Planes, trains, automobiles and windows
Nigel Leivers, director at Derby-based Frame Fast UK, talks about the importance of keeping up to date with the latest trends in manufacturing.
Derby is the home of UK manufacturing. Situated in the centre of England, this fast-growing city is home to Rolls Royce, Bombardier and Toyota, or, as the locals say: planes, trains and automobiles.
We have a bigger percentage of people employed in engineering and manufacturing than any other town in the UK. Manufacturing is in Derby’s DNA: the very first factory in the world, the Silk Mill, is situated on the banks of the river Derwent just a stone’s throw from Derby cathedral.
Being a bondholder for Marketing Derby, a collection of the region’s most forward-thinking companies, we are very fortunate that we go to events where we share information and knowledge with fellow businesses. On a visit to Toyota, we were able to see the way manufacturing a car is broken down into 45-second chunks of time; the cars continuously move through the factory and a new task completed every 45 seconds. Parts are delivered to the stations with the utmost time precision, and it’s like a perfectly choreographed dance. Toyota is often held up as one of the best examples of lean manufacturing in the world.
What’s surprising is that there are a lot of manual processes at Toyota. However, rather than being treated as a craftsman job, they are performed in the same way that a machine (if it could be so flexible) would tackle the job. They are broken down into single tasks, and completely duplicable, and that allows the cars to flow freely through the factory.
Against this level of world class manufacturing, winning Manufacturer of the Year in Derby is a big deal. And, in 2017, Frame Fast UK won the prestigious award having been judged by a team from Rolls Royce. What wowed them was the complexity of the products we have to deal with day in, day out. Today we offer our customers PVCU windows and doors, composite doors, aluminium windows, aluminium entrance doors, bifold and sliding doors, and insulated glass units and handcrafted glass.
The increase in the variety of products we offer created challenges for us. We have completely changed the layout of the factory to give more space to roofs and aluminium. The space was important, but the flow of work even more so. What we aim for is that there’s a flow of work going through each section; especially where we are reliant much more on hand-crafting tasks, it’s vital that we maintain the flow through the factory. This gives us the same advantages that we saw at Toyota.
We automate where it makes sense, and we have invested £60,000 in machinery and software development in the last 12 months. The latest news is that we have just placed an order for a machine to create timber-style joints.
In January 2017 we added glass unit manufacture. It’s been very successful and in just over a year we have now built manufacturing to more than 1,300 insulated glass units a week. We offer IGU as well as beautiful handcrafted glass, and this is the perfect combination of traditional crafts and automation working side-by-side. We have tripled the floor space devoted to glass manufacture, and a new washing machine has now been added.
Perhaps the most exciting part is the new software. We have programmes to help us reduce waste and stock-holdings; what goes into waste is recycled where possible. It all happens close by, with the recycling plant less than 10 miles away.
As well as the manufacturing precision and excellence, we back it up with great customer service from the Frame Fast team. Whether it’s at the trade counter, on the phone or on site, we’re always happy to help. Derby is home to the very best in manufacturing and that’s why we say with pride: planes, trains, automobiles and windows.