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United Automation Publication

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UK Parliament

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Project Overview

For modern day manufacturers, continuous improvement is critical. Dean Fashoni, General Manager at United Automation, details how the producer of power control applications went about developing and implementing a three-year business transformation project which will establish the company as a world class manufacturer.

United Automation is a family-run business which has been under its current ownership for around 30 years and the business has seen steady growth.

The company is one of the UK’s leading designers and manufacturers of industrial power control products and has achieved this position as a result of their technical strengths and a dedication to customer service.

The business has performed well in the last two decades and over that period has seen steady growth. However, more recently, maintaining margins and finding new customers has become more challenging.

Around 18 months ago, we decided that if the company was to meet these challenges, respond to the changing market place and embrace the opportunities available, we would have to undertake significant changes across the whole company.

Developing a Strategy

We quickly realised that the strategy had to be based on building the capability and improving the performance of our business processes, our people and our products.  To do this, I sought outside help and advice from the head of the Liverpool Enterprise Partnership Advanced Manufacturing board.

The organisation referred me to a programme they are endorsing called Manufacturing Matters – Build a Better Business, delivered by Strategies for Success Ltd and supported by the Manufacturing Technology Centre, Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and Skills for Growth service.

“The support being provided by the Liverpool Enterprise Partnership is the key to the success of our business transformation strategy”

This programme also gave us access to two leading experts in world- class manufacturing and change management. With the crucial guidance of these experts, we believe becoming world class can be a reality.

Tapping into the talent pool of academic institutions is especially important for SMEs and offers a

lot of value. This programme is providing United Automation with the additional support needed to ensure the successful development and introduction of the business transformation strategy.

We are an advocate of not working in isolation and the support from the Liverpool Enterprise Partnership has been crucial. In this day and age, manufacturers should always look to make full use of these valuable partnerships.

People

We believe that the strength of an organisation lies in the quality of its people and its success is determined by the strength of its leadership. We have improved management structures, clearly defined associated job roles and competencies requirements and identified actions required to improve effectiveness of the management team.

 

Like many UK SMEs manufacturers, sourcing skills has been our Achilles heel. Measures have been taken to address this, with the skills issue taken fully into consideration in our business improvement plan. Our aim is to recruit additional people, along with the upskilling of existing employees. To this end, we are now working with our local academic institutions.

We have one undergraduate participating in a business improvement project and using this as the basis for their final year project. With help from our local college and the skills for growth fund, we will be providing selected employees with training in business improvement techniques.

Our strategy is to focus on providing all of our employees with quality of work life so that we can establish and maintain a reputation as a preferred employer and thereby ensure we are able to attract and retain people of the required quality.

In the first half of 2017 we have recruited a production team leader and we continue recruiting for a materials management team leader, a manufacturing engineering manager, a product designer, a manufacturing engineering technician and a sales coordinator.

Processes

So far, a business planning and business improvement process has been introduced. In addition to this, an action-based strategic business plan for growth that focuses on building capability and improving performance has been established.

Our current business management processes have been appraised against best practice, the priority areas for improvement have been identified and as a result improved processes have been introduced for:

Our strategy objective of achieving best practice business management process was further validated when United Automation become one of the first SMEs in the North West to achieve accreditation of the recently upgraded ISO 9001:2015 standard.

2017 and Beyond

Improvements to workplace organisation are being made to achieve more effective control of material flow and inventory. All back office activities are being reviewed to identify and eliminate non-value-added activities, improve work practices and the effectiveness of IT systems.

In addition to this, an improved process for determining product cost and ensuring a pricing policy is effectively applied has been introduced.

An improved process has also been implemented to ensure technical feasibility and commercial viability is established on all potential new business opportunities, before acceptance of the order. Working with strategic partners within the higher education sector, we will look to develop the next generation of power control products.

We have identified the commercial opportunities arising from new technological development associated with our product range. Products using this new technology are currently too expensive but costs could be reduced by developing the product design and manufacturing methods. In tune with our collaborative approach, we will look to establish a joint project with LJMU to exploit this opportunity.

“We believe to achieve sustainable business growth we must strive to continually improve business capability performance”

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