Astropol manufacture colour and additive solutions, specialising in PVC carrier based masterbatches for the PVC processing industry. Established in 1991, the business has a reputation for quality and accuracy in colour matching, supplying customers in the Plastics, Window and Construction industries, based in the North West, UK and Europe.
The firm’s factory is in Wigan and employed 24 people in 2017.
Astropol’s high quality products were in demand and the order book was full, but the business were struggling to keep up with demand. Chris Wright, Director at Astropol approached the GC Business Growth Hub for support.
“I realised that if we were to continue to grow we needed to take a serious look at our manufacturing processes and identify how we could increase capacity to meet demand.”
The business met with one of the GC Business Growth Hub’s Specialist Manufacturing Advisors, who visited the factory and conducted a Productivity in Practice Audit.
“Our Advisor came to our site and got to know me, the team and the business. He identified the challenges we were facing, as well as our opportunities for growth and recommended our next steps.”
The free Productivity in Practice Audit identified that the business was struggling with waste, yield and batch sizes, all of which were slowing down production and impacting lead times. He recommended that the business receive fully funded support from a Specialist Manufacturing Advisor to implement change across the operation.
Chris worked with his Advisor to develop an operational improvement plan across several business areas, all of which would help to increase capacity and drive productivity.
Geoff Crossley, one of the Hub’s Manufacturing Advisor’s said:
“The improvement plan was focused on implementing lean manufacturing techniques which would help them to work smarter, not harder.”
Their Advisor delivered lean manufacturing workshops for the workforce on 5S and SMED, both of which focused on eliminating waste from the factory and their processes. They completed a Kanban exercise to identify all obsolete stock, materials and equipment on the site to create additional space on the factory floor, and conduced a Value Stream Mapping exercise which allowed the business to focus on value adding processes.
“We set about standardising our processes by developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). This exercise has reduced defects and rework in production. We have also adjusted our batch sizes, to offer us greater flexibility which enables us to prioritise urgent work without creating work in progress (WIP).”
“These techniques were implemented over the course of 2017, and it’s been a real cultural shift for us, but with a relatively small investment we have been able to reduce our lead times, increase our capacity and boost sales by 40%, which has seen us increase headcount by four people .”
“The support from the GC Business Growth Hub has been invaluable for Astropol, and I’m confident that these changes will see further growth in the coming year.”