Since undertaking a major relocation project to Newton-le-willows in April 1991 Starbank Panel Products Ltd has seen a period of intensive growth in excess of 20% year on year. However with the onset of the economic downturn the company has taken the opportunity to refocus its efforts on reducing product lead times and maximising efficiencies for its customers.
The focus of the project was a complete reorganisation of the production layout with quality, safety and lean principles at the core of this redevelopment. With almost 70,000 square feet of warehouse and production space and 20 different, sophisticated pieces of machinery to organise this was never going to be an easy task. In order to develop company expertise more than a third of the entire workforce participated in comprehensive training with a leading international training organisation focused on lean principles.
The team then set about producing the most lean production flow possible driven by customer requirements for short lead times without compromising product quality. The new production flow would not only remove inefficiencies and waste but would also incorporate Starbank’s latest investment; a gravity fed conveyor/roller system to include transfer carts and automated scissor lifts at every workstation.
The programme took a total of eight months to implement and as each piece of equipment was carefully situated in its new location the improved production flow and cost benefits gradually became more apparent, until in September 2009 the final piece of the “lean jigsaw”, a new conveyor system, connected all the departments together to complete the project.
Managing Director Phil Darbyshire commented on the project and the potential benefits for customers: “Clearly this was an expensive undertaking with around £500,000 of capital investment needed to complete the project but it is already bringing tangible benefits for our customers in the form of vastly reduced lead times. Without the economic downturn we would not have been able to implement these changes without severe disruption to our customers. Over the last 34 years Starbank has consistently set the industry benchmark for innovation in its manufacturing techniques and we are proud to be continuing that tradition by constantly finding new ways of adding even more value for our customers.”