20 July 2012
Implementation of lean manufacturing allows Electron to increase capacity to deliver new projects, including components for the new Range Rover
Electron Technical Solutions, specialists in applying unique paint finishes to plastic car parts, has undertaken a project to improve the efficiency of its processes, allowing it to increase its production capacity and turnover.
Electron is a UK leader in the painting of plastic components, providing matt, semi-gloss, full-gloss, soft feel, spatter, metallic and chrome effect finishes. Electron has facilities to produce small or large volumes, and there are two fully automated painting cells. The company produces approximately 40,000 components a week. As well as the painting of components, there are elements of sub-assembly.
In 2005 Electron impressed Jaguar Land Rover with its ability to paint exterior plastic trim such as grilles and bumper components, and since then the company has been experiencing an increasing demand for its products.
The aim of the project was to achieve an increase in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), increase capacity through further lean implementation, and also to increase turnover to Â£7m.
Electron was experiencing such a high demand for painting interior and exterior plastic trim from companies such as Bentley, Jaguar Land Rover and Toyota that it was essential to maximise every opportunity to increase production. There were particular inefficiencies during product changes and the percentage of product defects was too high.
The Northwest Automotive Alliance (NAA) Business Excellence (BE) programme provided advice and funding to Electron, and SMMT Industry Forum was brought in to deliver the improvements programme. Value stream mapping was conducted with the aim of looking at processes and improving them, in particular getting things right first time and avoiding defects, to avoid downtime and to save costs. Measures were implemented to standardise processes, achieve better organisation on the paint line, and improve the layout of areas. The principle of continuous improvement was also applied to the team meetings which took place at the beginning of each shift, as well as to the briefing board and instructions about how the line operates. Improvements were made to the flow of parts, and measures were introduced with the aim of eliminating contamination and waste.
The project has resulted in significant improvements in a number of areas, most notably getting processes right first time, leading to fewer defects and improved quality, less downtime, and increased productivity and capacity. This applies to both the existing and the new paint lines. Electron has now taken on new projects such as the painting of trim for the new 2013 model year Range Rover, and there is still extra capacity for other new products. The companyâ€™s turnover is on course to increase as planned.
Steven Schofield, Managing Director of Electron, says â€œThe work carried out by SMMT Industry Forum has definitely been beneficial. There was a need for staff to take time out to analyse the processes on our line but this has proven to be extremely worthwhile as significant improvements in productivity have resulted, and we can now take on more business. Over recent years we have invested significantly in capital equipment and this project has helped us to achieve the best possible return on that investment.â€