10 October 2011

Camfil Farr: Winner, 2011 Best Engineering Plant and Highly Commended for 2011 Health & Safety plus 2011 Energy & Environment Awards

Few factories can produce standard and non-standard products with equal speed and quality like Camfil Farr in Haslingden, Lancashire

You may well be breathing clean air that's passed through a Camfill Farr filter. They are found everywhere from offices to cleanrooms, mines, factories, hospitals and nuclear power stations. This world leader has 23 production plants internationally. And its 203-strong plant in Haslingden, Lancashire is among the very best.

Haslingden doesn't have the luxury of churning out the same thing each day. Over 30% of its output is non-standard and it takes superb processes and a multi-skilled, committed workforce to cope. It has both of these in spades. It wins through a strategic focus on time to market.

Although complex bespoke assemblies can take up to 40 days, average lead time for its major products is four days. In its fastest moving area, 96% of today's orders will go out tomorrow – when competitors often quote in weeks.

Success comes from tight control of works orders executed by highly flexible, confident operators. Many variants are customised lineside using stock held near to the cell. The whole thing is underpinned by comprehensive lean deployment. Haslingden is in the vanguard of a group-wide lean programme – the Green Tornado – using it to drive continuous improvement across the site.

After visiting Toyota in Japan - to "see what good looks like" – production director Jamie Kay was challenged to make savings of £30,000. The plant exceeded this target on a single project within 12 months. Haslingden has seen a steady increase in productivity year on year, sustained by thorough competence development and a ready flow of ideas from across the shopfloor.

Take one example. An existing – and frankly pensionable – machine producing wire-backed media rolls couldn't keep pace with demand. There were wide variations in both machine and operator performance but the cost of buying the media in was more than the cost of production.

So a team drawn from operators, maintenance and a supervisor set itself the challenge of meeting demand and reducing cost within normal working hours. The results were spectacular, reflecting both the ingenuity and the superb engineering skills that win Camfil Farr its top accolade. Its ability to coax top performances from ageing assets is truly remarkable. In this instance, adding a reflective coating to the heater drum and surrounding walls not only stopped the media snagging but also gave energy savings.

Re-engineering rollers, locking bars and cross wire feeds improved clean-down time and maintenance and accelerated performance, giving an extra 37% of running time. And set-ups were simplified and documented, cutting out the need for tools and positioning the next spool ready for a rapid changeover. The plant is now not only self-sufficient in the media but produces them at 98% quality without overtime – saving £26,000 a year, too.

Fresh thinking extends beyond production. Camfil Farr took logistics back in-house 10 years ago and, according to MD Bill Wilkinson, the result is consistently better customer service at less cost: "What's the point of making quality products, only to have them thrown around and damaged in transit? The customer doesn't care who did it – only that it happened."

The concept is simplicity itself; the execution another matter entirely. Once products are loaded, they are not handled again until they reach their final destination. Vehicle keys change hands, not their contents. Vans are routed through a countrywide network of drivers, each making short runs in their own patch, swapping vans on the periphery and mostly carrying raw materials on the return leg.

Logistics manager Michael Bolton controls it using real-time vehicle tracking – and quicker reactions than most could show to a charging bull.

Safety sits at the top of Camfil Farr's priorities without a single reportable accident in three years. But it also focuses keenly on energy reduction, actively engaging employees in new ideas, rewarding their contribution through bonuses and robustly monitoring and measuring consumption and waste streams.

So far, it has saved over 1,000 tonnes in CO2 emissions and more than £200,000 in hard cash. It shows yet another aspect of the attitude that pervades the entire Haslingden team: every day brings an opportunity to do even better than the one before.

Annie Gregory

Supporting Information

Companies
Camfil Ltd

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