NORMA UK – becoming a benchmark for the fastener industry
08 June 2016
Over the last two years NORMA UK Ltd, a subsidiary of NORMA Group SE, has gone through a transformation of its production operations that it says has enabled it to become a benchmark within the fastener industry. Will Lowry, editor, went to speak to Mark Burnett, managing director at NORMA UK, to find out what these developments have involved and how they benefit the customer.
In 2016 NORMA UK has a double celebration – it is 10 years since NORMA Group was formed and also 10 years since NORMA UK moved to its new location at Greenham Business Park in Newbury, Berkshire, where it focuses on both the distribution and manufacturing of engineered joining technology. “We have a great manufacturing facility here at Newbury, which has become a benchmark for the industry,” states Mark Burnett.
With previous management experience at automotive tier suppliers, Mark joined NORMA UK two years ago and his first objective was to streamline the company’s manufacturing operations and to focus on its key performance factors – delivery and quality.
“Customers nowadays don’t just want a simple clamp. They want specialised clamps that can handle every demanding situation – such as high temperatures, tighter tolerances, and smaller applications,” mentions Mark. “This means we need to be consistently producing high-quality products using an effective production process, which helps give us a competitive edge over the competition. When I joined the business we had a manufacturing area designed in a more traditional way, so the first task was to look at how we could improve it further.”
NORMA UK put together a plan on how it could transform the production floor and free up space to support further growth. The first step was to reorganise the traditional, flexible man power machine cells to a new layout that offered 360° access to the machines and created a ‘U’ shape working pattern – helping to improve the ergonomics of the working environment.
“We had a massive challenge because we needed to change the operational side of the business. We were operating 10% above sales and we were already running weekends to meet high demand,” explains Mark. “We needed to modernise the production floor but without impacting the production process. We therefore reorganised the production process cell by cell, which was like working on a giant jigsaw. On a Friday night we would move a machine; during the weekend we would prep and paint the floor; on the Sunday maintenance would work on the machine; Sunday night the machine would go back in; and the next week we would be training people to the new standards. By using this approach we were able to streamline each of the cells, whilst still creating space.”
It has been 18 months since NORMA UK started the process and the main production floor is now complete. However, the transformation hasn’t stopped there. The company has now started working on the press shop. “Once again we have set up a working team to oversee the press shop project,” mentions Mark. “We have built up a stock reserve so we can take each machine out of action for a week and totally refurbish them. We are probably six months away from completing the process.”
Other projects that have also happened in this time include the installation of an extraction and filtration system, as well as an acoustic booth for the deburring area. This has helped reduce the amount of noise and dust – creating a nicer and safer environment for the employees to work.
Another major step that NORMA UK has taken to ensure it is producing the very highest quality, is to move its quality department onto the shop floor. “When we started the journey two years ago we were occasionally receiving a few technical complaints from customers and we weren’t really reducing the amount we were receiving,” says Mark. “To combat this we decided to move the quality department from an office to the production floor. We also introduced NQR (NORMA Quick Response) and PSP (Problem Solving Tools) as part of the NORMA Production System (NPS), which is now being rolled out worldwide within NORMA Group. These include a cross functional team of experts – including an engineer that designed the part, a quality representative that talks to the customer, an operator that makes the part, and finally the team leader from the area – looking at a customer complaint for quality and how we can offer a solution to stop it happening again.”
A critical part of the NQR and PSP processes is that when analysing a complaint, the team only looks at a good part versus a bad part – there is no blame apportioned to anybody. “It is important that the employees were able to speak openly about what happened and not be worried about who would get blamed. It is only by having an open process that you are able to go into the root causes of a problem and find a long-lasting solution,” explains Mark.
It is not only the production processes and operational improvements that NORMA UK has looked to streamline. The company is also working with its staff and focusing on how it can be more competitive within the market as a UK manufacturer.
“I believe communication is key within a company if you are to be successful,” states Mark. “All your employees need to know what is happening within the business and what the company’s plans are for the future – so you can all work to the same goal. That is why we have started a series
of communication initiatives called NORMA 5, NORMA 15 and NORMA 30.”
NORMA 5 involves everyone on-site at the start of the day having a small briefing with his or her team – reviewing what has happened in the last 24 hours and looking at what needs to be done in the next 24 hours. “It makes it clear to everybody what needs to be done and helps focus the mind,” says Mark. “They are not long meetings but we have found them to be very beneficial.”
Next is NORMA 15, which the company is just preparing to launch. This will involve each department, on a Friday once a month, stopping for 15 minutes and going into more detail about the company’s progress. “This will be after we have closed the financial month so we will be able to talk about finances, as well as KPIs,” mentions Mark. “This helps give all employees an understanding of the current situation for the company and if we are hitting our targets.”
Finally, there is NORMA 30, which involves all 260 people on-site being broken up into small teams of 10 – 15 people and sitting down with Mark to talk about the company’s strategy and what the challenges are going to be in the future.
“By keeping good communication with all the employees we are able to build on the positive atmosphere we have created within the company over the last two years,” points out Mark. “The staff can see the investment and time we have put into restructuring the production floor and by introducing NORMA 5, NORMA 15 and NORMA 30 meetings, they can see the positive influence this is having on the business.”
Mark continues: “In the last three years we have increased our sales by around 33%. This increase has happened quite seamlessly without any disruption to customers. In 2016 we will manufacture over 16 million products and by 2020 this will have increased to 22 million products. This is not just what I am looking to achieve. This is all booked business that is already scheduled into the order book.”
This ability to know what it will be producing in the future has enabled NORMA UK to create a capacity plan that tells it when it will need capital expenditure for new presses or new equipment. To support this future growth, the company has just acquired some additional land at the rear of the site, which will enable it to increase the manufacturing space when necessary, as well as the warehouse capacity.
“By 2020 we will become one of the bigger plants in NORMA Group,” adds Mark. “It is a big challenge producing in the UK, especially with the exchange rate between sterling and the Euro. Most of our sales are in Euros, which means that a fluctuation up or down can have a big influence on the company. However, thanks to the streamlining of the production process, and the experience and knowledge of our staff, we are able to offer high-quality products at competitive prices.”
The last two years have seen a lot of developments at the company, all with the aim of further improving the quality of the products and the delivery to the customer. With a clear strategy for the coming years, NORMA UK is in a strong position to continue to lead the way in effectively and successfully manufacturing in the UK.
“Our vision is simple,” concludes Mark with a confident smile. “We will continue to support growth through momentum, innovation and continuous improvement – whilst delivering the highest quality products.”