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Product Manufacturing 1

Lean Manufacturing: Production plant process & work flow optimisation

Have you been working with the same space and with the same processes for many years? Do you know of opportunities for improvement, but can’t afford the downtime to fix them? At what detriment is it to your business and bottom line?


Austral Aluminium Products is an established aluminium joinery company in Melbourne’s north, providing custom aluminium windows and doors to commercial and residential customers.

Over more than 30 years, Austral has expanded and as such, so has their stock requirements and the number of work stations required to complete the work orders. Ad hoc solutions were implemented to allow uninterrupted completion of orders. The 2046m2 area of plant space was disorganised and an OHS hazard.

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Fig. 1 - Examples of product offerings at Austral Aluminium Products


With Austral deciding to move factory locations, there was an opportunity to understand and analyse their current manufacturing process, and prioritise the high impact areas, which would lead to the highest return on investment with the changes required to their plant layout, equipment and fabrication processes.

That return target being a sustainable processing method that guarantees consistent yield – that will be done efficiently, safely and within the constraints of their budget and human resources. By understanding their user requirements in detail upfront meant we could prepare a plan to audit, optimise and engineer a solution that would be a solid return on their investment and low in risk.

Items to consider:

What is the process? What is the order of work from order placement to order dispatch? Are there variations to the process? Are there work stations that directly interfere with one another? What limitations are there on each work station, i.e. service requirements?

Operational Audit & Optimisation:

Given the nature of the problem, the first step was to undertake value stream mapping of the current manufacturing process, utilising process flow diagrams (PFD’s) and analysing the manufacturing environment. This visualisation gave both the vendor and the client a simplified view of what they are doing and an immediate opportunity to rectify any abnormalities in the process, by isolating each process and applying relevant engineering countermeasures with respect to each mating process and resource being utilised.

Work flow optimisation in this case involved auditing each work station and factory layout and conducting the following activities:

Analysing factory location of each work station, inventory fixture and plant equipment.
Identifying process sequence and logic to highlight problems areas.
Analysing current production process methods & tools used at workstations.
Creating detailed PFDs and assessing each work station with time-in-motion studies.
Creating new standard operating procedures (SOPs) and 5S of workstations.
Capability gap analysis – both equipment and human resources.
Creating automated processing recommendations for manual operations.
Eliminating unnecessary waste in factory, specifically unused or obsolete inventory of materials & components.

Client Recommendations:

Austral was given 3 optimised layout options each containing variations for factory setup, process control, standardisation and training required to up-skill factory workers – both to decrease waste, increase production efficiency and drive down operational costs.

Outcome & Benefits:

After the final design layout and improvements were implemented, this allowed Austral Aluminium to:

De-clutter their working environment, including 5S of all work stations and office space.
Allowed floor-space maximisation (30% area reduced) due to optimisation of process work flow.
Streamline their work flow leading to 35min reduction of assembly processes – increasing worker efficiency and product turn-around times.
Decrease their inventory held on site by 15% – together with improved storage racking and fixtures.
Minimise truck access area by confining truck access, material delivery or finished product pick-up procedures.
Minimised manual handling and thus increasing worker safety by utilising automated cutting machines.
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