Black Country-based sports car manufacturer Westfield has embraced lean manufacturing.
The Kingswinford company, one of the few remaining UK-owned niche vehicle manufacturers, produced its first car – a replica of the 1956 Lotus XI Le Mans racer – back in 1982.
Now, more than a quarter of a century later, the company is driving forward a programme of change which was led by lean manufacturing consultants Bubblequest.
The process started this year when Bubblequest was invited to run a workshop on using the 5S principles.
The 5S’s originated in Japan and are named after five words that are mnemonics for a philosophy and way of organising and managing the workspace and work flow.
The strategy not only removes waste, improves productivity and general morale.
“It also deals with stopping people and preventing processes lapsing back into old habits.
Westfield managing director Julian Turner, said: “Following our acquisition of the business, it quickly became clear we needed to improve quality and efficiency.
“To do that, we had to look at the business differently – effectively to ‘think outside the box’ and evaluate how we go about our daily work.”
“The workshops Bubblequest ran really allowed us to look at many of the different facets of our business – right down to the little things that you would not normally take a second glance at,” he added.
The workshops carried out at the beginning of 2008 saw big changes in the way that the assembly area is run.
Production manager Adrian Halford, said: “To start with, we adopted the changes that were recommended in half of the production cells so that their effect could be measured against the existing methods.
“It soon became apparent that we needed to roll-out the changes to the remaining cells as they were lagging behind.”
“We have been so impressed by the difference that using the 5s’ principles has made to our production, that we are now implementing it across all other areas of our business. We’re even going to train our suppliers!”
Bubblequest co-founder Greg Simpson said companies were now recognising that lean manufacturing techniques could radically improve their bottom line performance.
“The problem is that up until now there has been the lack of a coordinated monitoring system to assist with the implementation of the programme.
“Working with a forward thinking company like Westfield has acknowledged yet another great example of how our training and software tools can underpin the roll-out of a lean manufacturing philosophy,” he said.