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This is why our Clydach Kiln Plant is ‘happier and friendlier’

September 29, 2021

Kiln Plant team member Mark Howard puts a tool away on a very organized shadow board. Photo: Vale Archive

Earlier this year the team at the Kiln Plant in Clydach, Wales, undertook the first three stages of a 5S pilot in the hydrogen blower area. The 5S workplace organization methodology, originally developed in Japan, helps eliminate waste in all forms. It involves five phases: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain. 

The process in Clydach began with Sort. With everyone on the team on a walkthrough, they were asked to “look at what items were required in the area and remove any items that didn’t have a purpose in the area,” said Jonathan (Jon) Poland, kiln plant superintendent. The items removed included traffic cones, ladders, a broken pallet, and other general debris. 

For the Set stage, team members organized their workspaces by giving the items required for the job a dedicated space. To help with this they set up “shadow boards” with painted silhouettes of items showing where they’re supposed to be stored so anything missing or out of place can be quickly identified. 

Also on the shadow boards are images showing the expected cleanliness standard and the names of team members responsible for specific areas. Completing the three stages took about a month. 

Kiln Plant team member Nathan House is pictured in the hydrogen blower area, which has been beautifully 5S-ed! Photo: Vale Archive

“Before this project was started the area was in a poor condition and issues were not quickly identifiable. You are now able to spot abnormal conditions within three seconds,” said Jon. “Having a cleaner environment with no clutter and being able to quickly identify any issues makes the team feel better working there.” 

Operators are now working on the 4S and 5S steps by working checks and housekeeping into their daily routines, with an audit to follow. Along with the physical transformation, the project also turned out to be a cultural transformation thanks to the team being given an opportunity to own the issue, and come up with a solution. Because of this, as well as the “happier and friendlier” work area, there were benefits to the employees’ mental wellbeing that resulted from the physical and cultural transformation, as well. 

“Since the team is no longer working in a cluttered environment, they take pride and feel a sense of accomplishment for their achievements in the area,” said Jon. “It was important that the team members were leading this project as it engaged them and they would feel better about the achievement once it was done.” 

He added: “The team are now proud of this area and take ownership to maintain it to this standard.” 

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