The topic of the inaugural meeting was optimising the supply chain, a crucial issue for most manufacturers. The host of the meeting, Grzegorz Wiśniewski, GKN Driveline's plant director, welcomed members to the plant, which manufacturers continual velocity joints for transmission systems fitted to cars made by companies such as Volkswagen, Porsche, Peugeot, Opel, Volvo and Toyota.
Marcin Janiszewski from PwC spoke about optimising the supply chain, in particular the importance of continual improvement along the lines of the 'Plan-Do-Check Act' of the Deming Cycle, in order to eliminate waste and improve team behaviour.
GKN Driveline's Mariusz Karolewski, logistics director explained how the process of manufacturing at the factory is constantly being improved. A major initiative being implemented involves the replacement of forklift trucks with electric 'trains' that tow wagons carrying components and finished parts around the factory. Replacing rigid metal parts bins with lightweight, folding plastic ones has cut down the number of truck journeys needed to return them to sub-component suppliers, saving on fuel and CO2 emissions. Every step of the process is continually monitored in the search for further improvements, which can save costs, enhance productivity and reduce the numbers of workplace accidents.
Maciej Plamieniak, the chief operating officer of CeDo, the British company behind the Paclan brand, manufacturing plastic bin-bags and aluminium foil, explained how production is planned on the basis of sales and operational processes. Key to not over- or under-producing, and not building up too much stock, is to continually match production with sales orders, on a daily basis. CeDo, which has factories in the UK, Poland and Vietnam that are in constant touch with one another to ensure that production peaks and troughs can be smoothed over, cutting the amount of production that has to be outsourced in order to meet orders.
Anita Sawicka from BSI Group, talked about the new ISO 9001:2015 quality standard which will start to be introduced from this year. Ms Sawicka explained how the certification process will be simplified in many areas with a greater emphasis on risk management. The new standard, which should be fully implemented by September 2018, will be in place for at least the next ten years after that, she said.
After a lively discussion centred around the human aspects of manufacturing – whether employees should be consigned to roles or allowed to develop to take on more challenging tasks – there was time for the highly anticipated factory visit. Before BPCC members were allowed onto the factory floor, there was a short health and safety film; hi-vi vests and safety goggles were donned and the group was split into two.
For those who have not visited a modern factory before, the visit was a revelation – the traditional image of factories as dirty and dangerous, full of swarf, grease, dust and oily rags is consigned to the history books. Managers of individual assembly lines explained what they do; key performance indicators such as days without accidents, days without customer complaints (several thousand in some cases!) numbers of units produced per day, per week and so on. Also of interest was the 'black museum' – one exhibit is a home-made paper knife, brought in (against the rules) by one employee because the tool given to him was insufficiently effective. A lesson was learned by both employee and GKN; no one is to bring in unauthorised tools from outside, and that the production process could be further improved by longer, sharper paper knives on the line.
At an informal sandwich lunch, BPCC members exchanged experiences and business cards, and listed issues of interest to manufacturers that they'd like to raise in future meetings of the Manufacturing Group.