Assemble with care

Posted on 9 Sep 2010 by The Manufacturer

Mark Young talks to Deima UK sales manager Stephen Higgs about his new role managing the implementation of assembly and test systems in UK factories.

Deima is a Spanish based engineering company, based near Barcelona, founded in 1986. The company designs and builds control equipment and automated assembly and test lines for manufacturers and has recently expanded its operations and is looking to grow its customer base in the UK.

While its customers are mainly from the automotive, defence and pharmaceutical industries, Deima serves anyone that has a need for its systems. Universities and laboratories are increasingly calling upon the firm.

Any machine that Deima builds, whether they be vibrations tables, measuring equipment, assembly cells, colour checkers or anything else, are completely bespoke to the needs of the customer. Machines cost anywhere between £15,000 and £500,000 as a general rule but they can be more.

As a previous customer of Deima’s during his 13 year career at one of the world’s biggest automotive tier one suppliers, Stephen Higgs was seen as the perfect man to lead Deima’s expansion on the Great shores of Blighty.

Higgs is now working with clients from the initial enquiry stage, all the way through implementation and on-going in an after service capacity. He has charged himself with keeping very close contact with his clients, building a holistic understanding of their wants and needs and keeping them informed at every step of the process.

After taking the time to learn about the product that is to be assembled or tested using the new machinery, Higgs holds consultations with shift managers and the employees who will actually be operating the machines to find out what they think can be done to make their jobs easier. He says this is one of the most important parts of the process.

“One thing that is very prominent among engineers is thinking about everything so clinically that you miss blindingly obvious things that make systems more efficient,” he says. “Also if you get shop floor buy-in you lose some of the negativity that you get when a new machine comes in.” Simply listening and adhering to requests like fitting fans and water bottle holders to machines can help staff to feel valued and involved and help to prevent barriers being put up to the change process, he says.

Having ascertained the customer’s specifications, either through their instruction or his own analysis, he regularly updates the client and seeks their approval at every stage throughout the six to eight week design stage.

“It’s much more efficient this way, for everyone evolved, rather than having to change a design once it’s finished,” he maintains. Throughout this time, Higgs spends his time back and forth from Spain, consulting with the engineers, feeding information between manufacturer and client.

Then, when the machine is ready to be installed into the customers’ workplace, it’s the engineers turn to visit the UK. Higgs stays present during implementation, making sure everything goes smoothly with the commissioning and final sign off. Thereafter, with operator training offered for all of the machinery, 12 months ongoing support for implementation issues, and maintenance advice for the life of the machinery, Higgs will be a familiar face around the factory.

Higgs says his history of operating on the other side of the counter as it were, buying the types of machines he now sells, serves both him and his customers immeasurably in his role.

“I can almost take a step back from being the seller and analyse what would really be best for the customer,” he says. “I can guide the customer to the way that I’d want the machine built using their specifications and budget.” Choosing sensors for test systems, for example, demands Higgs’ Deima experience. “Cameras are fantastic if they can be operated in constant light conditions. However, if they can’t, it might work fine at Midday but not a couple of hours later when the sun casts a different shadow,” he says. When this is the case that a separate closed booth will be required and this will push the price up. Alternative options Deima provides includes lasers, contact systems and X-rite – measurement technology through hand held scanning devices which ensures uncompromised accuracy in colour.

Overall, Higgs says his company’s quarter of a century in industry plus his own history in the main sectors they serve means Deima is in an unrivalled position to give the highest value add for UK manufacturers that want state of the art testing and assembly facilities on site.