In today’s competitive laser cutting marketplace, companies are looking for every advantage to increase both their productivity and profitability. Every weld counts, every cut matters, and any chance to streamline process, reduce rework and save time and money is crucial. But it’s not always that simple.
The Six Sigma concept was introduced in the 1980s as a set of quality-management business practices using defined sequences and statistics to improve manufacturing processes. A Six Sigma program is meant to minimize production defects and variances, through step-by-step problem-solving, to promote a consistent flow of predictable finished products and improve throughput. Designed to be ultra-precise, the standard for success in a Six Sigma program was established at 99.99966% defect-free manufacturing. That means a maximum of 3.4 defects per one million items produced. More recently, many organizations have combined Six Sigma practices with another concept known as “lean” manufacturing. That synergized managerial methodology — simply called Lean Six Sigma — includes a focus on eliminating waste caused by overproduction, over-processing, excessive waiting time and other related factors. Praxair adopted the Lean Six Sigma principles and views them as the next logical step in the company’s continuous productivity improvement efforts. Through Lean Six Sigma methods, Praxair helps customers identify best practices and drive meaningful enhancements based on actual performance data. And from that concept, the StarSolver® Productivity
Many of Praxair’s customers across various manufacturing and metal fabrication industries adhere to the strict Lean Six Sigma manufacturing disciplines, which have been specifically designed to improve the quality and efficiency of production processes, which impact a customers’ bottom-line performance. “The StarSolver program has been designed to assist welding and laser-cutting operations examine each aspect of their welding, cutting and related processes, and compare those variables to optimum parameters,” said Jeff Ingraham, Business Development Director, Metal Fabrication Productivity, for Praxair. “The StarSolver program team then works with an organization to review the applicable data, developing realistic and achievable action plans that produce cost savings for the customer.” Praxair’s StarSolver program is designed to help metal fabricating customers become more efficient and competitive. The industry-leading StarSolver program approach relies on an advanced, cost comparative software package which enables Praxair to analyze an operation’s cutting costs accurately and systematically.
The StarSolver program employs exclusive productivity surveys and engineering studies to gather data about a shop’s operating practices. First, the StarSolver program uncovers and identifies opportunities within the welding or cutting procedures. Those process measurements are especially important for assessing labor and overhead costs, which typically account for about 85 percent of overall fabricating expenses. “We work with the customer’s current floor culture,” Ingraham explained. “We focus on floor applications and real problems that workers encounter there.” To determine the customer’s operating expenses and productivity levels, the collected data includes cutting variables such as wire feed speed, current, voltage, fit-up, gas flow rates, consumable selection and travel speed. Those numbers define the total impact of cutting on your bottom line. Praxair also has a long history of success with the StarSolver Productivity Enhancement Program, with dozens of trained specialists across the country supporting the program. That support also includes specific research and development work from the weld engineers at the Praxair Technology Centre in Tonawanda, NY. “I believe our role as a company is to help customers ucceed, not just to sell gas,” agreed Larry Cherne, Market Manager, Laser Gases, for Praxair. “The StarSolver program allows us to develop a deeper, value-based relationship with our customers, who know they can turn to Praxair for the advice and recommendations they need to make their operation run more smoothly.”
"In many cases, we help the customer save hours per unit. Then they apply those savings to the cost of the finished product." – Jeff Ingraham, Business Development Director, Metal Fabrication Productivity
Based on the StarSolver program evaluations, Praxair recommends appropriate, high-quality changes which can quickly improve the efficiency of the customer’s production performance. To date, the StarSolver program has helped dozens of Praxair customers become more productive, and more profitable. “We alleviate constraints within the shop floor flow,” said Ingraham. “In many cases, we help the customer save hours per unit. Then they apply those savings to the cost of the finished product.”
To create a customized improvement recommendation for your business, Praxair’s StarSolver Productivity Enhancement Program starts by conducting an on-site review of your fabrication processes. Led by highly trained experts from Praxair, the comprehensive performance audit addresses your whole production facility from start to finish. The program can even measure efficiency parameters at each individual weld station. “The audit can take from a few days to several weeks, depending on the operation” said Ingraham. “We have to make sure we match our skill sets to the right applications. Sometimes we deploy in phases.” As a result of the StarSolver program audit and tailored recommendations, Praxair typically helps a laser cutting operation to reduce scrap and minimize rework, while increasing productivity and improving quality. Cost savings or productivity enhancements can often be made with little or no capital investment. A key to the StarSolver program is that Praxair quantifies the actual cost saving potential of the improvement recommendations. And those savings can be dramatic. Praxair has helped many customers increase their productivity by more than 20 percent. “The program really differentiates us in the marketplace,” Ingraham added.
Unlike some consultant-based proposals, Praxair stays with you at every step of the way. “That’s where Praxair really shines, is in the implementation,” Kangas said. “Anybody can come in and make suggestions about how to improve, but we quantify it with a realistic action plan and then work directly with the customer to put the improvements in place. That’s how true partnerships are formed.” In addition to the actual implementation of suggested improvements, Praxair’s StarSolver program experts will schedule follow-up audits to make sure the recommendations continue to work effectively. Other benefits of a StarSolver program analysis include helping to lower the amount of fumes generated by cutting operations. With today’s continuing concerns about the welding or cutting environment and changing regulations pertaining to it, that step can be a real bonus.