Recent upgrades in logistics at the Outokumpu Quarto Plate mill in Degerfors, Sweden are resulting in better lead times and improved plate surfaces for customers. In mid-2014 a 100 million EUR ($130 million) expansion to the mill included adding a walking hearth furnace, a cold leveler, heat treatment batch furnaces, and cooling and transfer beds. Customers now benefit from the capacity increases of the investment but also from thoughtful improvements in our logistics including an expanded shipping bay, automated packaging, a new software system, and training. “The new equipment, which was set up as a continuous process, required a more robust set of logistics tools,” explains
Erik Ozols, Supply Chain Manager for Quarto Plate at Outokumpu.
Indoor warehousing for faster shipments
Our Degerfors warehouse now loads all trucks indoors in a covered area, and most completed product is also stored indoors. Before the expansion some finished plate was stored outdoors. An expanded shipping bay now accommodates up to five trucks at one time, reducing the wait time for trucks bound for customer deliveries. Wrapping, packing, loading, and storing all plate indoors reduces the likelihood of dust, gravel, and wind impacting the final product.
The packaging system in the warehouse was modernized, too. “Our plates are now packaged in a highly automated process, which reduces the time to load the plates onto trucks and helps to protect the plate surface,” notes Ozols. The new automated packing system specifies different wrapping materials depending on the shipping location and method. For example, when plate is shipped to customers by sea, it is packed in special material to protect against seawater condensation.
A new software system helps schedule when the mill will produce different sizes and grades of quarto plate. “This IT tool allows our schedulers to visualize the consequences of their planning decisions. The software indicates how changes in production flow can improve delivery performance, quality, throughput, and utilization,” Ozols adds.
Training for further efficiencies
Mill upgrades didn’t just focus on equipment. Through training target is to increase flow efficiencies and elimination of production waste, like waiting for a production step or reworks,” Ozols says. “There is a direct correlation between lean manufacturing and improved lead times.”