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Refining Throughput Improvement



Refining Throughput Improvement


Production output at a nickel refinery was considerably below equipment potential and production throughput varied considerably, resulting in excess inventory and lost sales.


  • Reduce WIP inventory.
  • Reduce process variability and thus improve production throughput.


  • Increased production by 8% over best demonstrated performance.
  • Reduced WIP Inventory from $1.4 billion to $.9 billion (35%), releasing $450,000 in cash.
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Case Study

Reduce Inventory & Increase Throughput at a Nickel Refinery


Production output at this nickel refinery was considerably below equipment name plate (design) potential and production throughput varied considerably (+/-25%) day to day, causing serious issues in sales and requiring high inventory levels. The Highland Group was engaged to help produce consistent and predictable high performance by getting the right balance between incoming material composition, equipment operating parameters and equipment maintenance, along with proper inventory management and S&OP practices.

Highland Approach

The Highland Group took a two-pronged approach to achieve maximum output, including:

  • Developing a mathematical approach to help the operation run near its performance “sweet spot.” This tool was necessary to better plan and predict incoming material composition that varied widely.
  • Implementing enhanced practices in Maintenance to ensure higher equipment availability and reliability. 

 Actions Taken

  • Developed a mathematical model to plan and predict production performance.
  • Installed management routines and planning mechanisms for upstream operation to ensure incoming material has a narrower band of specifications.
  • Implemented shop floor management routines and analytical tools to improve standard operating practices and parameters.


Reduced work in progress inventory by


Increased throughput to record levels

[Highland] listened, worked within our culture and brought valuable insights and experience from both inside and outside our industry from which we were able to benefit.

Director Smelting and Refining, North Atlantic Region

Related Information


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