Shingo prize honours BAE and Ultraframe

Posted on 11 Jun 2009 by The Manufacturer

The Shingo Prize for operational excellence, an award devised in the United States that recognises operational excellence and best practice in manufacturing, has been given to two British companies for the first time.

BAE Systems Military Air Solutions, makers of military aircraft and Ultraframe, a conservatory and glass roof manufacturer, were presented the bronze category awards at a gala ceremony in Manchester on Wednesday night. The presentation followed day three of the Shingo Summit, a week-long conference programme on the principles and applications of lean manufacturing and focused business improvement. The summit and is produced by The Manufacturing Institute (TMI) which also administers the Shingo Prize in the UK.

It is the fourth time TMI has held a US/UK manufacturing summit but the first year that the Shingo Prize has been produced outside the US.

Ultraframe, a local business with 200 staff, began its lean journey in 2005 where it has focused on product quality, reducing waste and customer service. In 2007 it won the Best Factory in the UK award (Works Management) and has since created a benchmark report that has assessed the business on several measures. Shingo was the next stage on the journey, says CEO Mike Price. He had been aware of the Prizeo since 2000 when attending a conference in Boston (AME), when he came into contact with companies that had won the prize. When the opportunity arose to apply to the prize outside the US, he seized the chance to go through the process.

The process is rigorous and time-consuming, and incurs a two-stage cost, but the winners agreed it is worth the effort. “It is rigorous but you only get from a process what you’re prepared to put in,” Price says. “We put a lot of effort into the process and documented our achievements in a report. This year has been difficult for the business, with a reduction in size of our market size with the credit crunch etc. So to have the opportunity of stopping and recording what we have achieved has reminded us of the great things we’ve achieved – motivationally it was good timing. The process itself is robust, with a team of six examiners that spend two days at the factory, touring the offices, warehouses, who spoke to everyone and assessed as a third party where we were on the journey. It’s something we couldn’t really do ourselves.”

BAE Military Air Solutions in Samlesbury also won the Shingo Prize, bronze category. BAE started a lean business plan several years ago and applying for the Prize was not a preconceived idea, says Nigel Blenkinsop, director manufacturing BAE Military Air Solutions, who adds that the Prize recognises the efforts that BAE has invested to become leaner: “The prize recognises the effort that’s gone in over a period of 4.5 to 5 years, which started with the deployment of A6 safety cost delivery and people, policy deployment and led to further deployment of further lean enablers.” BAE also launched a lean learning academy at Samlesbury in late 2005 which has been a catalyst for equipping a lot of the company’s leaders with the skill sets needed to embed lean principles, says Blenkinsop. “What we’re celebrating today is us enabling that population to drive the enactment of the lean enablers.”

“Our business plan will require us to be able to produce a very significant part of the F35 airframe at a rate, in the not too distant future, of one per day – simply a paradigm shift in military airframe manufacturing. We recognise that the lean techniques and principles will allow us to achieve that aspiration. So applying for the award was in fact a function of simply business demand, customer schedule and customer requirement.”

The prize assessment process is staggered over eight stages, from an eligibility assessment through to recognition through the award itself. Once a company is eligible and has applied an initial assessment is made, which normally takes 1-2 days or more depending on the size of the business. This generates a 75 page achievement report. This stage costs between £1,200 and £3,600. Once companies have a solid chance of making one of the three award standards (bronze, silver or gold), a more intense series of site assessment visits are conducted, which carries a further cost, and from where results are produced and ultimately the Prize may be awarded.

Robert Miller, executive director of the Shingo Prize, acknowledged the high standard of candidacy of both companies and also praised the success of the Prize in the UK, and the work of The Manufacturing Institute. “We want to take the Prize beyond the US and UK. Organisations looking to administer the prize in different countries will look at the success of this event as a benchmark, and will have their work cut out matching the success of the process in the UK,” he said.

The US/UK Shingo Summit continues today, Thursday 11 June, in Manchester, with factory visits to one of four companies with sites local to Manchester on Friday 12th: BAE Systems, Siemens, PZ Cussons and furniture maker HJ Berry.