Insights: EEF member SPTS leading the way for Continuous Improvement

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With Lean and process improvement continuing to set successful manufacturers apart in the industry, EEF member SPTS Technologies is leading the way with annual Continuous Improvement days, showcasing projects across the business that drive efficiency and effectiveness, and with measurable results. Read more about their latest CI day and how they have benefited from lean manufacturing.

SPTS annual CI showcase day 

Continuous Improvement (CI) is more than just business phraseology for EEF member SPTS Technologies, who have put lean innovation at the heart of the company’s business culture.

SPTS manufactures capital equipment used by global semiconductor and microelectronic device manufacturers to produce a wide range of electronic devices that are found in every smartphone in the world and many household consumer electronics and domestic appliances.

In 2011, in the midst of economic and industry downturn, the company identified a critical need to manage their manufacturing costs and improve operation efficiency in an effort to protect their overall profitability while still investing in research and development.

Huw Williams, Production Engineering Manager at SPTS Technologies since 2011, explains that this would involve ensuring that new processes would be scalable to allow the company to expand rapidly when a future up-turn occurred.

Williams says:

“The only way to deal with this dichotomy was lean manufacturing: removing waste from existing processes, allowing the business to achieve more whilst using fewer resources.”

Williams has been leading the implementation of lean manufacturing and CI initiatives at the SPTS Newport plant ever since. In early 2013, the company launched its CI programme, a concept that was initially planned to give supervisors responsibility for a CI project as part of their annual appraisal KPIs, with Production Engineering given the responsibility for delivering support to the work and to promote the outcomes at SPTS.

The culmination was the launch of an annual CI Showcase Day, which gives suppliers and the entire company (from the president down) a chance to look at the projects undertaken in the past year to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the business to deliver cost savings.

Williams says:

“The projects and the event are about education and showing people why we do this thing called ‘lean manufacturing’ and why it is so critical to the business. These projects demonstrate how time can be saved, how costs can be taken out, how quality can be improved and – in getting people to deliver these projects we remove the eighth waste from the business – the underutilisation of employee creativity!”

In 2014/15 EEF helped adapt SPTS’ CI initiative and the related showcase event to focus on apprentices and graduates within the operations business function. EEF's Manufacturing Growth Lead, Ian King, helped design a bespoke training course for 12 people with five days of teaching and five days of mentoring, focused on the CI projects the apprentices and graduates were involved in across SPTS. At the latest CI Showcase Day, 11 projects were submitted, including eight by apprentices or recent graduates, which demonstrated an 18 month payback of over £450k.

Speaking of his pride in the initiative, Williams says:

“Prior to January 2015 most of those involved in the CI day had not run projects and had little experience of lean manufacturing. With the help of EEF, we helped develop people who will become the future of SPTS. The overall winner Chanel Brierley, a Graduate Production Engineer, had been with SPTS less than 9 months at the time and submitted a project with a return of £110k.  This is the proudest moment I have witnessed.”

Watch the highlights of the SPTS CI Showcase Day 2015:

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