Southern Pulp and Paper Introduction In this work I am going to identify the Southern Pulp and Paper’s Toccoa mill problems and issues that are available to mill’s manager Curtis Shelton. Part 1 In considering the overall process on the pulp and bleached products industry it is always good to start with the main performance objectives and measures. One of the first important issues is the process design and layout. How the process architecture looks like and how well it is designed to fulfill all the required operations would be the most important questions to be asked.
As stated in the case study the main problem of the mill appears to be the machines, number 5 and 6. They were in use since 1967 and were quite old, and although they were renovated to increase their capacity by putting some investment they are still the bottleneck of the process even if they work beyond their “rated capacity”. So the main issue would be the capacity of the machines. The key issue in machine #5 performances is running without breaks. The main problems in machine #6 which are: grade changes, which included both the scheduling and production issue.
They use the minimum computer technology and the superintendents are responsible to make adjustments and maintain them. So, one of the problems is about getting the machines computerized by installing the computerized machine control system. But the problem in getting it done is in the key measurement of the mill’s success Economic Value Added, which makes it doubtful. Moreover, the computerization may cause fears to the workers. The quality issue of the process is about having different specifications on the products, which are not necessarily needed but raise the cost of the process running on #6 machine.
The other issue affecting the process is scheduling. The problem is that the scheduling is being held in the main office in Birmingham by the other person. And there is always a possibility of promotion of the production planner to another job, which will lead in necessity of training of another person. It would be reasonable to state it as skilled staff turnover problem. Part 2 In this part I am going to show some improvement techniques, which will help to solve the problems faced by mill’s manager.
Firstly, in order to understand the entire process and find its problems it is essential to map the process. Using the Flowcharting technique of process mapping and exhibit #3 of the case study a basic scheme of the overall process should be built. Once the process is sketched it is easier to understand what are the bottlenecks and in which way it could be improved or even redesigned to fulfill the requirements of the system (Slack et al, 1998:701). After having a good understanding of what processes are running in the mill it is then advised to focus on each of them separately.
Flow charts can be used for the entire overview of the process improvement. They visually represent the process, identifying the problems and pointing on the participants (material or information flow). The flowchart system can be very basic as well as different approaches could be used such as Burlton’s Transformation Model or Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN). BPMN was developed in two versions, a core notation set to use by business people and an extended notation set for automation. It uses a particular symbol set (Harmon, 2007:231).
In order to identify the causes of breaks of the machines and to understand how to solve them it’s good to use Cause and Effect also called as Ishikawa diagram. It is used to find the main causes of a problem and is performed in following steps (Priddis, 2009:8): – Identifying the problem; – Drawing the main causes of the problem; – Search for the causes in each sub-area’s. After identifying all the causes and finding solutions for the machines capacity they could still remain as the bottleneck of the overall process.
In this case it might worth reengineering the process and introduce a machine with higher capacity. Regarding the computerization issue of the machines the question is how economically sound will it be for the mill. It has been shown that many of the problems such as grade changes, quality problems and sequencing. There is no doubt that the computerization will lead to flexibility and throughput increase. On the other hand the question is does it worth investing $15 million or in other words how important flexibility is in this case. While measuring the performance and considering ow a company can gain the competitive advantage the flexibility is one of the most important indicators. As Vonderembse and White state (1988:35) it “is the ability to change between products or customers with minimal costs and delays”. In this case flexibility is the solution for the productivity or capacity problems of the machines. Secondly it enables the satisfaction of the customer demand by making it possible to offer high variety of products, even if those variations might not reflect the higher quality of the products as it seems to be happening in Shelton’s case. Moreover the customer-focus is very important.
In the future the specifications and variety demand for the products may increase and the investments would pay the cost. Practically, the importance of computerization and as a result gaining the flexibility and customer-focused variety of products versus the $15 million price can be judged by the use of Performance-Improvement matrix (Priddis, 2009:4). The matrix is built considering how important the specific issues (y-axis) are for the customers (x-axis) comparing to the competitors. The graph is divided into four parts: excess, appropriate, improve and urgent improve respectively.
So, the right decisions can be achieved by the use of this matrix. Finally, one of the important issues is scheduling of the machines, in which the main problem is the difference in location of the production planner and the mill scheduler as well as the different approaches to the scheduling process carried by either of these employees. Hammer suggests about the Principles of Business Process Reengineering (in Priddis, 2009:22): ‘put the decision point where the work is performed…’ and ‘have those who use the output of the process perform the process’.
In the case of Southern Pulp and Paper it is doubtful to have the production planner in Birmingham while the process is being carried miles away at Toccoa. Moreover, the production planner doesn’t take into consideration the minimization of the grade changes, which significantly affects the cost of production. The process mapping technique described at the beginning could also point on requirement of relocating the production planner to the mill in the way of process stage shortening to decrease the cycle time or work in process.
The computer software model used currently by the production planner considers only the order amount, roll sizes and delivery dates (Bolen and Upton, 1996:9). But it should also include the grade change minimization as a variable for #6 machine. In conclusion, there are many ways and approaches of process and operations improvement that can be applied for the Southern Pulp and Paper. These are, basically, about performance objectives such as flexibility, quality, cost, speed and so on.
Moreover, different managing strategies can be used to perform the operations as there are almost always choices to make, i. e. continuous improvement or innovation, different ways to balance the demand and stock. These techniques are either specific to different types of business or depend on manager’s understanding and direction. References: Bolen, W. and Upton, D. (1996) ‘Southern Pulp and Paper’, Harvard Business School, April, pp. 1-10. Harmon, P. (2007) Business Process Change, 2nd edition, San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann.
Priddis G. (2009) OPM42 Lecture: Operations Improvement 2: The Performance-Improvement Matrix and Ishikawa’s Improvement tools, Brighton: Brighton Business School. Priddis G. (2009) OPM42 Workshop 5: Performance Objectives and Measures, Brighton: Brighton Business School. Slack, N. , Chambers, S. and Johnston, R. (1998) Operations management, 2nd edition, London: Pitman Publishing. Vonderembse, M. and White, G. (1988) Operations Management: Concepts, Methods and Strategies, St. Paul, Minnesota: West.