Postato : 23 Jun 2006
The main driving force behind Lambda UK’s recent re-organisation of its manufacturing facility in Ilfracombe, Devon was to speed up the time and minimise the cost it was taking to implement new product introductions (NPIs).
Another major consideration behind the reorganisation was the continual pressure that manufacturers face to keep their operations cost-effective. The electronics industry has become even more cost conscious and Lambda’s facility had evolved over time into a product focused operation and was not using its capital equipment effectively because of this.
Thus Lambda’s three key objectives were drawn up: Firstly, to rationalise the layout of the facility; secondly to reduce the costs to the business and lastly to streamline NPIs. During the planning phase some interesting logistics challenges emerged: 25 tonnes of equipment had to be relocated, 3Km of new cabling needed installing, 300m of new airlines, and major changes to Lambda’s computer network – all without interrupting the business for more than one week’s production shutdown. However, a greater challenge was the major re-organisation of the workforce that these new initiatives involved. Employee consultation began in the February of 2005 and this led to some employees moving from the manufacturing side of the operation into product development (focusing on NPI). The total number of assembly operatives was reduced and there was a reduction in the number of factory-based employees. Subsequently business expansion has led to further recruitment.
All of the changes have acted as a springboard for the business which is now able to introduce new products faster with less capital investment and the business is now process focused which has led to an increase in product yield and improved utilisation of capital equipment. One example of the dramatic effect of the re-organisation is that in the surface mount manufacturing area there has been a 44% reduction in the number of employees. The entire manufacturing process is now well-defined with a visible flow and even the physical distance that parts travel has been reduced. Where previously there were only three people who claimed ‘ownership’ of a process this has been increased to nine. Another added benefit is that with the consolidation of equipment into process areas, rather than product areas, a clearer picture of equipment utilisation means that Lambda UK will be able to reduce its spend on capital equipment in the future by using the equipment it already has more effectively.
The proof of the success of the initiative though can be seen from the overall improvement in factory productivity (12% so far) with further improvements identified.
Beginning not the end
Lambda UK though is keen to point out that the huge re-organisation that took place is the beginning of its journey not the end. Phil Scotcher says of the project “We have dug the foundations for future improvements and will continue to use Kaizen Events to improve productivity and Six Sigma to improve product yield facilitated by our in-house teams of experienced Black Belt and Green Belt lean manufacturing experts.
Lambda UK recently became a fully owned subsidiary of Densei Lambda KK Japan following the acquisition of Lambda Group companies by TDK Corporation of Japan. An immediate benefit has been the establishing of global teams to co-ordinate manufacturing plant efficiency world-wide and access to the most senior manufacturing experts in Densei Lambda.
Says Scotcher “Although acknowledged by some of our major customers as one of the best power supply manufacturing facilities they had surveyed, under our new parent we know that the Ilfracombe plant can become the most advanced of it's type in the World. This can be done by combining the immense experience of Lambda’s loyal workforce accumulated over 40 years of manufacturing in Devon, together with the fresh views and expertise gleaned from the Densei Lambda manufacturing operations in Japan, China and Malaysia.”