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Bottlenecks Broken Down

By AICC Staff

July 15, 2020

In a three-part video conference, AICC members tapped into the collective knowledge of three AICC experts: Scott Ellis, principal of Working Well, on processes improvement and leadership; Ralph Young, AICC corrugated technical advisor, on all things corrugated; and Tom Weber, AICC folding carton technical advisor, on paperboard issues and plant operations. Also included were their peers to uncover and solve bottlenecks in their own plant. This video conference was a unique learning opportunity. It went beyond the traditional structure of lecture, practice, and planning action items and allowed attendees to email the real-life bottlenecks they were facing in their plants, ahead of the first session, to hear real solutions to their problems.

The idea of this series was first brought up by Weber. He noticed members were facing significant swings in demand, changes in staffing, and changing processes at a time when they were also trying to physically distance staff members and keep them healthy. AICC members are having to think creatively and in new ways to adjust to the new requirements. He gave the example of one company, which had two people at the end of a folder gluer, needing to limit to one because they needed 6 feet in between them. This would have slowed their production down by about 40% and would have been a major bottleneck for the plant. They were, however, able to find an alternate solution by adding 12 feet of conveyor to the end of the machine, allowing their people to have physical distance and to not slow down production. It’s solutions like that that this series aimed to offer to attendees.

While this was not a call-in show that would solve all issues in 30 seconds, it was a forum to share ideas and raise issues. On issues that were not able to be solved, or needed additional time, energy, and effort, the AICC experts worked with the participants offline.

A bottleneck, defined as a situation that causes delay in a process or system for this program, can be a machine, a system, or a person. Bottlenecks are important to overcome, as Ellis explained, because in manufacturing, it doesn’t matter how fast one process can go if there is another one in the line that is slower. It is the theory of constraints; you can only go as fast as your slowest process.

Questions raised included everything from print plate and cutting dies check-in to software, creating standard procedures across multiple plants, scheduling, and more.

Terri-Lynn Levesque, vice president of administration at Royal Containers, sums up the value of this series: “Everything about this webinar was put together with purpose. From the carefully selected panel of experts to the open forum questions and best practices, it was the most engaging audience I have experienced. I know all of us walked away with a new list of efficiency goals to implement at all levels of business. At a time when COVID-19 has forced us to look at business through a new set of lenses, this webinar helped us focus on observations, gathering accurate data and implementing new ways to solve ‘old’ problems.”

Experts and attendees shared similar experiences and solutions they had found. This videoconference was offered at no charge to AICC members, and a recording of the three-part series can be obtained by contacting Chelsea May, AICC’s education and training manager, at 703-836-2422 or