Printed Circuit Board manufacturer incorporates Lean Manufacturing across all departments for increased effectiveness and efficiency.
GSPK Circuits Ltd, based in Knaresborough, are a specialist printed circuit board manufacturer who offer much more; design, full technical support, project and supply-chain management right through to logistics support. The company currently employ 84 people at its plant based on the GSPK Technology Park. The company focus on highly technical solutions for low-medium volume manufacture to market sectors such as automotive, security, power, telecommunications, defence and medical.
In the latter half of the 1990’s, GSPK Circuits Ltd identified a need within their company for a better working practice and consequently embarked on implementing a forward thinking and innovative solution – Lean. Today the company are advocates for this concept.
Martyn Gibson, Operations Director at GSPK Circuits Ltd said “for a new approach the company identified the need to improve its processes throughout the company and innovate for competitive advantage. It was at that time that we investigated Lean manufacturing and considered it to be the best way forward. We chose Lean because it is a philosophy and not a system or technique and because it offers the scope to continually develop the company and its processes. More importantly, it harnesses the minds of all the people within the business.“
When considering radical change within a company, a great deal of thought must be given to how you are going to achieve this. It was apparent then, and still is today, that change happens through people. GSPK Circuits Ltd had to consider and plan how they were best going to educate and motivate their staff to this change.
The key principles and benefits of Lean manufacturing is that it offers the capability to specify value from your customer’s viewpoint by identifying the value stream, for example; physical flow, information flow and new product introduction. The Lean process is designed to reduce lead times by eliminating waste within processes by incorporating better, more streamlined performances within an organisation from the top down. The key concept is aimed at speed and acceleration within business, quality and price and without incorporating costs in doing so. By doing this you are able to improve the value adding activities and reduce or eliminate the non-value adding activities. More specifically to GSPK Circuits Ltd, incorporating Lean has enabled them to make value flow, avoid batch and queue and use one piece flow. The company is now able to pull at the rate of demand, avoiding over-production and seek perfection through continual improvement.
It is very probable that your company has already implemented cost saving practices but Lean involves cost saving strategies for every aspect of trading activity ie manufacturing, administration, pre-production, packaging, despatch and even your supply chain.
Incorporating Lean may entail a change in your company culture, it will also change how you think about and conduct your business. Key characteristics of Lean production orientated companies include being customer and profit driven, team based with a wider allocation of responsibility. It necessitates the philosophy of lead time and cost reduction, regular production, new product development and flexibility. For these values to be incorporated effectively, this new concept and culture should be communicated to the workforce through regular meetings and appraisals and should be ongoing. Working together, these characteristics provide companies with a genuine recipe for success.
In GSPK Circuits Ltd’s case, the Lean manufacturing concept was firstly introduced to the Directors and Management team when Sid Joynson of the Sid Joynson Partnership visited the Technology Park in 1997. The company objective and vision then, and it remains the same today, was to “create a world class manufacturing and service company”. Incorporating Lean into the manufacturing process has to be accepted and embraced from the top of the hierarchy down and a strategy on how to achieve this needed to be formulated.
The company went to great lengths to discover how Lean worked and how best to incorporate it and this was not achieved alone. Time was spent speaking to advocates of the concept such as Mike Studley of Siebe. GSPK soon learned that incorporating Lean was going to be by no means a simple feat. Every individual within the company needed to understand what it was and then want to do it.
Training schedules, videos and seminars for staff were developed and an education commenced. Getting this right was paramount to the success of incorporating Lean.
As we all know, the key to any company’s success and ultimate survival is how quickly it can deliver products and services to market – on time delivery to your customers is king! So a strategy was formulated and in 1998 efforts were made to learn about the Theory Of Constraints and the first “Team Board” was set up in the Final Inspection department.
By this time, GSPK Circuits Ltd were making a difference within their marketplace and the knock on effect meant that customers were starting to become interested in the positive changes they were making. Efforts were made to visit A.C.T in the North East, (part of the Invensys Group) to incorporate Kaizen across their factory. Subsequent to that, GSPK Circuits Ltd became Invensys’ approved Lean supplier.
One of the company’s first goals for themselves was to compress lead times and as a result launched the initiative “Project 24”. The aim of this was to process each order from receipt through to shipment of product within 24 hours. This was a tall order as at the time the average lead time was 23 days and the inventory figure was £1.3M.
Time was spent with Dr Philip Barden, Programme Director from the Harrogate Management Centre whose accolades include working with the Government in Scenario Planning & Risk Management. Regular Kaizen events were run to re-evaluate individual parts of the process – primarily looking at the space the company occupied with the objective to cut out waste and so speed up production for increased efficiency.
Dr Philip Barden comments –
“A real sense of excitement drove Project 24. The entire staff saw the impact of continuous improvement on operational efficiency and recognised the enormous performance changes that could be achieved. Even more important, there was a recognition that this was not simply adopting new techniques, but also embracing a new philosophy of manufacturing.”
In 1999 the company continued to run Kaizen events on a project by project basis to carry on educating people and eliminating waste within processes, WIP and walking distance between machinery. When the company realised that their relevant departments were dotted all over the GSPK Technology Park and not concentrated in one area – hence wasting time – steps were taken to rectify this and even today further plans are afoot to condense the shop floor area from two buildings into one, further increasing efficiencies, reducing lead times and WIP.
It was in July 1999 that Martyn Gibson, Operations Director, arranged to visit the Lean Enterprise Research Centre at Cardiff’s Business School to meet with the Co-Director, Professor Peter Hines, to discuss the reasons behind, and the strategy for the re-organisation of the offices.
It was at this juncture that the company realised that they needed to run a Kaizen event for the office departments and their associated procedures. This process helped management discover that at this point every order travelled 1 mile and took 27 hours to process! A decision was made to consolidate the associated staff into one working area and as a result of this move, an order now travels 50 yards and takes 6 hours to process!
The company continues to evaluate and improve with customer care and satisfaction at the forefront of their mind. More recent changes have been:
The specification of all new equipment has 25%-50% extra capacity than is needed for future developments:
- A “Visual Factory” policy has been adopted
- WIP rules have been put in place
- Inventory rules have been put in place
- Lead times have been reduced
Having initiated and incorporated the new company philosophy and practices, the positive changes have enabled GSPK Circuits Ltd to have the confidence in their customer focused ability to offer uniquely, firm commitments and guarantees. Notwithstanding that, they now offer their clients and potential clients the opportunity of incorporating Lean into their own everyday activities. They achieve this through undertaking an unbiased evaluation of current practices and make appropriate recommendations. The businesses that are surviving today are adapting Lean techniques into their processes and procedures. As a result, the company are positive the steps they have taken to help gain competitive advantage will stand them in good stead for the future.
Said GSPK Circuits Ltd’s Operational Director, Martyn Gibson –
“One of the problems the company faced in the earlier days, which has since been addressed, was controlling WIP. It was the philosophy of the drilling department at the time to continue drilling circuit boards to create excess and to then store them on pallets. Today Lean processes have enabled employees to become multi-functional through cross training to control WIP. The incorporation of a capacity marked trolley system enables employees to monitor bottlenecks. If a bottleneck appears, employees are moved down the process to help clear the problem. People are the biggest and most important influencers of the success or failure of any change you try to introduce into your organisation. The company realised that to try and introduce a sea of change into an organisation, like Lean manufacturing, you’ve got to get the people to buy into it. Without the support and enthusiasm of the majority, you are on a hiding to nothing. Fortunately for GSPK Circuits Ltd, the Chairman, Graham Keddie OBE had seen best practice factories and had become an evangelist on Lean and the benefits it could bring – so I had the man at the top for support.”
The following quote from Machiavelli says it all:
“There is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of changes. For he who innovates will have as his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new”.
Martyn Gibson further comments – “It has taken the company a great deal of hard work, effort and dedication to incorporate this technique throughout the workforce but the rewards have been astounding. Lean in its entirety allows for change to be continuous for ongoing innovation and improvement and it allows the company the room it needs to grow without restriction. In my experience, the people on the shop floor on the whole embraced Lean thinking – we were able to tap into their skills, empowering them to make changes. This is one of the reasons GSPK Circuits Ltd has been successful in this and why we are the first name on the lips of our dedicated clients today.”