projects
System-thinking creates efficiency in production of clean energy solutions

 

“The miniature model of our production site was especially useful and is something we will continue using as we plan to expand our production even more”.

We’re sitting under the tin-roof protecting us from the torrential rain and thunderstorm pouring over the garden. I have just asked David Gerard about what Green Bio Energy will take away from the collaboration with Design without Borders.

Green Bio Energy Ltd is company based in Kampala that produces charcoal- and briquette stoves for cooking, as well as fuel briquettes made out of organic waste. David Gerard is the Deputy Managing Director and has been with the company for a few years already. The company has a social profile and a stated goal to fight poverty, deforestation and climate change in Uganda.

The products they offer are affordable, made by a locally trained workforce and using locally available material. Their main products are the EcoBurner and Briketi. The EcoBurner is a charcoal stove for domestic use; whereas Briketi are long-burning briquettes that are made from 100% recycled material such as organic agriculture residues and charcoal waste. The Briketi reduce indoor air pollution emissions and have 90 minutes cooking time compared to 45 minutes with traditional charcoal. In addition, they are 20% more affordable than regular charcoal. Currently the company has 40 employees.

When Design without Borders started working with the company in 2015, they had recently expanded and opened a new production site. They were however facing challenges with the organisation and work-flow, which resulted in not optimal end-results of the products. Design without Borders was tasked with assisting the company with organising the production site to improve efficiency and working conditions.

The design team worked with the management and the workers for two months. The initial research phase included shadowing the workers to really understand the challenges with the workflow and the way the production site was organised. Early on in the project, the designers mapped the production flow and the organisational set up of Green Bio Energy and made a model of the production site. The model proved very useful in identifying the bottlenecks and challenges together with the workers and the management.

The changes that were suggested and tried out were quite simple but proved to have a big overall impact on the efficiency of the production site. They included giving the workers defined work tasks and responsibilities, finding a new travel route for the truck avoiding driving right through the site, improved design of the wheelbarrow to better fit the crates and better placements of equipment and machinery in relation to the workers and the tasks.

“Already the production has gone up with 20%”, David says proudly. “Prior to the project, the workers made 100 stoves per day, now they make 120. The main changes have been that the workers specialise in one task of the production process, like cutting the metal or assembling the pieces. Others do the lining and the fitting. Before one worker used to do the whole process and the end result was of varying quality. Now they get to specialise in one task”.

In addition to the increased production, David expect that there will a reduction in number of  workers on sick-leave and less turn-over, as the work environment and conditions steadily becomes better. “The workers say it is better now”.

The company has also employed more staff, including two women. This was possible as the work tasks were split and isolated and the women can now do the less physically taxing tasks.

“It was a new experience working with the designers. It was very interesting, I found them professional as they always came with tools to visualise and help us. I also appreciated that they worked with the whole team, including the workers, the stove producers and the Briketi producers. They worked with them, asked them questions and considered their opinion. Without this we would not get the good result we did”.

Written by Hanna Haaland, visiting the Bugolobi site in Kampala on 02.05.2015

Facts about the project

Timeperiod: March-May 2015
Partner: Green Bio Energy Ltd

Research and design development methods:
• System design and visual mapping
• Immersion interviews and shadowing

Results:
• Factory flow improved and production increased with 20 %.
• Employment opportunity for women
• Ergonomics and working conditions generally improved

 

Watch the film about the project made by Muyingo Siraj: