Part of the Hepco Group, Devon-based HepcoMotion was founded in 1969 and is a leading UK manufacturer of linear motion products used in everything from production lines to medical scanners.
It is typical of many UK manufacturing companies in that it has faced increased overseas competition and tough trading conditions during the recent economic climate.
However the company recently turned to the National Skills Academy for Manufacturing — part of Semta, the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies — for help in developing a training programme to help the 150-strong workforce meet the challenges it faces. In the first of a series of diary entries, manufacturing director Barry Engstrom explains the issues facing HepcoMotion and the immediate benefits of working with the Skills Academy.
As part of our journey towards world class manufacturing status we identified several challenges, including a lack of awareness within the manufacturing team of lean manufacturing techniques. This is particularly important due to the nature of the high precision components that we make. These include one-off bespoke items and mass produced parts for a wide range of applications.
We then discussed how best to educate the team and although we have excellent internal training capabilities, the most effective option was to engage an external provider.
We had already worked with the Skills Academy and Bristol-based providers Brunel and Gordano Training on our successful apprenticeships programme, and so we decided to conduct initial talks on expanding training to the wider workforce.
Following meetings with the Skills Academy’s South West regional manager, Brian Thornton, we carried out a thorough review of our operations to identify the skills gaps and to draw up a matrix of training needs. This analysis identified opportunities for improvements that could be made even before the training started. Many of these have already been implemented, such as the repositioning of equipment on the shop floor to improve the flow of products through the manufacturing process.
The Skills Academy also helped us to match our training needs to our wider business targets and as a result we decided to embark on an ambitious programme of business improvement techniques (B-IT) training to NVQ Level 2 for more than 100 members of staff.
This programme will include elements to improve staff literacy as well as initiating more than 80 individual projects aimed at improving efficiency by 25 per cent, reducing lead times by 20 per cent and cutting setting-up times by 70 per cent.
In the next diary entry, Barry will explain how the training is being delivered and the response from the workforce, with an update on how far the company has progressed in achieving its targets.