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Students realise $1.5m savings in manufacturing projects


CEED students have proven particularly effective in manufacturing projects, including those focused on making processes leaner or more productive. In the 2009/2010 financial year alone, CEED students helped 28 companies make combined cost savings of $1.5m. The average CEED manufacturing project in this period provided a return on investment of more than 330 per cent for the client.

CEED project at Foster's Australia 
 CEED student Rhys Markun, during his recent project at Foster's Australia.
 The company is one of CEED's many manufacturing clients to gain
 significant savings and other benefits from working with students
 on innovation, process improvement / lean, and environmental
 management projects.

Household names such as Schweppes, Foster’s, Parmalat, Australian Aerospace, Campbell Brothers, Australia Post and Bundaberg Sugar have been able to streamline processes and reduce waste from many parts of their business - cutting time, materials, energy and water.

Major manufacturing enterprises such as these can achieve hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra profit from a couple of per cent efficiency saving due to sheer volume. However, the work required to find ways of making these savings can be onerous, repetitive and take resources away from core business.

CEED clients have reported great successes in utilising students as a dedicated resource on lean and other manufacturing projects to undertake systematic research, gather data, record and analyse test results and produce reports.  As well as allowing employees to concentrate on their day-to-day duties, CEED students bring a fresh perspective, new ideas, and a lack of preconceptions.

CEED case study – Amcor Beverage Cans

The client and project background:

Amcor is a global packaging leader operating across more than 300 sites in 43 countries, with 35,000 employees and annual sales of $14 billion.

The Amcor Beverage Cans plant in Rocklea, Brisbane produces millions of drink cans every day for customers including Coca-Cola, Carlton United Breweries (CUB), Golden Circle and Schweppes. Around three per cent of these cans have to be scrapped because of a small defect – a fold or ‘pleat’ in the neck. This percentage was above average and, in a high volume manufacturing environment, was proving very costly.

There were more than 30 different theories held within the company about why this defect happened so a small team of six engineers, production and maintenance personnel was assembled to investigate the root cause and minimise its occurrence. They set a goal to decrease waste from three to 0.25 per cent and thereby increase profit, product quality and client satisfaction.

The brief:

At the start of 2010 Amcor approached CEED to find an engineering student with good analytical skills and ideally some manufacturing experience to support the team. The successful candidate would have to assist and sometimes lead with troubleshooting, trials and data recording.

The project would require the CEED student to systematically test all the different theories and rule them in or out, one by one. As the rest of the project team were existing employees, who had day to day duties which took priority, Amcor wanted a dedicated resource who would focus solely on testing and recording data. The work involved very specific and at time onerous tasks, which it would be easy to delay in favour of more pressing duties.

 Amcor Beverage Cans - CEED project, 2010
 Lee Gale (Amcor Beverage Cans) with CEED student, Jason Scukovic
 during his recent project.  Jason identified the root cause of a defect
 in the can's production, which will achieve a significant reduction in waste.

Jason Scukovic, a final year Bachelor of Engineering student, majoring in Mechatronics, from the University of Queensland, was chosen for the project from twelve applications and a shortlist of three.

The project team needed to identify the primary processes that initiated the pleat defect and decided to focus on one high speed production line, to start.  There were 10 different inputs, which could have led to the problem and 30 raw theories, some more valid than others, but all requiring attention.

Jason also had to avoid increasing spoilage in other areas, when reducing the incidence of pleats. It is already known that a trade-off in reducing the necking folds could increase the incidence of scoring on the cans so trials have started on how to achieve the project goals without increasing the occurrence of another defect.

The approach:

Jason decided to approach the project using the Kepner-Tregoe Problem Solving and Decision Making (PSDM) method, which uses five steps to help the practitioner make sound decisions and avoid jumping to conclusions or using hunches.

The first step was to interview all the relevant Amcor personnel to record the valuable information they hold on the 10 different ‘inputs’ where the pleats might originate, covering every stage of production from the making of the can body to necking.

The second step was to design and perform a range of experiments and trials that would comprehensively test the range of theories put forward by employees. Jason did this by changing the parameters of the manufacturing process such as the thickness of the metal, the speed of the production line and the time the cans spent in the oven.

Statistical analysis using the Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) was performed on the results of all trials to ensure that they were statistically significant, as the produced pleat percentage could be seen to fluctuate randomly at times.


So far Jason has isolated a significant cause through a benchmarking test; an anomaly in the metalworking process in another Amcor plant led the team to send a full set of tooling used for one of the machines to the USA, to be reworked to a new specification.

Preliminary tests suggest this will eliminate the majority of defects and achieve the project goal of reducing pleats from three to 0.25 per cent. Final results are expected by the end of September 2010 and if successful, permanent changes will be made.

According to Jason, there were a couple of surprising outcomes in disproving theories, which had been strongly believed for many years.

“Although many of the theories held were somewhat accurate, they were not root causes of the excessive spoilage rates. We now believe this is the tooling which is being reworked.”

Other benefits:

In addition to waste reduction, the project is expected to free up Amcor’s maintenance and production staff as pleat management and spoilage monitoring have been a recurring issue for many years.

There are also environmental benefits. Even though aluminium cans are 100 per cent recyclable and achieve a 90 per cent energy saving when re-cycled, it is still more efficient to avoid scrapping them entirely as it avoids the transportation and recycling process.

The CEED program for students:

Jason said the CEED program gave students a real taste of potential careers and industries as well as helping them develop interpersonal and report writing skills.

“Above all it gives you a chance to put into practice all the things learnt at university, which for me has inspired me to do better in my studies and furthered my passion for engineering,” Jason said.

“I would advise students interested in the CEED program to apply for projects they’re genuinely interested in as it can be hard work but gets easier and more enjoyable the more involved and engaged you become.

“CEED projects provide great learning opportunities and fantastic networking prospects – I would strongly recommend them to every student.”

Jason continued his time at Amcor over the break between semesters and is still doing small amounts of ongoing work when his university timetable and work permits.

Client conclusion:

Rhys Jacob, Project Engineer at Amcor, was a supervisor on this lean manufacturing project and a mentor to Jason.

“The job demanded a lot of time researching, checking and rechecking results and Jason maintained his focus, took into account all the variables and delivered a fantastic report,” Rhys said.

“We have already seen some significant results and I would encourage other companies to use CEED students for projects of this nature. They greatly appreciate the industry experience, offer fresh ideas, and work hard to achieve results.”


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