Operations managements

Question
  1. Select a process with you are familiar. The process could be one from a past or current place of work, one you have experienced as a customer or client, or one you are able to observe process and collect data from.
  2. Produce a detailed map of the current process, populated with appropriate data, with explanation notes, and with a key to the symbols used
  3. Analyse the process or possible improvement, produce a 'future state map' of the redesigned process, and provide recommendations the implementation of the process redesign.
  4. Identify the benefits, quantitative and qualitative, of your 'improved' process.

Introduction;

The tea has been cultivated and manufactured in Kangra valley since the middle of last century. It was first introduced between 1830 and 1840, by the European Tea Planters, known as Nissan Tea Company. The valley grows the hybrid China tea known to be rich in flavor and compares favorably with the tea grown in other parts of the world. In the early years the tea industry flourished very well in the valley because of suitable agro-climatic conditions and availability of plenty of land for the tea cultivation. Kangra tea industry occupied prime position with respect to its quality from the last quarter of the 19th century till date. Tea made in kangra during this period is comparable with thatof every part of the world.

Process mapping is a qualitative as well as quantitative tool which helps us to clearly define the current processes in pictorial form and let us identify the key areas of a process such as capacity issues, bottlenecks, waste or delay in the process. It provides a firm basis to develop solutions for the existing issues with the process and helps in designing new improved processes.

In general, process mapping enables an organization to answer followings:

  1. What is happing in the current process and why;
  2. Measure how efficient the current process is;
  3. What are the major issues with current process;
  4. How these issues can be dealt with;
  5. What kind of changes should be made to improve efficiency of the process by designing a new future state map for the process?

In this report, there is an analysis the tea manufacturing process of the factory. There will be a process map which will describe each step in relation with others in the entire operation. The limitations of the current process will be analyzed and areas of improvement will be identified. Then the effects of the proposed improvements will be shown on future state map. Finally, the implementation and quantitative and qualitative benefits of the improvement will be stated in order to help the company to improve its current limitations and maximize its effective and efficient operations.

The Factory

Vision

To produce the tea of the international quality standards.

Location

The Palampur Co-operative Tea Factory Limited is located at Palampur, India at latitude 32. 6I N and 76. 3I E .

Primary Raw Material

The green leaves and the leaf buds of the plant Camellia sinensis.

Climatic Conditions for the Crop

Kangra Tea is grown in lower slopes of Dhauladhar range of North-West Himalayas in Palampur , under mid hill temperate zones with a moderate hot summer and cold winter with mean minimum and maximum temperature 17.8 oC and 27.6 0C respectively and annual rainfall of 2500mm during the plucking period.

Harvesting Seasons

The crop is harvested in four seasons;

  • April-May, the Flush Plus.
  • May- July, the Second Flush.
  • July-September, the Rain Flush.
  • September- October, the Autumn Flush.
Output of the Factory

It is a small factory which produces only between 400,000 and 500,000 kilos of tea annually. All production is limited to the months between April and October.

Final Produce

The tea is sold under the name of Himalayan Tea

Manufacturing Process in General

Plucking of the Green Leaves

In a tea garden, plucking of green leaves is done in various sections. This is conducted as per the schedule mentioned in the Plucking Round Chart. This depends on the type of flush. Successive plucking should be done with the gap off following days;

In Flush Plus - 4 to 6 days, In Second flush- 7 days, In Rain Flush-8 to 10 days, In Autumn Flush- 10 to 11 days

Green Leaves Weighing

The leaves plucked from the tea-garden are weighed inside the garden in a central station manually by the labour.

Withering

This is the stage where green leaves are first dried off. On the first floor of the factory, the green leaves are spread on withering troughs loosely, to a depth of 4 to 6 inches into drying units made up of wire mesh. Below the wire mesh fans are installed to pass air over the green leaf while it withers. This is done to remove the moisture content in the green leaf which allows the leaves to withstand thestrain of rolling without breaking up. The timings of withering process vary from 16 to 24 hours depending on the moisture content in the leaves. For the autumn flushed leaf withering process last for 24 hours which brings about physical and chemical changes.

Rolling

On the ground floor, just below the tanks, four single action orthodox rollers, with large circular trays are installed in which the tea leaves are mechanically ground and broken up after the satisfactory withering. In this process leaves are forced through a machine having steel cylinders which move 35 to 50 RPM. The function of the roller is to twist the leaves. It damages the cell wall of the leaves so that the cell-sap is exposedtoreact with the oxygen in the air. It also allows the enzymes and their polyphenols such as Caffeine, Tannins and proteins etc. to get thoroughly mixed up. At first this is done without applying any pressure, subsequently followed by medium and hard Pressure.

Fermentation

From the crushers, the leaves, now somewhat brownish-green in color, are transferred to an adjoining room, where they are spread out and allowed to ferment in a constant flow of cold air. The cold air is necessary as the temperature for the fermentation must be2C less than the outside temperature. Fermentation is the process of oxidation of the chemicals inside the leaves. The leaves start changing its color to somewhat brownish when they react with oxygen in the air. An adequate fermentation results in the change in color of leaf in to reddish brown and develops the characteristic aroma and unique flavor. The mechanical aspect involves loosely spreading out of the leaves crushed by rolling a layer 3 to 5 cm thick, for 45 minutes to 120 minutes, depending on the quality of the leaves and outside climatic conditions.

Drying

Fermented leaves pass on to the next stage, where they are put into large chambers and subjected to a very high amount of steam, generated by a wood-fired oven. The purpose of doing that is to stop enzymes activities and to bring down moisture content up to desired 2-3% so that its qualities should be obtained to the optimum level. The leaves are then passed through the dryers and remain within the dryer for a period of approximately 20 minutes at a temperature of around 230 - 240 degree Fahrenheit. It takes 15 minutes to half an hour to dry the leaf, when the enzymes are fully activated. Once the sufficient drying is done, they're moved to a grading area.

Sorting and Grading

For grading, the tea is blown with the help of mechanical fans, over wire meshes of graded sizes. One type of mesh only allows a particular type of top-quality tea particles to fall through them; another only allows second-grade tea to fall through, and so on. In this way tea particle are sorted out into 3-4 different grades. After sorting and grading the tea has to undergo a further cleaning process through a large circular tea sieve which removes any twigs, stalks, fibrous residues and other foreign matter from the tea.

Packaging

After grading and sorting it tea is conveyed to packaging area. Before packaging it is passed through powerful magnets to prevent mixing any piece of iron. It is packaged in to 50 Kg waterproof jute bags as most of what is produced at the Palampur Co-operative Tea Factory are not sold in the local market. The tea is sent to Kolkata, from where it is distributed in other parts of India and the world.

Evolution to Value stream Mapping

Value Stream Mapping is a pictorial representation of the various processes of an operation. It identify the value adding and non value adding activities and time between the processes, and thus, help to identify improvements and work through an implementation plan( Forrester, P.2009). The following figure represents how to formulate a Value Stream Map as follows;

Value Stream Mapping

The above framework helps to design the future state map which clearly illustrate that how the implemented plan will increase the efficiency of the operation and utilise its maximum capacity.

Process Flow Chart

The very first task to generate a process map of an operation is to identify its various processes. Then all the process should be logically linked to each other. The easiest way to link the process is to generate a flow chart. The various processes of the tea manufacturing in the factory is pretty straightforward and can be represented as follows;

Value Stream Map - Current State Map

Details of Current Process

The various stages of tea production in the tea factory can be described as follows;

Analysis of the Current Value Stream Map

The following is the current value stream map of the manufacturing process which highlights the scope of improvement in the operation. These areas of improvement can be discussed as follow;

Raw Material

Raw material for the leaves and leaf buds of the plant Camellia sinensis. The crop is grown in the nearby Kangra Valley. Under normal climatic conditions the crop is harvested in four seasons a year. The majority of the leaves are plucked manually with the help of local labour. A skilled worker can pluck maximum 25-30 Kg a day, which means an average of 30 workers are required to complete the job of plucking of shoots in one hectare of land. Shortage of manual labour especially skilled pluckers, comparatively high labour wages, and lower efficiency in manual mechanisms leads to addition of substantial amount in the production costs and delay in the raw material to the factory.

Inspection of Raw Material

The quality of the final produce depends a lot on the quality of raw material. Therefore, it is very important to properly inspect the raw material from the tea gardens. The quality control mechanism of the raw material quite informal and the quality checks are usually neglected during the busy harvesting seasons.

Procedure of Weighing of Raw Material

The plucked leaves are weighed in the tea gardens right after the plucking. This system reduces the efficiency of the plucking of green leaves by unnecessary engaging pluckers in to weighing tasks.

Issues with Withering

It is an important activity and it is necessary that all the leaves should be equally withered to ensure the smooth and efficient functioning of the entire operation. However, it is noted that uneven withering leads to many unplanned break downs when they are forced into the roller. Moreover, rollers also outdated which does not satisfactorily handle un-even withered input.

Outdated Machinery

The factory is fitted with four fairly outdated Single Action Rollers. Two of them require subsequently high degree of maintenance and often breaks down. This leads to the problem of bottlenecking of the entire process at times as other two rollers are not able to meet the capacity of the dryers.

Facilities for Fermentation Process

There is no specific machinery dedicated to this process. Although fermentation is possible without machine, but if it is done with the help of machine it can speed up the process. In the factory fermentation is done in a large room on the ground floor. If it would have been done with the help of machine that room could be utilized for other purposes.

Underutilization of the Dryers

The factory is fitted with the one wood fired oven and three conventional tray dryers. The capacity of each dryer is 250- 300 Kg/hrs. But due to irregular and usually less supply of the processed material, that is, fermented tea, its capacity does not utilized to the optimum amount.

Possible Solutions for the Problems Identified
  1. Increase in the Input of Raw Material with the use of Mechanical Pluckers
  2. The input of the raw material, i.e., green tea leaves to the factory is limited by the manual labour and its cost. The labour cost for only plucking the green leaves from the tea garden is $0.12 per Kg (Wages of a worker for a day = $3.00, Average green leaf plucked in a day by a single worker= 25 kg).

    The main reason for such high cost is that the majority of labour use traditional methods of plucking, i.e., plucking by hand and only very few worker uses machines for plucking green leaves. Even though mechanical plucking is less costly, saves time and provides high efficiency and uniformity in plucking, majority of worker are reluctant to use those comparatively old mechanical equipments because of difficulty to use them in sloppy land of the valley. But these days modern plucking machines are available which are easy to operate in such conditions. By providing such plucking machines, factory can reduce the cost of raw material and increase the input to the process.

  3. Inspection of Raw Material
  4. The tea manufacturing by its nature highly dependent upon the quality raw material, hence, the right quality of the raw material is equally important as right quantity. Though tea gardens are carefully selected while signing contract with the local holdings, it is very important to thoroughly inspect the green leaves during plucking and transporting to the factory. The inspection efforts from the factory authority are quite informal during busy harvesting periods. Thus it is important to concentrate on the inspection procedure both at the tea garden and as well as in the factory so that if any deviation from the standard raw material found it should be segregated from the rest of the leaves, in order to ensure smooth functioning of the operation and quality of the final product.

  5. Weighing Procedure
  6. Plucked leaves are weighed in the tea garden before they transported to the factory. This is process takes useful time which can be utilized for further plucking. The solution for this can be achieved by installing an electronic weighing unit in the factory that allows weighing raw material while loaded on the vehicle. This will save time, decrease labour cost and increase accuracy and accountability of the process.

  7. Even Withering
  8. The purpose of this process is to reduce water content from the green leaves up to 30%. The issues with withering process can be resolved by evenly spreading the green leaves on troughs. If leaves are not properly withered they should be separated and allow further withering for couple of hours. This practice will help to reduce the unplanned downtime caused by inadequate withered input to the rollers.

  9. Outdated Machinery
  10. The two rollers of the factory require high maintenance and regular down time. Despite of the regular maintenances the unit usually broke down and limits the efficiency by bottlenecking of the entire operation. This problem can be fixed by replacing these units with the new ones, preferably with Double Action Rollers. This action will have a dual effect, first it will solve the bottlenecking problem and secondly, as it will increase the output from this stage it will automatically resolve the issue of the underutilization of the dryers. This will ultimately lead to increase the final output, and hence, the capital invested can be recovered in short time period.

  11. Installation of Fermentation Machine
  12. Since there is no fermenting machine installed in the factory at the moment, factory can consider this option. This machine will speed up the process by reducing fermenting time from 90 minutes to 30 minutes. This again will solve the problem of underutilization of the dryers as well.

    Alternatively, the output of fermenting process can also be increased without even being installing the fermenting machine. Since the factory is using floor to spread the tea for fermentation, it can be used only once at a time. If the fermenting room is mounted with stainless steel tray racks the capacity of the room could be enhanced four times. This option makes more sense as compared to the first, as capital investment and operating overheads are quite less when compared to fermenting machine.

  13. Capacity Utilization of the Dryers
  14. All the dryers are not utilized up to their effective capacity. The reason for this can be any of the three; the inadequate raw material supply, bottlenecks caused by unplanned downtimes of the rollers or absence of the fermentation infrastructure to meet the demand of the dryers. By fixing these most of the underutilization issue can be addressed.

Future State Map

The proposed future state map of the factory is illustrated below. High efficiency and high quality can be achieved by deploying the changes discussed above.

The Future State Map of the Factory

Conclusion

Form this discussion we can conclude that Value Stream Mapping is essential in order to find out how efficient an operation is and what are its existing issues. By applying this framework to the Palampur Co-Operative Tea Factory's operations we can figure out that the main reason of its underperformance is its obsolete technology and high dependency on manual work. The appreciation of technology in the very first stage, that is, plucking of green leaves can trigger the input to the operation and installation of rollers and fermenting machine can solve the bottlenecking related issues. In this way of these actions can address the issues with the underutilization of the dryers and can help the factory to actually realize its optimum capacity.

Bibliography

  • Forrester, P. (2008) Operations Management Module Book, Birmingham Business School
  • Hill, T. J. (2004) Operations Management, 2nd ed., Palgrave MacMillan
  • Slack N, et al Operations and Process Management (2006)

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