06 October 2011
Gurit: 2011 Judges' Special Award, Highly Commended
A short ferry ride to the Isle of Wight finds Gurit, a composite materials producer that's oceans apart from its competitors
Just as steel began to usurp iron in the 1870s or when aluminium popularity soared in the 1970s, so composites are already firmly embarked on becoming industry's premier engineering materials. The demand for composites is rocketing and Gurit has already established itself as a world leader in manufacturing these advanced materials, ranking among the top three players in all target markets.
The company's Isle of Wight site at Newport specialises in composites for wind energy and marine applications, exporting high value engineered products all over Europe and the USA. As a result of increasing cost pressures, a concerted focus on its manufacturing processes in the past five years has yielded some remarkable results.
Core business at Newport centres on both pre-impregnated (prepreg) and formulated product manufacturing, with the production facility divided accordingly. Most of the leading European wind turbine manufacturers take advantage of prepreg technology, chiefly for blade spars and roots, working with Gurit to develop and engineer new composite materials to best suit the application.
These are complex materials offering a broad range of capability, including: lightweight to heavyweight variants; uni-directional, multi-axis and woven; glass, carbon and aramaid (and hybrids). Wind energy is a particularly dynamic sector with multiple new products launching every year, along with typically one step change in technology. Add to the mix the fact that Gurit has just gone 24/7 to service a major new contract, and managing this culture of change takes dexterity and guile.
Gurit focuses on four key objectives: health and safety – reducing the number of reportable accidents (running at zero for 2011), first aid accidents and lost days due to work-related accidents; environmental – reducing the volume of site waste sent to landfill by 21% per annum and energy consumption by 10% (currently down 30%); customer satisfaction – reducing the number of customer complaints and maintaining delivery OTIF performance (currently 98%, on target); and efficiency, which considers production variance and post-production scrap.
Scrap, reportable accidents, complaints and OTIF are all linked to a shopfloor bonus scheme.
Gurit also has a comprehensive CI programme in place –there are 180 documented improvement activities in various stages of progress around the site.
Commencing in 2006, the company's lean journey and process improvement progressed well until the global economic crisis, which forced many production boat builders to close. However, a determination to retain workers during the recession enabled greater flexibility and created the position of strength upon which Gurit thrives today.
Playing their part are many well-executed management tools such as 5S, OEE, kanban, a reward-based ideas recognition scheme, kaizen events, a structured supply chain strategy, flexible working hours and ERP production planning. TPM is among several strategies at the introductory stage. Arguably, however, it is the operations training strategy that sets Gurit apart.
"Great processes and products are little use without people to drive success," states Luke Kerr, operations and training manager. "Success through people is one of our key corporate values. It's all about contribution through personal responsibility, capability and teamwork."
Interestingly, Gurit has no team leaders on the lines, preferring instead each cross-functional trained operative to stand up and be counted. The company uses a six-stage learning framework based on needs identification, determination of performance requirements, training design, training delivery, measurement of achieved levels and evaluation of organisational benefits, typically via an applicable KPI.
Today, all production technicians have an NVQ Level 3 and some have the opportunity to progress to higher education, either HNC/HND or even take an engineering degree at the University of Portsmouth (two have completed this). Every year, Gurit enrols 6-10 employees into a technician role.
The company has also embarked on an apprenticeship programme, taking on four promising youngsters last year alone, while in June this year, it launched Training4Success, a programme that will deliver 93 courses over the coming three years. These will be delivered largely by a external provider, outlining Gurit's impressive investment in training.
As a basis for business excellence, Gurit's environment of development and learning means training is embedded into everyday life, and as a consequence it's easy to see why the company is Highly Commended in this year's BFA Judges Special Award
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