Naish Felts have been making felt products in Wilton for over 200 years. The business was built on supplying piano felts, but nowadays Naish products are used in diverse applications across automotive, medical, bedding, engineering, crafts, safety wear and office equipment. Artificial surfaces for bowling greens is a particularly unusual application. Raw felt is bought-in from a number of sources, including Naishs German parent, BWF Textil, and cut into a myriad of shapes and sizes using numerically controlled stamping machines. Its a very stable 4m business and most of the 45 employees have worked for Naish for many, many years.
When David Legatti was appointed Managing Director in 2003, his challenge was to transform a traditionally run UK manufacturing business into one that could compete with any offshore supplier in both cost of production and quality of service. With Operations Manager David Streeter, he formed a vision of how the business should be run, ignoring any existing structures. Naish had been using their previous system for 10 years, but Legatti felt it encapsulated so many of the wrong aspects of the business.
The initial plan was to bring the new system live at the same time as changing procedures and methods. It soon became apparent, however, that a more pragmatic phased approach was needed in order to keep the whole company in step. Go-live was achieved after 6 months, but with process rationalisations taking place on a planned basis after that.
Twelve months on, the system is producing major benefits. Late deliveries have been dramatically reduced, ad hoc orders can be quoted at under two weeks instead of three, and the costing accuracy for quotations is much improved. Management has much more visibility of machine utilisation and productivity. Infor COM enables us to plan more effectively and utilise resources much better than before, says Legatti, we think we can now achieve a 25% improvement in productivity by managing production better. Infor COM empowers the right people to do the right things with the right information.
Machine allocation is an important factor for production planning at Naish, as each of the cutting machines vary in width of roll, size of cutting tool, speed, and number of layers that can be fed together. A fourth machine was recently brought in to ease a particular bottleneck. According to Streeter the additional flexibility has been dramatic, But without Infor COM, we wouldnt have been able to utilise that flexibility, nor measure the improvement in flow. Optimisation of batch sizes can be complex, with multi-tool/multi-layer cutting and material wastage at the start and end of the process. A single order quantity can be millions of small felt disksbut only take a few days to complete.
Having used ERP systems in larger companies, Streeter likes the power that Infor COM provides in this area. The handling of multiple units of measure and remnant stock is also useful. An initial process for items such as car panel sound absorbers is to laminate the felt with an adhesive paper layer. Infor COM has allowed Naish to make more than is needed for the current requirement, and book back the rest as roll stock.
Shop Floor Data Collection
An important aspect of the initial vision was that production allocation would be automatic, based on standard times, but that the actual times would be measured in order to close the loop and refine the standards. The Bill of Resource has a maximum of 4 stages, which might include the adhesive lamination step. Material cost is quite high at 57%, and is ordered to stock in rolls 2m wide. There are as many different product shapes and material variants as there are customersover 2,500 at the last count. These combinations make it very difficult to track process and operator productivity, which can vary considerablyespecially as there may be manual post-cutting tasks to knock-out cut shapes and remove centres, etc.
Naish have installed six data-collection terminals running Infor TIME. They have chosen to use standard PCs with bar-code scanning wedges rather than touch-terminals. The PCs run the distinctive TIME data-collection interface, which has been customised to suit the process. Each terminal has a set of laminated barcode operations on the wall allowing the complete clocking process to be wand-driven, although Legatti comments, The reality is that shop floor staff actually prefer to use a mouse. As long as the screen is set up in a straightforward way, they respond well to using it. Travellers have a bar code, and jobs are scanned at start, when interrupted, and on completion.
Infor consultant Jonathan Wood, who was involved throughout the Naish implementation, comments, Given the potential reaction to the data-clocking task, it was important that the system was simple and robust. Acceptance by the staff has been good and this has been reflected in the quality of the data generated.
The next step is to introduce attendance clocking from the same terminals. Office staff will also clock on and off at their own workstations. The results will be fed to the Sage payroll system.
A single report detailing the production plan for each machine, with current status and expected completion, has transformed management visibility. In the past the response to busy periods was to hire extra staff. Now capacities and job priorities can be shuffled and re-planned to smooth out the load. The Sales department can take a much more considered approach to lead times when fighting to win orders. If they can see enough available capacity, they can quote a 3-day delivery.
Legatti describes a recent management meeting - At last we had the correct information, accepted as accurate by all. We didnt have to spend 3 days collecting the data. We no longer have to spend our time fire-fighting. He sums up the culture change that has been achieved. We no longer hear the phrase: I cant do that, Im too busy.