Best Factory Awards 2012
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02 October 2012


From submarines to cellars, Analox's innovative products keep people from harm. Safety is the watchword in its own plant, too, where it sets standards even major companies can't match

Winner: 2012 Health & Safety Award
Highly Commended: 2012 Innovation Award

At 45-strong, Analox of Stokesley, North Yorkshire, there's proof that skills and innovation count for far more than size. It develops markets, sells and services gas-sensing solutions that keep people safe in places as dissimilar as diving bells, submarines, pub cellars and breweries. Its expertise lies in knowing how to apply gas sensing to a specific environment, however challenging. In a market where reliability can quite literally be a matter of life or death, it has absolute focus on customer service and trustworthy, ethical operation. It encourages its people to constantly ask themselves one simple question: 'Are you proud of what you are doing?' If not, they are urged to stop at once. "Ethics aren't a show," says MD Mark Lewis. "They are the bottom line." Meeting its promises is fundamental to Analox's relationship with its customers. Its OTIF is better than 99% and its returns rate is under 1%, beating its competitors hands down.

Analox wins the Health & Safety (H&S;) Award because it shows the same determination in doing the right thing for its employees. This SME goes further in analysing and ensuring safe working practices than some manufacturers that are household names. The detail it collects is comprehensive by any standards and a sure sign of how seriously it takes its responsibilities. Analox benchmarks its performance rigorously and H&S; KPIs are the first topic at management meetings. Its data forms the basis of a systematic action programme, based on fostering good behaviours. To reinforce that, all employees are invited to join in a monthly online health, safety and environment quiz and take-up is high.

Good H&S; practice links to lean activity across the shopfloor: efficient organisation and sustained 5S activity are clearly visible, both of which encourage safe working. As a result, accidents have been cut by 58% over four years – a remarkable achievement.

Analox's second award comes in recognition of the innovation engrained across its business. It shows in products like the first monitor to detect and warn divers of potentially fatal anaesthetic levels of hydrocarbon in diving bells. It thrives through anticipating the gas-sensing needs of its niche markets. Typical is the work to simplify oxygen monitoring by developing a 'fit and forget' sensor that won't need changing in 10 years. Analox has a special project underway most of the time; nearly half of its staff is involved in development. Central to its ability to innovate is the wide funnel it uses to gather ideas. They flow in via conversations with customers, the company intranet and – most of all – the Imagineering Wall. Analox has a simple mantra for the process of winnowing and disseminating good ideas – 'get it on the walls'. Anyone can contribute: be creative; any idea goes; dismiss nothing. It's a superb way of breaking down barriers and sparking interest. Ideas go through a broad brush business case with a rough profit calculation before more detailed examination and a verdict from a review panel. Rejections are always explained fully and no idea is ever thrown away – it stays in a database for possible future use. Those selected are listed in priority. A critical measurement is the cost of delay – an estimate of profit divided by the number of weeks over which it isn't realised. It sets a value on the project and clarifies whether it is worth interrupting another to accelerate it. Production and R&D; engineers work together to make prototypes. It means both sides gain knowledge from the start and ensures the design is actually manufacturable. Analox makes room for one blue sky project among the commercially justifiable ones every year.

This is a young company but it's using its talents – and they are considerable – to take it in the right direction. Expect to hear a lot more about Analox.

Top 3 Points

  • Rigorous data collection helped cut accidents by 58% over four years
  • Customer focus produces OTIF of better than 99% and a return rate of less than 1%
  • Niche market needs are identified and met through a constant flow of innovative new products


Analox Sensor Technology Ltd

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