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Inside Windows Active Manufacturing

20 July 2007

This month, Windows Active gets the low down on the manufacturing department from Nick Blockeel, Head of Manufacturing at Eurocell Profiles.

Which areas of manufacturing do you look after?

My areas of responsibility include rigid and foam extrusion along with the mixing of raw materials and maintenance of machines and die manufacturing (toolroom). I work closely with Pete Brown, who is Plant Manager for Mouldings and looks after woodgraining, patios door kits, injection moulding, and our other post extrusion manufacturing processes.

What makes Eurocell manufacturing different?

The fact that we manufacture everything on site is a great benefit to our customers because it means shorter leadtimes and also allows us to quickly alter production to match demand. This often happens if our customers need a larger amount of stock following a very successful Bank Holiday sale! Having everything on one site means being able to react much more quickly to production requirements.

How have you managed to maintain such good service levels to customers?

Every employee in the production team plays a vital role in making sure we look after the needs of the customer. This has allowed us to maintain leadtimes and service levels during what has been a record sales month. It’s a great feeling when you can see the whole team putting their heart and soul into helping our customers grow their businesses.

Do you carry out any recycling activity?

We have made such excellent progress with recycling in the last few months that we have now stopped sending waste polymer off site. Much of this material now goes into new products we have developed specifically to help our recycling targets. Take for instance our BBA approved cavity closer, which is made entirely from recycled material. This is a great way to improve our waste management while at the same time meeting our and our customer’s environmental objectives.

What have been the major improvements in the factory recently?

Recycling is definitely an area where we have made most improvement which has not only been good for the environment but it also makes sound business sense because it allows us to manage our cost bases and keep our fabricators more competitive. We have also made several significant investments in both of our extrusion plants to add additional capacity. This really was perfect timing because commissioning coincided exactly with record sales orders from our fabricators in June.

How does recycling work?

Our cavity closer is the first product we have made from recycled material. If should give fabricators a great story for selling into local authorities and new build. Here’s how we do it:

How are you helping fabricators remain competitive?

We all know that the PVC-u industry is very competitive and that’s why we are constantly looking at ways of increasing our efficiency in the factory. Quality is a key area of this because it fits with our business strategy of only supplying precision engineered components to fabricators. This helps us reduce scrap rates and thus overheads, with the benefits passed on to customers. We also have a list of key performance indicators including die change times, output rates, volumes, customer service response times and attendance. All of these ensure we are constantly keeping a check on our performance and making sure we satisfy customer demand.

What recent achievement are you most proud of?

We recently gained ISO14001 accreditation, the internationally recognized environmental standard. We view this not only as being a positive step forward environmentally but also as sound business practice. This is because it provided us with a framework that made us focus on areas such as minimizing waste, reducing power usage and optimizing recycling - all of which are good for the environment while helping us control our cost base. The good thing about ISO14001 is that the improvements are ongoing and incremental which means that framework is in place to introduce further efficiencies to benefit fabricators in the future.

What challenges are you currently facing?

In common with most manufacturing businesses, we are experiencing the effects of increased raw material prices. However, because we are continually focusing on our manufacturing efficiencies and investing in the facility, we have so far been able to balance most of these increases against increased efficiencies. The quality of the product leaving the factories has always been excellent and in terms of reducing production cost, our main focus at the moment is in reducing scrap rates, and ensuring that any scrap that is made is appropriately recycled - a philosophy that is also driven by our ISO14001 accreditation.

How have you improved the service to fabricators?

We have recently re-organised the factory layout to make it more responsive to demand fluctuations which means that we can quickly ramp up production when it is needed by our customers. We know that fabricators need to sell a complete product range including value adding accessories as this is where many make their margins, which inevitably means smaller batches. However, with the changes we have recently made this means shorter product runs are no longer a problem. Our ability to exceed customer expectations remains as important as ever.

What training courses do you offer to your team?

Many extrusion operators have achieved NVQ’s in Extrusion processing. Training is always ongoing with, for example, courses in Health and Safety, First Aid etc, with a review of further NVQ training underway.

How flexible can you be with fabricators?

In a word very! We recently had a request for an equal sightline window from a key customer and by working through the specification we were able to design and manufacture the profiles to make this window in only four weeks. Again, the fact that product design, engineering and toolroom are all on the same site really helped.

What do you like best about working at Eurocell?

Every day is different, presenting new opportunities and challenges, but the best part is definitely being able to work within a fantastic team that is 100 per cent focused on customer satisfaction.

For more information visit the website www.eurocell.co.uk or contact Eurocell on 01773 837490.

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