The changing face of Unipart Group

Posted on 1 Sep 2014 by The Manufacturer

Unipart Group’s Global Industrial Logistics Director Bernard Molloy explains how a company known for its manufacturing arm actually extends far further.

Most people know that Unipart Group’s origins are deep-rooted in the engineering and manufacturing disciplines of the automotive sector. But what may be a surprise is that Unipart has transformed itself to become a global manufacturing, logistics and consultancy group with a wide range of blue chip clients. Unipart is now one of the largest privately owned companies in the UK, generating an annual turnover of more than £1 billion.

Unipart Group’s Global Industrial Logistics Director Bernard Molloy
Unipart Group’s Global
Industrial Logistics
Director Bernard

At the heart of Unipart’s transformation has been The Unipart Way, the company’s unique approach of applying the ‘lean’ systems from manufacturing to every other part of its business operations. This has enabled Unipart to achieve fast growth across a wide range of sectors including rail, financial services, mobile technology, retail, healthcare and the public sector.

Manufacturing remains an important part of the business. In recent months, Unipart Group has given £17.9 million towards the creation of the Instituted for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering partnering with Coventry University to create a ‘Faculty on the Factory Floor’ on Unipart’s manufacturing site in Coventry.

Unipart Manufacturing Group also opened a second facility in Coventry to boost production of fuel tanks supplied to Jaguar Land Rover, BMW and Honda. The Unipart Way has been at the heart of these developments.

In the logistics sector, Unipart Logistics has transformed the supply chains of many of the world’s leading brands, using the ‘Unipart Way’ to bring improved processes, reduced operating costs and an engaged workforce to a broad range of sectors from hi-tech, retail, and communications, to aerospace & defence, automotive and consumer goods.

Mobis, which supplies parts to over 360 Hyundai and Kia dealerships across the UK, has benefited from Unipart Logistics’ skills in driving performance at the company’s Tamworth distribution centre. Service levels achieved for Mobis are close to Five Sigma. The target for both discrepancies and denials is 0.05%, but 0.02% is the norm.

As with most Unipart controlled operations, gains at Tamworth have come from finding smarter ways of working. The ‘lean’ methodology, people skills and tools used by the teams on-site to maximise productivity are encapsulated in the ‘Unipart Way’. Individuals are encouraged to engage and excel through the Employee Engagement Hub.

‘Our Contribution Counts’ circles provide a problem-solving framework and facilitates communication, and ‘Basics in Place’ sessions enable and encourage individuals to speak out on issues that are important, but often overlooked. Growth and development of the individual are nurtured and facilitated through the Gate to Great scheme, by understanding his or her needs, and by helping them progress within the organisation to, perhaps, become team leaders or to go on to take NVQs.

The ‘Unipart Way’ has been successfully used to enhance supply chain performance within the hi-tech sector too, for customers such as Sky and Vodafone. UTL manages the repair of set top boxes for Sky, where an automated objective test programme checks over 140 points in a 30 minute period, complemented by Flying Probe technology to further diagnose faulty components on PCB Boards at great speed. Fault diagnosis time has been reduced by 90%.

In addition to value added repairs, UTL also delivers logistics, recycling services and field solutions for Sky, fulfilling next-day orders for Sky’s 2900 installation engineers. UTL even manages Sky’s fleet of vehicles.

Retail is another sector where UTL has delivered results, working with companies such as Homebase and Waterstones amongst others.

Unipart Group operates globally, enabling companies to fulfil their supply chain commitments to international clients and markets. Through a network of regional hubs, and by using Unipart Logistics’ unique award winning Global Control Centre, goods can be channelled and tracked to their destinations. By having visibility of all activities across a client’s supply chain Unipart Logistics can monitor and control each element of the process in near real-time, checking order status and performance against set KPIs, and responding to alerts and ‘traffic-light’ signals as they arise.

Recent contract wins in global markets include a further distribution contract with Toyota in India and a ground-breaking five year, full-spectrum aftermarket logistics contract with Qoros Automotive in China.

But perhaps, above all else, it is the quality of Unipart’s people and their expertise in solving practical problems that counts the most. Within our consultancy business, Unipart Expert Practices, highly experienced supply chain practitioners apply their knowledge to making organisations examples of ‘best practice’.

Much of UEP’s work takes the ‘Unipart Way’ into new and exciting fields. In the healthcare sector Unipart’s consultants have engaged with staff and patients to redesign an endoscopy pathway, worked on transformation projects improving the quality of non-emergency patient transportation and developed a new approach to bed management.

Maintaining high standards across all Unipart Group sites is of paramount importance. For the second year running, Unipart Logistics has achieved a double accolade by winning top ratings for its Health and Safety performance and for its Environmental Management excellence in 2013. Six sites all received the prestigious Sword of Honour award from the British Safety Council and the Oxford Distribution Centre was one of only seven organisations worldwide to achieve the double award for excellence in winning both the Sword of Honour and the Globe of Honour for exemplary environmental management.

Unipart Group’s global network, comprehensive services and expert practitioners offer enterprises the capability to do business were business takes them.

The way forward

TM looks inside the recent success of Coventry-based automotive parts manufacturer, Unipart Manufacturing Group.

In recent months Unipart Manufacturing Group (UMG) based in Coventry has been successful in securing significant research and development funding, both in its own right and also as part of a consortium.

UMG comprises several manufacturing companies across the Midlands. As part of the Unipart Group it has a strong engineering heritage, much of which has been based on its manufacturing operations. UMG manufactures a number of products in the UK including exhaust systems, steel and plastic fuel systems and powertrain components for vehicles, heat exchange devices and parts for the rail industry and provides services to the aerospace industry.

R&D funding allows UMG to develop the next generation of manufacturing products and processes which helps it stay at the forefront of its field. According to UMG managing director, Carol Burke, development of products like the advanced fuel rail marks an important turning point for the business.

Carol Burke - UMG
UMG managing director, Carol Burke

“A few years ago our manufacturing in the UK was facing a cliff edge. Vehicle production had fallen off significantly and that was affecting our existing customers and our prospects for new business,” she said.

“We made a strategic decision at that stage to invest in developing products that required advanced engineering capability and were in emerging technologies. One of those product areas was gasoline direct injection (GDI) technology which had a predicted high growth trajectory across petrol vehicle manufacture in Europe, USA and Asia.

“The technology called for precision made products that required new manufacturing, development and test techniques and called for investment in new facilities and equipment. Unipart as a group was forward thinking enough to recognise the opportunity and gave us the headroom to enter the market.

We invested in a dedicated fuel rail manufacturing facility designed to ‘clean room standards’ on our Unipart Eberspächer site in Coventry, a site which already manufactures high tech fuel system components for next generation automobiles that will provide drivers with major improvements in fuel economy and performance. “The result has been not just a success today, but an opportunity for future growth globally”

Unipart also recently opened a second new manufacturing facility in the Coventry area. Kautex Unipart Ltd (KUL), the joint venture between Unipart and its German partner Kautex Textron Gmbh, currently produces around 640,000 fuel tanks annually for leading automotive manufacturers including Jaguar Land Rover and Honda.

A recent investment in new technology, which offers customers greater levels of emission control, has enabled the company to increase production. As a result, KUL opened a new 7,500 sq. m. facility to carry out assembly and sequencing operations. KUL plant general manager Dave Pound said that the expansion at KUL had been driven by growth.

“Our customer base has expanded and the volumes of our major customers have grown,” he said. “We’ve been able to increase our manufacturing capability to meet the needs of our customers today and to be ready for future growth, which could be as much as a million units by 2018.”

“To achieve that, we’ve invested some £6 million to integrate new blow mould technology called Next Generation Fuel System blow moulding. This will enable components such as valves and fuel lines to be placed inside fuel tanks more effectively, ultimately providing reduced vehicle static fuel emissions.”

According to Mr Pound, The Unipart Way – Unipart’s proprietary system for operational excellence and employee engagement – has been at the heart of KUL’s strategy for a smooth expansion into the new site. “When we began planning to develop KUL2, we put together a focused team of people that are deeply knowledgeable and skilled in The Unipart Way,” he said.

“The result has been a successful project that was delivered against very high standards for safety, delivery, quality and cost and which now gives us a strong opportunity for future growth.”