Star glazing

Posted on 13 Mar 2009 by The Manufacturer

Becky Done speaks to managing director of Trend Marine Andy Jobbins to find out about the recent initiatives propelling the company towards an increasingly bright horizon

Trend Marine was born 35 years ago to manufacture and supply windows to local boat builders whose boats sailed on the Norfolk broads. During the same period, companies such as Sunseeker and Fairline Boats were starting up in the luxury motor yachts industry and thus Trend began to grow its business alongside these prestigious clients.

Since managing director Andy Jobbins arrived at the helm six years ago, a number of changes have taken place, and a sleeker, fitter company has emerged, with turnover last year rising to £21m – up 12% on the previous year.

One major change is that over the past few years, the company has embraced the concept of lean across its five factories, with impressive results. “The first thing we did was to improve overall process flow,” explains Jobbins. “When we looked at it, it was the typical ‘bowl of spaghetti’ you get when you actually do the mapping process.” To untangle the issue, a team of staff members mapped out each individual step in Trend’s production processes to reveal areas where waste could be cut. “We never cease to be amazed at how many opportunities for improvement can be identified through this process,” reveals Jobbins.

Alongside this initial phase of improvements, Trend also invested in upgrades to its manufacturing facilities and carried out a variety of 5S exercises to ensure company housekeeping was brought up to speed.

In order to ensure that the appropriate support was in place to facilitate the lean implementation, Trend identified one of its long-standing first line supervisors who had expressed particular interest in the lean project and, with the help of the EEF, trained him off-site in lean processes. “One of the advantages of having our internal lean facilitator was that he had got all the tools in his box and he wasn’t a ‘suit’,” Jobbins explains. “With 20 years of experience at the company, he knows the people and the processes – so when he was talking to our staff about lean, he was able to put it into context. Quite often, it just came across as common sense; and because of that, over time, people have simply accepted the changes with very little pushback.”

As part of the drive towards greater efficiency, Trend has kept a firm eye on its training and skilling strategies. “We’ve got a very positive culture of training on the job and that seems to have been quite successful,” says Jobbins. “One indicator of that is that our labour turnover is 5%, so we are able to retain those skills – more so now than ever because we’re moving people between factories. In the past they might have stayed in the door factory or window factory; now there’s more flexibility. It’s in the interests of the company, so we actively encourage it,” he says.

With the success of the first lean phase firmly under its belt, Trend is now looking ahead to the second stage, through which further improvements look set to be made. “The second phase will be more product-specific,” explains Jobbins, “by seeing how we can reduce costs and lead times whilst freeing up capacity. The other thing we’ll be looking to achieve is to reduce batch sizes and the level of work-in-progress.”

Major benefits have already been realised as a result of going lean. “We’ve improved the level of productivity because people are working more effectively. Products are flowing through the factory more naturally. The other tangible benefit is that we have significantly improved our levels of on-time delivery,” Jobbins confirms.

Trend has also turned its attention to other ways of capitalising on the wave of improvement that has spread throughout the site. One opportunity has been to upgrade the existing design capabilities to 3D CAD in order to fully align itself with customers’ expectations. “It speeds up the whole process and effectively reduces our time to market for new products,” explains Jobbins. “When I started, there were two or three engineers in the department; now it’s team of 12, all using 3D Pro/ENGINEER.”

The company has also invested in a digital printer for printing onto glass, to replace the relatively expensive and time-consuming silk screen printing process that it used previously. Now, on receipt of a customer’s design, Trend is able to load it onto the computer for the inkjet printer to literally print straight onto the glass, using ceramic ink capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 700c. “It really is at the leading edge of technology,” Jobbins enthuses.

This vast array of improvements has enabled Trend to thrive despite the downturn, and has been underpinned by an increasingly strategic approach to expanding its customer base: “We’ve tried to spread the risk by developing our client base across as many geographical regions in the world as possible,” Jobbins explains. “When I joined the company [six years ago] we were predominantly UK-orientated, so we developed our base into America, continental Europe, the Middle East, Far East and Australasia. Our lean programmes have made us more competitive and we’ve aggressively tried to develop new products, so that we have a wider range to offer our customers. While we’re not immune to the effects of the downturn, we’re certainly in a better position to cope with it.”

The company has also implemented a number of environmental initiatives. Last summer, it achieved ISO 14001 accreditation in recognition of its efforts. “We now recycle 80% of our waste. That’s our glass, stainless [steel], aluminium, cardboard and wood, to name the top five. We’ve also reduced the number of skips that go to landfill by about 40% over the last two to three years. The other thing we’ve done is cut down our electricity consumption by about 20%, through low-energy lighting and having a ‘switch off’ mentality. The reason we focused on those things is because they make good business sense. Over the last couple of years, for example, the price of electricity has shot up, so it makes sense not to waste it. The price of dumping at landfill has gone up astronomically. Yes, it helps the environment,” he says of the drive to go green, “but there are also very good business reasons for it.”

In addition to environmental accreditation, the company boasts IS0 9001 certification in recognition of its quality systems and OHSAS 18001 for its health and safety procedures. A few years ago it also won the Queen’s Award for International Trade.

Looking forward, the company is firmly focused on making its offering stand out from the crowd. “One of the things we will be looking to do over the next 12 months is really expand our glass manufacturing technology, to enable us to secure other segments of our market,” Jobbins confirms.

Stand-out it may be, but one thing Trend is not is complacent. “We are a market leader but we do have very credible and competent competitors, which really keeps us on our toes,” Jobbins says. “We have a broad range of manufacturing competences which allows us to offer a wide portfolio of glazed products. What we try to offer is a one-stop shop. Whatever glazing products our customers need to put on their boats, we like to think that we can offer them.

“We’re now extremely innovative. We have a very competent team of engineers who can work in 3D CAD, which is incredibly important to our customers because the time-to-market with new boats is also very important – probably more so now because of the softening in the market,” Jobbins says, referring to the economic downturn. “We also process our own glass. A lot of our competitors might focus on the manufacture of doors, or windows, or screens, or hatches – but they have to buy the glass from somebody else. We’ve actually got that skill and competence in-house.

“The final defining feature of Trend is that, as a team, we really do focus on the customer, with a can-do approach to business.”

The company has certainly come a long way since the days of receiving boat parts from customers to build glass into. It has innovated, and thought ahead – and most importantly, it has taken its customers with it.