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Optimising truck turnaround times at Boral Bricks site

The Boral Group of construction material manufacturing companies is undergoing a lean manufacturing ‘revolution’.  As part of the focus on improvement in all parts of the business and manufacturing processes, Boral is hosting four CEED projects during 1st semester 2011.

One of these projects will focus on reducing truck turnaround times, increasing productivity and reducing demurrage costs by around half.

 Boral Bricks.Helen Walker onsite during her CEED project
 Above: Helen Walker (CEED student) has been getting to
 know all site staff who can help to identify factors which may
 contribute to truck turnaround times

Helen Walker, final year Mechanical Engineering student at QUT, is focusing on working with the team on this project at the Boral Bricks Darra site.  Currently, the time between trucks entering and leaving the site averages around 90 minutes.  The business’s objective is to reduce this time by approximately 50%.

In the process, Helen will work with the team on achieving the following business goals:

  • Eliminate trucks from parking at the Gate House, awaiting instructions
  • Reduce waiting time for a forklift to arrive at the truck for loading
  • Reduce loading time of product onto the truck
  • Reduce travel time around the yard
  • Improve packaging (to reduce damage to product)
  • Make recommendations on product storage locations to facilitate timely loading of product

Truck turnaround times can be impacted by many factors.  After consultation with key stakeholders over the past few weeks, Helen has identified three main areas which will contribute to a reduction in truck turnaround times: 

  • Changes in the way information is communicated
  • Site traffic (eg. other trucks, forklifts, cars) management
  • Labour and equipment utilisation (eg. truck has to wait for a forklift or driver, longer loading time because of damaged packaging, or fragile load)

Helen is keen to understand the various processes, methods of work and current problems in the yard which are being experienced by a range of site staff.  Helen understands that rapport and communication will be an important part of the change management process and that any proposed changes to current processes are developed with the teams involved and collaboratively managed so that changes can be implemented by the teams seamlessly, and provide significant benefit to their daily operations.

The project has given Helen an insight into what it’s like to work in a large company.  “There are lots of processes and procedures to follow, so it’s important to familiarise yourself with how to get things done safely and effectively”. 

Helen believes the project has helped improve her communication skills by having to learn to communicate engineering concepts to a wide range of people.  “It’s also important to get on well with everyone on-site, and value everyone’s opinions.  Being the new ‘kid on the block’ amongst experienced site staff has taught me to fully explain my opinions and recommendations, in order to be taken seriously”. 

“I really enjoy spending time in both the office and out in the plant.  If I need to take a measurement, gather some data, or meet with one of the forklift drivers or other staff, I can do it quickly and easily”.

Right now, Helen is in the process of gathering data and feedback from the forklift drivers relating to operational downtime and other common problems that affect truck turnaround times and general productivity of the operators.

Boral Bricks.Helen Walker on-site, 2011 

 Above:  Helen Walker on-site at Boral Bricks' Darra site,
 during her CEED project.  She is reducing the truck
 turnaround time, and improving the yard layout.

Helen is also preparing for a site ‘trial’ which will see the distribution of trucks spread evenly across the day, instead of most arriving in the early morning.  After meeting with one of Boral’s major transport providers, it was deemed appropriate that this trial was necessary to determine whether the changes in truck arrival / distribution will reduce the truck turnaround times on site.  Further consultation with other carriers will be required before this trial proceeds, so that the impact on all suppliers is taken into consideration.

Helen also added “everyone at Boral Bricks has been very supportive of what I’m trying to achieve with my project.  I think everything that I’m learning as part of my CEED project will turn me into a better Engineer”.

According to Helen’s supervisor, Lesley Ireland, “Helen has immersed herself in the project.  I am impressed by her autonomous approach to collaboratively engaging all parties as required. She has clearly mapped out the as-is processes in an attempt to gain a clearer understanding of traffic management, product flow, operational requirements and associated constraints. She is eager to drive change and I am excited about potential opportunities uncovered so early in the piece”.

Some of these opportunities include:

  • Changes to product packaging to eliminate damage and the need for restrapping
  • Changes to the distribution of trucks throughout the day in an attempt to level the demand
  • Review of existing processes to improve the ease of communication between customers, carriers and the operational staff in the yard
  • Developing and recommend layout solutions, positioning of products, storage, transportation and order picking methods

Lesley continued, “the reduction of truck turnaround times will have a positive impact on our team’s activities, business costs and overall operational efficiencies for both Boral and their transport providers, resulting in a “win-win” outcome for all.”

“Proposed improvements to traffic management policies will also have an impact on Yard safety and Chain of Responsibility compliance and standardization across all sites. Helen has worked hard to build rapport with the entire team at Darra and the Operators in the Yard are keen to embrace any proposed changes as they see merit in what Helen is proposing. I am eager to see the outcome of the analysis and initial trials in the hope that we can reduce costs and develop processes applicable to the entire business, not just our bricks site at Darra”.

Helen is on track to deliver her project results in June.

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