SHAW Columbia, SC Plant Reduces Costs, Improves Training Using Virtual Reality

Stock photo, subjects interact with virtual reality headsets.

Stock photo, subjects interact with virtual reality headsets.

South Carolina manufacturing companies are finding that Industry 4.0 technology can have immediate financial benefit, and it is not always expensive or difficult to implement. Shaw Industries’ plant in Columbia, S.C. demonstrated this in a recent plant visit from the South Carolina benchmarking group, the OpExChange.

Shaw Industries is the world’s largest carpet manufacturer with $6 billion in sales, 80+ manufacturing and distribution sites in three countries, and over 20,000 employees worldwide. They are a leader in social responsibility including starting up the largest plastic bottle-recycling facility in the United States (as a joint venture with DAK Americas). The plant in Columbia, S.C. produces Nylon 6 Resin as well as polyester and Nylon 6 carpet fiber. They employ approximately 450 people and have been an active participant in the OpExChange group for 12 years.

One of the more critical jobs at the Columbia plant is that of an extrusion operator. When the operator is performing the string-up operation during a machine break-out, there is inherent waste generated from material lost through the aspirator. A skilled operator can perform this operation in about three to five minutes (on average). Training new operators, however, was historically expensive. When they were introduced to the equipment, typical string up time could take upwards of 30 minutes. It could take this operator multiple iterations to become proficient.

In 2019, Shaw worked with the South Carolina Manufacturing Extension Partnership (SCMEP) and SimInsights to implement virtual reality (VR) for this operation. The cost of implementation was remarkably small, particularly considering the huge operational savings experienced. The operators now spend their “initial” developmental learning time on the VR equipment, improving their string-up cycle time while generating no actual product waste. The string-up time was dramatically reduced so that the operator hits the production floor with a much higher skill level. Training time was also reduced by roughly 25 percent.

Dane Hayes, HR Training Manager for Shaw, provided a detailed presentation on the VR implementation, savings calculations, and lessons learned from their implementation. The group also received a demonstration of the VR equipment and went on a guided tour of the plant to witness operations firsthand.
In addition to the demonstration and plant tour, the group attended presentations from the plant management team – learning about Shaw’s processes, products, and safety reporting system.

At the end of the three-hour visit, the group of peers participated in a “Plus/Delta” session where the team provided feedback to Shaw on things they really liked and recommendations for continual improvement. One of the benefits of an OpExChange plant visit is the opportunity to collaborate with other manufacturing experts from across the state. Valuable insights and suggestions came out of this diverse group.

All OpExChange members may view videos of the visit, documents, and reference material on the OpExChange online portal.

ABOUT THE OPEXCHANGE

The OpExChange is the only peer-to-peer network of companies in South Carolina known for generating data-driven success for members through benchmarking and best practices activities. Member companies host events and share practical examples of industrial automation, lean manufacturing improvements, and leadership development. It is an invaluable resource to South Carolina companies that provides access to others who are on similar improvement journeys. If you are interested in joining, contact Mike Demos (Mike@OpExChange.com) or visit the OpExChange website (www.OpExChange.com) to see current companies.

ABOUT SHAW

Shaw Industries Group, Inc. is more than a flooring company – we are more than 20,000 people united in our vision of creating a better future for our customers, for our people, for our community and for our company. We provide carpet, resilient, hardwood, tile & stone, laminate, synthetic turf and other specialty items for residential and commercial markets worldwide. We meet diverse customer needs through an expansive portfolio of brands, including: Anderson Tuftex, COREtec, Floorigami, Patcraft, Philadelphia Commercial, Shaw Contract, Shaw Floors, Shaw Sports Turf, Southwest Greens and more.

Headquartered in Dalton, Georgia, Shaw is a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway with $6 billion in annual revenue and representation throughout the U.S., as well as in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, India, Mexico, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. For more information about our company brands, operations and community involvement, or to join our industry-leading team, visit www.shawinc.com.


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