Cardwell, www.cardwell-limited.co.uk Belman’s UK subsidiary has recently introduced a ‘fast track’ manufacturing cell at the firm’s factory based in Stockport, UK.
John Egan, one of the Cardwell Team Leaders comments on the fast track planning and implementation.
“I have waited almost a decade to write this. I am a welder. Nothing more, no fancy qualifications, no university education, just a welder. I have been a welder for 39 years.
When I started with Cardwell I had no ambition to move up the ladder; in previous employment I had gone through the joy and pain of supervision and management. All I wanted to do was keep my head down and weld.
Our little company had been plodding away for 30 years without any major upheaval, through good times and bad times making expansion joints and the good reputation of the company meant that performance was good and no one thought we needed to change to survive.
Then we got a new MD and Operations Manager.
So that’s the background. Now for the fun bit. To their credit, the new management team realised that the best way to improve efficiency is to involve the people that make the product. Firstly volunteers were asked for, this told management who was interested in bringing the company forward- thankfully the vast majority wanted to be part of this, only a handful sat back and watched.
Split into two teams, one led by myself we were given the task of coming up with a more efficient production facility. Without boring you with the detail, the production was originally split on two levels, by scrapping obsolete equipment and sorting out the layout we were able to bring all production together on the same level.
Next we had to look at the type of work coming through the production areas. We have basically three types of orders one offs, occasional repeats, and the repeating jobs that we do every month in varying quantities. Bearing this in mind we set up two assembly areas beside the convoluting area, one for specials and a separate production area for repeating work.This is the area we have labelled as ‘Fast Track’.
The next stage was to look at the product. There were three main operations: prepare the membrane, tack weld the membrane to flange, and weld complete. All three operations have sub operations, no need to go into detail here, but this is where cross training commenced. Three non-welders were trained to do all operations, this made the area as flexible as possible.
What makes this different from other production areas in other companies I have worked in is its flexibility. I have seen production line managers struggle to equal out each operation, trying to set the same time for each stage so in theory setting a perfect production line. In our case, because each operator can do all operations, we took a different approach.
When the product starts to come through, all three men work on the early stages (sub assemblies) until one unit is ready for welding. Because the welding operation is nearly always the slowest, the two operators not welding watch the build up of product waiting to be welded. When this reaches a certain point, the operator on the second operation goes welding, the first operator then takes over the first and second operations. This is continually monitored, when the welding operation starts to catch up with the first two operations, one of the two welders breaks off and we return to a three stage operation. This continues till product is complete. The monitoring is done by the team, the only intervention required by supervision is to deal with any problems.
The benefits are improved efficiency and ultimately customer service.
The flexibility of the workforce and the ability to accept change is key, teamwork is a crucial element.
Having said all that, the Management Team were the catalyst for change. Without them it is debatable where we would have been now. This is where we are today. We are entering exciting times for the company, as long as our sales team can keep us busy, we will achieve our aim of becoming a world class manufacturing facility”
About Cardwell Limited
Cardwell Limited www.cardwell-limited.co.uk are Designers and manufacturers/providers of Metallic expansion joints, compensators, and bellows in stainless steel, and nickel alloys.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:-
Bird Hall Lane
Phone: +44 (0) 161 491 5515
Fax: +44 (0) 161 491 2354
Objective of providing good technical response supported by manufacturing capacity for bellows and expansion joints.