Mark Young speaks to Talley Group manufacturing manager Tyrone White to find out how a commitment to UK manufacturing is helping the company maintain its dedication to providing world healthcare with cutting edge innovative medical technology of the very highest quality
Talley Group is the largest family-owned pressure area care business in the UK.
Founded in 1953 by Henry Talley, the firm is today resided over today by his director grandsons John and Chris. A specialist in pressure ulcer relieving mattresses, cushions, pillows and bed frames, negative wound therapy and sanitising products, the company supplies the National Health Service, private hospitals and care homes. Its entire manufacturing, research and administration operations are vertically integrated on one site in Romsey, Hampshire which is home to five manufacturing factories and 185 employees.
Talley Group prides itself on its devotion to providing cutting edge technologies and services of the utmost quality to the health industry, as well as its unwavering commitment to UK manufacturing and a commitment to permanent, ongoing innovation.
“This is a sector in which the UK leads the world,” says manufacturing manager Tyrone White. “To be at the forefront of that is something we are very proud of and something that is reflected in our growth. We’ve had five straight years of ten per cent growth, culminating in record turnover last year.”
And the world is taking notice too.
Exports now account for 50% of Talley Group’s sales, with the lucrative US market joining Europe as the main destinations for goods sent overseas.
The company’s products fall into four categories: pressure area care, concerned with the prevention and care of pressure ulcers, or bed sores, in layman’s terms; negative pressure wound therapy, which is a pump that draws exudates from open wounds, helping the wound to close quickly and lessening the risk of infection; sequential compression therapy, alleviating risks of deep vein thrombosis and lymphedema by compressing parts of the body from the toe up, allowing fluids to get round to the kidneys to be processed; and broad spectrum antimicrobial sanitising, a highly effective sanitising treatment for surfaces, equipment and hands which forms Talley Group’s latest product range under the trademark TECcare.
Released 18 months ago in the UK, TECcare was developed as a new technology platform to provide a solution to a problem – the growing issue of microbial contamination and resistance in medical products in hospitals and care homes. The task was to replace existing NHS-approved products that through their historic use had caused significant damage to surfaces and presented a danger to the staff that had to use it. To alleviate the risk of cross contamination and the destruction of the surfaces like the Talley products themselves, the company invented a platform to develop class-leading disinfectants which were used to develop to achieve outstanding levels of efficiency against a broad spectrum of harmful pathogens on both hard and soft surfaces.
The big benefit of TECcare products over competing ones is that they continue to protect for prolonged periods after they’ve been applied or treated – up to four weeks for the surface based products and up to four hours for the hand sanitisers.
There are a range of products under the brand: TECcare ultra is an ultra high level disinfectant used in high risk areas or outbreak situations for the safe and rapid elimination of pathogens; TECcare control is an everyday top up product in the form of sprays and wipes with long lasting microbial protective properties; and TECcare personal protect hand sanitizer which disinfects the hands as a dry foam. This product also deviates from competitor products in that it is alcohol free and solves an eye-opening problem that has arisen – deaths caused by human consumption of sanitizers.
Tyrone White explains that the company worked closely with standards agencies to develop better testing systems when creating TECcare. “The current test, EN13-704, which is a dilution protocol used to test products against potentially lethal spore producing bacteria like clostridium difficile or ‘c.diff’, has long been an inadequate test because they test it to kill the flora. This means it hits the aftermath rather than the spores which is the beginning of the bug.
Were offering a better test whereby we do it dry on the spores so you can kill the bugs while they’re in the hospital before they’ve started reproducing, rather than killing them after they’ve polluted that atmosphere. The agencies love the fact that they can come up with a better test and give everyone a better environment to work in. It’s a completely proactive product and its prevention rather than cure.”
In addition, TECcare is a lot more comprehensive than many of its contemporaries. “You hear about products boasting a 99.9% sanitisation rate. TECcare kills 99.9999% of pathogens which means any reproduction rates are extremely limited,” he says.
Talley Group sells its equipment outright as well as providing a full rental and after service, including installation, operational instruction, maintenance, disinfection, delivery and recovery. At any one time its rental fleet is around 10,000 items strong and, with service bases around the UK, it is never more than 40 minutes away from any piece of equipment that it is required to facilitate.
At the same time, it has around 60,000 individual sold items on two year warranties; the fact that it typically receives only four to six queries on warranties per month is testament to the dependability and fit-for-purpose of its products.
The rental service is actually one of the key enablers of this extraordinary level of reliability. All products go through rental fleet first to give an indication of the lifecycle which therefore acts as development tool which flags up areas for improvement that are fixed before the items go on sale. “Our customers know that the machine is going to have had the hardest time possible before they buy one,” says White.
And though the commitment to UK manufacturing is partly based on faith in the capability that resides here, another reason is the quality assurance it provides. “Being a fully UK-based company gives us a massive edge over our competitors,” says White. “We have absolute control over design, material, development and manufacture. We are fully committed to using UK suppliers. We don’t buy proprietary items from abroad and put them in products and we don’t outsource production so we have absolute control over design, material, development and manufacture. You can’t have the same control if operations are in China or Poland as you can in house. Our product must work first time, every time in front of the patient so we can’t compromise on anything but absolute quality.
“It also helps with our customer relationships as we’re able to invite customers to come see every part of the process. When they see us manufacturing from raw materials with skill and attention it inspires confidence in the warranty, quality, functionality and they know nothing is coming from abroad so there’s no potential risk over lead times.”
The company’s recent lean initiatives and investments and its R&D structure and employee policies all feed into the quality commitment too. Talley promotes a comprehensive knowledge among all employees of its processes and the industry it works in. All staff are given clinical training to build an understanding of patient’s needs. The R&D employees – accounting for 16% of the workforce – spend as much time on the shop floor understanding where the manufacturing operations as they do designing new systems and products. “It’s a proactive approach that allows engineering to push the ideas into manufacturing before they are firmed up as design ideas,” explains White. “We therefore get a product that was designed to be manufactured rather than a product that was left to be manufactured.”
The company has standardised the materials used in the product brackets it makes so all items are based on a standard platform. The same components are used for high and low end products, they go through the same machines and they are dealt with by the same people. Technical firmware is then used to give the discrete functionality. “There is a high level of repeatability through standardisation,” says White. “The net result is customer gets something that works every time.” In terms of equipment, £600,000 has been invested in three Negri Bossi injection mould machines that replaced six older machines that are twice as efficient in terms of both output and energy consumption. A further £80,000 was spent with Gerber Technologies for an automated cutting system which is fully bespoke to meet the company’s lean programme, in terms of the range of products, materials and pulse to be processed. Talley was also the first company in the world to go live with Microsoft Dynamics AX Lean ERP system which provided real time data collection, reporting, management from point-of-sale through to manufacturing, inventory management, cash flow, accounts, logistics, dispatch and monitoring after service collection, decontamination and maintenance.
All five factories have been re-laid to optimise and naturalise materials flow into an ergonomic system whereby items are not being picked up and carried, they are growing as they are put together in size up until they are put in a box and shipped out.
All of this has fed into a reduction in lean time from 11 hours to 32 minutes, which in turn has huge benefits on inventory and work in progress and means the company can offer a just-in-time service with pull to order for same or next day delivery.
Overall, White attributes his company’s success to a commitment to UK manufacturing and says if everybody adopts the same attitude the benefits will come full circle.
“As an industry we don’t sell ourselves enough, we don’t praise ourselves enough, we don’t shout loud enough and we don’t make people listen to how good we are and what we have to offer. We come up with good ideas then sell them off to someone else but there is another way – look at yourself and give yourself competitive edge with innovation and make that edge profitable by being smarter in the away you manufacture, smarter in the way you get your products to customers and smarter in the way you treat your customers – you can’t have that if you’re importing products or outsourcing manufacturing.”