The UK’s largest independent cushion manufacturer has made big gains in lead times, productivity, flexibility and customer service with the help of experts from the Coventry-based Manufacturing Technology Centre.
Fibreline Ltd, which was established nearly 40 years ago and is based in Keighley, West Yorkshire, approached the MTC to help the business meet the challenges of variable unpredictable demand, short lead times and lack of flexibility.
The MTC’s Manufacturing Support Services operation worked with managers, supervisors and the operations team at upholstery cushion makers Fibreline to map the company’s processes and the critical areas that were creating bottlenecks. Together they designed a new factory layout to help material flow and effective communication, established a visual priority inventory system and helped to develop a team of specialist machinists to become multi-skilled for improved flexibility.
The result has been a significant improvement in lead times, better tracking, measurement and management of orders, a multi-skilled workforce, and supervisors able to make better use of their time without the need to micro-manage.
Fibreline General Manager Ged Bishton said that working with the MTC had resulted in some significant and positive changes across the business.
“We now have a clearer production process with improved workflow, which is understood by the operators and the supervisory team,” he said.
He added, “I am confident that a robust framework has now been established allowing us to cope better with the unpredictable fluctuations in our customer demands.”
Fibreline, which works out of a 90,000 sq ft manufacturing facility in Victoria Park Mills, pioneered the use of synthetic fibres in upholstery cushions and has grown to be the largest independent upholstery cushions manufacturer in the country.
Dean Baker, Director of the MTC’s Business Launch Centre and Manufacturing Support Services team, said the work with Fibreline had demonstrated that as well as helping start-ups bring products to market, they could also use their expertise to improve productivity and competitiveness in established SMEs.
Based in the MTC’s Sopwith Building the Business Launch Centre provides incubation cells for start-ups to develop and manufacture prototypes of their innovative products but also works with SMEs to improve productivity and processes. They have access to the MTC’s world-class advanced manufacturing and research facilities, as well as the MTC’s team of engineering and manufacturing experts.
Dean Baker said, “We are able to provide a de-risked environment for start-ups and SMEs with the support of our product development team from concept to manufacture. Through the MTC’s membership we can give companies the opportunity to draw on the wider manufacturing community to create and maintain a successful and sustainable business.”
The MTC was founded by the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and TWI Ltd. The MTC’s industrial members include some of the UK’s major global manufacturers.
The MTC aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy. The MTC is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, supported by Innovate UK.