11 July 2016

Meet the Champions - Gary Ashby

Process technician, Gary Ashby transformed an unfancied factory area into the pride of the site. Here is the tale of a true unsung hero

Gary Ashby can expect a secondment to R&D should Fujifilm ever launch a breakthrough range of speciality gold inks. For here is a man with the Midas touch; capable of transforming the down at heel into the downright outstanding.

Gary’s effort earned him the Unsung Hero Award at Manufacturing Champions 2015. His story begins with an unfashionable move from quality control, after 10 years’ service, to oversee potwash in the production area for analogue inks in 2014. Back then, potwash was a byword for mess and mayhem. The clean up of ink splattered mixing vessels considered sloppy seconds to the precision manufacture of digital inks elsewhere at Broadstairs. Potwash had come under fire during quality audits and its operators carried a broody air.

Unperturbed, Gary rolled up his sleeves and set to work. He began by taking up training in pot maintenance and used the insight that gave him to pioneer a pot servicing schedule. Gary then turned to the area’s operators for further improvement ideas.

Some simple kaizen made a clear difference. Overfilled pots sent to the area from other parts of the factory were rejected and returned. The measure saved over an hour in cleaning time per pot. And it wasn’t just the pots that began to shine. Potwash operator Aaron Widdows, at loggerheads with senior managers until Gary took the reins, explains: “Gary helped me change my outlook, attitude and esteem... His mentoring has led to me being personally thanked by management.”

No wonder. Potwash produced spectacular gains in output, cleanliness and health and safety standards. Auditors lavished praise on the area in ISO assessments, describing it as a credit to the plant. Gary, the man with the Midas touch, had ushered in a most unexpected golden age. Not that he was about to take the credit for it.

“The best thing is seeing others inspired by what I do,” Gary says. “Whether in a team or on my own seeing an improvement that’s been successfully implemented is all I need to drive me onwards and upwards.”

Our judges said: “Gary’s dedication and commitment shows in everything he does. He took on a challenge that plenty of others had struggled with and made some immediate improvements. He’s shown the creativity to implement best practice, but also the soft skills to involve his operators in new ideas. He has a real talent for getting the best out of others.”

Author
Chris Beck

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