Air Products South Africa has implemented its Continuous Improvement (CI) strategy with Hein Brink, Production Manager of Industrial Gases at Air Products SA, emphasising, “it’s a truly overarching policy, linked to every aspect of the business.”
When implementing CI, the Tier One company uses established problem-solving tools or methodologies, such as The Kaizen methodology, which sees change occurring in small, incremental steps, with the majority of suggestions and input coming from workers on the ‘shop floor.’
“We rely especially on long-standing employees who have hands-on involvement with the day-to-day operations, to help make sustainable changes. In this way we collaborate with our people and give them a voice - and often the simplest ideas can make the biggest difference,” reiterates Brink (left).
CI at Air Products began around 10 years ago with a focus on depot layout, analysing product throughput (namely cylinder utilisation and availability), as well as staff workflows and administrative processes.
The process is guided by internal qualified CI facilitators and is driven globally by parent company Air Products and Chemicals Inc. Brink went on to explain, “CI is based on a highly theoretical and analytical process, yet the results are hard benefits in terms of costs and efficiencies.”
It is important to make changes which are both specific and measurable. CI, when carefully planned, should eliminate waste in any existing process, and prevent waste in future processes.
CI has generated significant improvements at the company’s Cape Town facility, with upgrades in equipment and increased capacity for high purity (HP) gas analysis. Additionally, CI has enhanced efficiencies in cylinder handling by replacing 80% of manual cylinder handling with palletised filling, increasing both safety and efficiency.
Sugene Vickernand, Regional Sales Manager at Air Products SA, emphasised that CI at the South African outfit is a consultative process and involves structured brainstorming sessions during which processes are analysed and mapped before being put into action.
“It is important to make changes which are both specific and measurable. CI, when carefully planned, should eliminate waste in any existing process, and prevent waste in future processes.”
“At the end of the day, CI is about making life easier – and better - for everyone, our customers and our staff alike. It is an ongoing, dynamic process which, itself, is subject to continual improvement!”
Air Products SA was founded in 1969 and manufactures, supplies and distributes a range of atmospheric gases, specialty gases, equipment and services to the Southern African region.