West Control Solutions, global specialists in advanced temperature control, has recently completed a major expansion of its UK manufacturing centre in Brighton, creating new jobs and increasing output capability by up to 25,000 units per annum. The new facilities are the completion of a project to strengthen the company’s European production operations in the UK, and form part of a long term programme of investment in continuous product and service development.
Previously, West Control Solutions had operated two production centres, in the UK and Germany, with the latter being outsourced to a third party supplier. Following a fire at the supplier’s factory, the decision was made in December 2013 to bring the manufacturing in-house. The move would affect four production cells; manufacturing the PMA KS family of instruments and PMA Railine. West Control Solutions also decided to use the opportunity to update the manufacturing process of these products from batch processing used in Germany to adopt the ‘one-piece flow’ lean manufacturing methodology already in existence at the Brighton factory, thereby helping both to reduce inventory and improve quality control procedures.
Critical to the project’s success was the extensive planning and logistics management required to ensure disruption to customers was kept to a minimum. A cross-functional project management team was set up to administer all aspects of the transition which included two dedicated project managers (one each in UK and Germany) as well as representatives from customer service, IT, marketing, production, purchasing, shipping and logistics and sales. Considerations included the creation of product transfer packs, product training in Germany for the production staff and pre-building products in Germany ahead of the move to enable customer orders to continue to be met during the transition as well as regular communications to customers to keep them informed of progress.
The relocation of manufacturing took place across two phases in February and March 2014 and was completed with less than one week of downtime across all four production cells. Insourcing the manufacturing of the PMA product lines has resulted in an additional 45 vendors being effectively added into the supply chain. Furthermore, eight new permanent positions have been created in the Brighton head office to cope with the demands of manufacturing an additional 25,000 units a year. Lead times for all affected product lines have since returned to pre-transfer levels of three days across all products.
“Although the fire clearly presented us with a major challenge, our teams quickly rose to the demands of the situation. Once the decision had been made to in-source all production then we called on specialists from each of our core business disciplines as well as utilising the experience and expertise of the wider Danaher team,” explained Steve Allen, operations director of West Control Solutions.
“Together we developed and implemented an effective project plan. Despite the major changes to production process in an extremely short period of time, there has been minimal disruption to our global customers. This is a testament to our sophisticated business processes and the dedication and commitment of our staff. Just as importantly, now that the new UK manufacturing operation is fully functional, we are seeing considerable ongoing improvements in productivity, quality and capacity.”