Eight automotive suppliers from the West Midlands have retained or won more than £37 million of business with the help of an industry supply chain network initiative.
Automotive supply chain support agency Accelerate has worked in partnership with injection moulding specialist WH Smith (Tools) and focused on helping seven suppliers embrace Six Sigma, a business improvement strategy pioneered by Motorola that identifies and solves defects in manufacturing and business processes.
In addition to the contracts secured, the innovative project has also helped firms save nearly £800,000 and safeguarded close on 500 jobs, not to mention improving 43 processes, ranging from invoicing and stock control to quality and product design.
“This is one of the most successful projects we’ve worked on and introduces a world class manufacturing strategy and project led skills to companies,” said Accelerate project manager Steve Havins.
“By embracing the culture of Six Sigma, the eight companies will be able to continually improve productivity and reduce costs – two assets that are essential in today’s competitive environment.”
The Supply Chain Improvement Network works on the basis that one company – usually a tier one supplier – is host and they invite seven of its strategic suppliers to take part, which in this case included Barton Cold Form, Rieter Automotive, Hi-Finish Castings, Cab Auto, FW Cables, Covpress, Kepston and Frederick Cooper.
Using £100,000 of Accelerate funding, Capella Associates was brought in to deliver the project, with extensive training provided initially in a group environment so companies could share ideas and learn how what they are doing can benefit the “chain” as a whole.
As it progresses, the consultancy takes place at the home of each company so “Six Sigma” can be applied to the individual business and its everyday requirements.
“The whole programme took 10 months and covered technical training in the tools and methodology followed by skills development and coaching,” said Kate Smith, who was leading the initiative.
“WH Smith (Tools) and its suppliers are already enjoying the operational benefits, but the bigger picture is that this SCIP will leave an ongoing legacy of continuous improvement.”
She said that 16 people had now been certified as Six Sigma Green Belts and they would go back into their respective companies and implement what they had learned.
WH Smith, which employs 330 people at its plant in Minworth, supplies world-class parts direct to some of the automotive industry’s leading brands, including Toyota, Honda, Bentley, Aston Martin, Land Rover and BMW.
Managing director Colin Sarson said he was delighted with the results.
“It’s an old cliché, but you are only as good as the weakest link in the supply chain and we are fortunate that we work with some of the best customers and suppliers in the world.
“The Six Sigma programme has given us the confidence and skills to make sure we can increase efficiency and reduce costs, which equates to retaining and winning new business,” he said.
“We’ve benefited hugely and I know each one of the seven companies who took part have achieved their own goals and business benefits. It’s a win-win situation.”