Pure Fabs are a Bolton-based manufacturer of air handling ventilation ductwork, supplying commercial property developers for new build or refitted offices, commercial and public buildings. The company was established in 2010 and employed 10 people in its factory in Horwich, with key clients in mechanical and electrical services, property management businesses and, recently, a large contract for the Ministry of Defence.
Pure Fabs have successfully taken advantage of the industrial interior design trend, supplying a base of clients not just within commercial property, but within bars and restaurants across the UK.
Pete Connor, a Director at Pure Fabs, sought support from the Business Growth Hub for help developing factory capacity.
“Supplying the construction and refit sector means that we have to be flexible and quickly respond to changing demands. We were frequently pulling ‘work in progress’ off production to focus on a batch that the client required immediately – which was creating waste. We were increasingly busy with a full order book, but we were relying on subcontract staff and outsourcing to help us meet demand.”
Geoff Crossley, specialist Manufacturing Advisor at the Business Growth Hub, met with Pete at the Horwich factory to complete a Productivity Audit.
“I met a business which was producing a fantastic product, but the work environment was highly pressurised because of the unpredictable product demand. This was leading to rework and, most crucially, wasted time.”
Geoff invited Pete as his guest to a Manufacturing Management conference at which the Business Growth Hub was speaking. Attending the event and seeing how other businesses were managing their operations was all the motivation that Pete needed to make smart changes at Pure Fabs.
Geoff worked with Pete to improve the businesses standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure standardisation across the operation. They then developed a skills matrix, to understand which skills were needed to match the future demands of production while building in resilience.
Geoff then introduced the factory to lean manufacturing processes by supporting a 5S workshop, encouraging the entire team to focus on waste reduction.
To address the unpredictable product demand, Geoff worked with Pure Fabs to understand what an optimal batch size would be. Geoff said:
“It often feels counter intuitive to reduce factory batch sizes, but for Pure Fabs large batch sizes were creating inventory, inflexibility and rework when designs needed to be changed at short notice. Reduced batch sizes mean that production is agile and able to adapt to client demands. The smaller batches are processed much quicker and work in progress is reduced.”
It’s not just production that has improved; since working with Geoff the business has had a cultural shift. Pete said:
“I have worked in manufacturing all my life, but never believed that lean methodology could make such a difference to the shop floor. The focus on 5S has revolutionised the business; we analyse every detail now. It has helped us understand the ‘hidden wastes’ within the business and the team are now as focused on saving time as they had previously been on saving materials.”
“I take a Gemba Walk around the site most days, and spot test the guys on the ‘eight deadly wastes’. This isn’t just an opportunity for me to check all is well, it opens up two-way dialogue and the team have seen the benefits of continuous improvement. They have seen that if they can suggest a way to do something better I will listen to them and we make the changes together.”
Since implementing this new way of working, the workforce have suggested improvements, including providing operatives with workstation storage for consumables, a reduction in materials transport and investment in better tooling equipment, leading to improved quality and the speeding up of processes.
As a result of working with the Business Growth Hub, Pure Fabs have been able bring the subcontracted work back in house and have taken on an additional five full time members of staff and will soon have a new apprentice joining the team.
Pete said: “Since working with the Business Growth Hub we’ve increased productivity by 20%. I now know exactly how much waste we create as a business, and we’ve been able to reduce that by 7%.
“There’s been a total culture change. Iit’s not been easy and it’s by no means complete, but we’re now a team committed to continuous improvement. I am planning to work with Geoff to continue implementing lean tools and techniques which will benefit production, and will participate in the Manufacturing Champions Network events to help me develop our long-term strategy.”
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