Sensor and systems company Trolex, which was SME winner of the Manufacturer of the Year Awards last year, has just spent the last six months introducing a Lean Manufacturing programme at its factory in Stockport, Manchester. The company’s products are used in the mining and tunnelling industry.
Masterminded by Operations Director, Colin Arlott who joined the company in January, the new programme streamlines the manufacturing process, hugely improving efficiencies and providing opportunities for staff.
The principle has been to create production cells for each of the Trolex product families where a team is now responsible for every aspect of that product’s production. Five production cells cover different Trolex product groups: the Sentro gas detector range; fixed sensors for flow, temperature, pressure and gas; control and display equipment; power supplies and general instrumentation.
Colin Arlott, who has worked on several Lean Manufacturing programmes before coming to Trolex, explained, " In general, before the programme started, the factory was functioning well but was complicated and departmentalised and we also realised that a lot of time was being wasted with products moving around departments in the assembly process." He continued, " The Lean Manufacturing programme not only means better efficiency in production cells but more ownership by the production team. The benefit is improved delivery times, where in some cases we can deliver products to customers in just a few days instead of a few weeks."
The five manufacturing cells now support nearly 500 products on a fast response, assemble to order basis. The Lean Manufacturing programme represents a £100,000 investment by Trolex, most of this being spent on laser etching machines and on fixtures to reduce change-over time on the surface mount line. All training has been conducted in-house and individual production specialists have also been involved in the cross-training of others in the team.
Colin Arlott comments again " We make a lot of intrinsically safe ATEX approved products and the auditor for this equipment has been very complimentary about the new manufacturing process that we have introduced. In all, this has been a very rewarding programme as we have achieved in six months at Trolex what normally takes some organisations one to two years."
In parallel with the Lean Manufacturing programme, the company has also introduced automated optical inspection. Indeed, Trolex is the first intrinsically safe product company in the world to have introduced this system for printed circuit board (PCB) inspection for improved quality and efficiency. For certification all intrinsically safe products must be 100% inspected. Before, it was necessary for the Trolex team to individually check safety-critical components on the PCB, which could take up to half an hour. Now, with the automated optical inspection, every component on the PCB is inspected automatically by scanning the board, a process which takes between 25 and 30 seconds. This clearly speeds up production and improves accuracy significantly.
Trolex systems and products are relied on the world over to detect gases, monitor other key environmental conditions and optimise machinery performance in the mining and tunnelling industries. They’re intrinsically safe, carry independent accreditation and are at the forefront of safety and condition monitoring technology.