetings, I relay information to and from the departments. It is my responsibility to know the issues that have been occurring and also what’s planned ahead for the lines. In the weekly meetings with planning, I have the opportunity to ask questions about things that may look unusual or make requests to compensate for lines not running, i.e. planning to run products on an alternate production line, in the case of expecting maintenance or lack of manning.

I also make suggestions for schedule alterations to minimize downtime caused by changeovers. At the NPD meetings, I learn about the new products being brought onto the production lines and the struggles that are expected from running these new products. As process engineer I provide the NPD department with a clearer idea of how the new product will run on the line and also think of ways to overcome any anticipated issues.

Communication of Ideas and Plans

Miscommunication on a production site could have highly negative impacts on the company. It is important to present concepts, plans and ideas in a comprehensive and interesting manner, so that the message comes across as clear and is received well.

Every morning, I meet with my cell manager, cell team leader and cell engineering managers. I review the data across the departments collected from the day before and present this information to the group. For these meetings we use Line Boards, which are on display next to each line on the department. This way I am able to present the information whilst being near the lines themselves, so it is easier to explain occurrences and ideas to them by being able to show the actual relevant areas of the line.

At these meetings, I have designed these line boards in such a way that I can visually present quality, safety and Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) issues that may have occurred from the day before. I also discuss the units produced and efficiencies achieved by the lines against the daily and monthly targets. I occasionally use photos and drawings to display ideas and issues to further aid my explanations. Once the data and issues have been presented, as a team we discuss the actions required going forward for the day ahead.

Twice a month, we have a ‘Win Room’ meeting. At this meeting, we gather with the full management team as well as the other production departments, and the process engineers must present the data of the line with use of pareto graphs, photos and other relevant data. The communication during this meeting is important as it allows for the various departments to learn from one another and it can be ensured that the same standard for processes and problem solving is applied across the whole of production. The presentations are typically brief and concise where only key points are raised, and the management team can ask questions and discuss any concerns or ideas once all process engineers have presented for their respective department.

Quite frequently, if there is a problem on one of the machines, the fault mode is intermittent which makes it hard to capture the problem occurring by photo or video. It can also be difficult to explain the issue properly without visual aid. In these instances, I make use of drawings and sketches to help give others a more thorough understanding of an issue. This is useful because I can be sure to include all the important details of the issue in the drawing.

A large portion of my work over the year has been to standardize processes over the powders and mouldings departments. First, I had to understand the processes well and determine the correct and most efficient ways of completing these processes. Once I have finalized the standard, I communicate these to the team by means of work instructions and training cards. My aim was to make the work instructions very visual and primarily picture-based.

This encourages the operators to look through each step and avoids leading them to take shortcuts in the process. I also aimed to design them so that new operators with no experience on the line would be able to follow the instructions without difficulty. The documents were first shared with the team leaders and most experienced operators before sharing them with the whole team. These are placed on the lines at the corresponding machines to which the process applies, making them easily accessible to operators.

Lean Manufacturing

Lean manufacturing is a concept or philosophy mainly used in production and manufacturing industries. The concept was primarily developed from the Toyota Production System (TPS) [REF], and as a result TPS was labelled a World Class Manufacturing (WCM) company. Many other companies including Coty have therefore adapted to using this as a tool in their standards for production. The fundamental idea behind Lean manufacturing is to do more with less by implementing systematic approaches and methods to manufacturing without sacrificing valuable productivity and while minimizing waste {REF}.

The different types of waste considered can be remembered using the acronym: ‘DOWNTIME’.

D – Defects: Mistakes in the quality of the product leading to extra time for reworks.

O – Overproduction: Producing more than necessary.

W – Waiting: Line is not running due to waiting for materials (warehouse issues), lack of staff, and other unplanned downtimes.

N – Not Utilizing Staff Talent: Lack of recognition of a person’s skillset

T – Transportation: Waste as a result from moving things around

I – Inventory Excess: More supply than what the customer demands, often due to misunderstood customer needs.

M – Motion: Excess movement which can make the process more difficult and does not add value to the product.

E – Excess Processing: Implemented processes which are repetitive, long-winded and not necessary.

Lean at Coty involves a series of methods and regular practices which are put in place as standards for manufacturing on site.

I have found that the use of 5S is not only useful in a production or work environment, but also extremely useful in a home or personal environment. It is a system which encourages cleanliness and organization of a particular area. This system helps to reduce waste as a result from messy and disorganized work spaces [REF]; for example: It can reduce the time spent searching for a format change part.

The five ‘S’s are as follows:

In the sort process, objects are separated into different categories. The process allows for unnecessary items to be located and eliminated.

This involves the ordering and organizing of the categorized items. This can be done by use of colour-coding areas, shadow-boards, foam drawers etc. This helps to easily identify quantities of a type of item and raises awareness to any missing items.

This ‘S’ signifies the need to clean and inspect the area and encourages good hygiene on site. This is especially important as the product being sold is to be applied on one’s face/skin.

Standardization is the act of creating written documents to ensure that the first 3 ‘S’s are formally put in place as standards for the site. These must be made clear to all personnel involved. These act as instruction sheets and set the best examples for the relevant people. The documentation much be accessible but also must be easy to change by only the process engineer, as it is possible to change and improve standards further.

This is the most difficult of the 5 ‘S’s as it is the act of ensuring the new standards are continuously followed for an indefinite amount of time after putting the standard in place. As discussed in section, it can be difficult for people to get themselves used to a new routine. The sustain process is normally carried out by means of checks; these checks are more frequent when the standard is new and become less frequent as time goes on.

Gemba encourages office staff including process engineers, managers etc to spend more time on the plant floor. Gemba normally takes place after morning line reviews, where we are then joined by the production leaders. During a Gemba walk each morning, we focus on one particular area of the factory. In this area, each member of the meeting will walk around and try to identify areas which can be improved. This meeting also serves as a way to identify things which are out-of-standard. Pictures are taken as visual aids.

After observation, the team then get together to discuss each other’s findings. As a team we discuss what can be done to make the improvements. The findings during Gemba walks are most frequently to do with 5S issues, but sometimes we are also able to spot procedures being wrongly executed, where we can then find ways to improve the comprehensiveness of various procedure requirements.

KPIs are the company’s method of measuring the performance of the site across all departments; this takes into account the planning department, finance, production, quality etc. The KPIs are normally discussed and monitored in detail during the Win-Room meetings with representatives from all departments on site. Having these regular meetings and discussions on our KPIs can help to drive actions forward to make progress towards achieving critical goals.

In setting goals for the company, we make use of the term ‘SMART’ goals. This ensures that the goals set are, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Specific. This is helpful in that the goals that are set are realistic and effective for improvement. The main priority KPIs are Safety, Quality, Plan and OEE. Focusing on achieving the goals set for these KPIs should mean that all else will inevitably follow.

SMED is philosophy which is specifically used to make improvements in the set-up aspect of a process. The best way of doing this is to reduce downtime from format changeovers and line start-ups. This might include things like finding ways to allow operators to perform set-up tasks while the process is still running.

One of the biggest SMED successes in the Powders department resulted in a reduction in changeover time from one hour to 20 minutes on one of the assembly lines. This was done by changing the format of the grippers so that they were universal, i.e. the grippers could stay on as they were compatible with all shapes available – thus eliminating the need to change the gripper format for each product.

At Coty, completing a SMED follows a similar format to an A3 which is normally used for problem-solving projects (see section). For SMEDs, a base target and a stretch target is set, where the base target is a short-term goal and the stretch target is the long-term goal.

Often when there is a changeover that is particularly long-winded, i.e. this is normally for new and unfamiliar formats, a Spaghetti Diagram analysis is completed. This analysis requires the observation of the movement and motion of operators during a changeover. The ‘Motion’ waste is targeted first in a SMED as it is typically the easiest waste to eliminate or improve in a start-up situation. The analysis involves a 2D drawing of the line, and the sketching of the movement paths taken by the operators during a start-up. This method allows for clearer visualization of what makes movement around the line more unnecessarily challenging for operators.

The term ‘Bottleneck’ refers to a constraint or limit in the performance of a process. The aim of using this analysis is to make improvements to the throughput of the process by strengthening the identified weaknesses [REF]. The analysis works by using a basic process flow diagram to map out the manufacturing procedure, and then labelling or annotating each part of the process with a description highlighting the key aspects of a certain part of the process as well as stating the time taken to complete said task.

Problem Solving

Problem solving is a key aspect of my job as process engineer. It is something that is part of my daily tasks. Being able to solve problems involves being creative and innovative in carrying out detailed studies and analyses to find a suitable solution. The key to solving problems effectively is to use facts and data to target the root cause. This means that the focus is to resolve the underlying issue of an event as opposed to applying quick-fixes which only resolve the immediate symptoms. Targeting the root cause prevents the event from reoccurring as well as from the occurrence of any other related problems.

Data Analysis

I am able to monitor the performance of lines using timesheets and line logs. The timesheets are filled in by the line operators on a daily basis. First, they fill in the product info, which includes the Stock Keeping Unit (SKU), the order/batch number and other important general information. When a particular issue occurs, this general info is helpful for tracking down whether there is a trend or problem with a particular product rather than a problem with the process itself.

The time-sheet is split into two main categories: planned downtime and unplanned downtime. There are then split further into sever sub-categories. Planned downtimes typically include things like training and tea breaks whereas unplanned downtime is a much larger category. This includes, the types of operational downtimes such as glue tank refills, bulk melting etc. and machine downtimes; this is the main section of the timesheet which typically shows when there is an issue.

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