MANUFACTURER OF THE YEAR

Winner: Rolls-Royce

Runners-up: Jaguar; Worcester Bosch; Bombardier Aerospace-Shorts; Vosper Thornycroft

Rolls-Royce’s compressor systems unit at Hillington, in Glasgow, has cut the cost of making compressor blades by around two-thirds, slashed lead times from an average of nine weeks to three and reduced tooling costs by 90%.

The blade-making operation used to be a time-consuming process that slowed down the entire compressor development stage. Although tests were taking place once a month, new blades took 10 weeks to make.

The process was speeded up using a solution Rolls-Royce had already applied to other manufacturing tasks. The idea was that each production cell should contain all the machines, processes and services needed to produce a single component or carry out a significant amount of machining. This cuts downtime, as components have to travel less, and promotes a greater sense of involvement and team spirit among the cell’s operators.

The cut in lead times was achieved by producing blades direct from bar material rather than conventional forging, which can take up to 16 weeks longer. However, this production technique is relatively expensive, so a more cost-effective machining process was also required.

This was achieved through a combination of top-quality machine tools, 3D modelling systems and extensive training. Each operator can inspect parts on the co-ordinate measuring machine and is able to operate at least four of the other main machine types.

The fast-make cell cost £3m to set up, but Rolls-Royce estimates it has saved £1m in component costs in the first six months of operation. This has made a big contribution to the development of the Trent 500 engine, due to be fitted to the new Airbus A340-500/600 when it enters service in 2001.

Runners-up

To build the new S-type saloon, Jaguar effectively had to build a new factory within its Castle Bromwich site. Full production was reached just six weeks after the first car rolled off the line, dramatically reducing traditionally high launch costs.

Boiler manufacturer Worcester Bosch has seen its turnover triple over the past seven years, through group bonus payments, a new teamwork culture, improved material flow and changes to manufacturing processes. An integrated SAP system has replaced five existing IT systems, so that informed decisions can now be made using consistent data.

Over the past 10 years, Bombardier Aerospace-Shorts has had to deal with a recession in the aerospace industry, the disappearance of key customer Fokker, and an outdated team culture. Parent company Bombardier has ensured the firm’s success by defining functions more clearly and setting up a new system for work to move through the plant.

Vosper Thornycroft has maintained its reputation as an innovative shipbuilder while increasing productivity and cutting costs through constant improvements in its process.