Best Factory Awards Countdown
Best Factory Awards 2013
Best Factory Awards Gala Lunch Date: 27/09/2013

27 September 2012

Cummins Power Generation UK

Shopfloor-led value stream mapping and a rigorous commitment to quality have helped power this generator manufacturer to the top of UK manufacturing

Winner: 2012 Most Improved Plant
Highly Commended: 2012 Best Engineering Plant
Highly Commended: 2012 Health & Safety Award

At last the bridesmaid becomes the bride. Cummins Power Generation of Ramsgate will savour every moment of its big day at the Best Factory Awards after years of making generators that go largely uncelebrated within landmarks from the Olympic stadium to the Statue of Liberty.

During the walk up the aisle to collect the Most Improved Plant prize, the team can reflect on a fairytale journey since 2007, during which time the site's sales have gone from US $100m in a quarter to $100m in a month. Lines that built eight generators a day now produce 23, and the number of 5S-certified factory areas has gone from seven to 72. Right first time and OTIF have also soared, to 91% and 93% respectively.

"We've been working with Six Sigma since 2000, but in 2007 we really worked hard on blending that with the Cummins Operating System (COS)," explains Mark Bown, Cummins CI lead. COS is a manufacturing-style commandment with disciples adopting ten best practice techniques, ranging from problem solving to synchronising flows at every turn.

One key pillar is involving people. The Cummins top team asked the shopfloor to take the initiative to cut inventory between work stations and improve flow. Operators were reborn as value stream managers, with performance objectives linked to delivering flow improvements. The senior management team helped out in a kaizen event designed to boost flow between processes and people: "The exercise proved how we could increase quality by eliminating non-value added waste. We became the arms and legs of the operators, painting lines on floors and moving shelves for them," says Bown.

Lead times were cut from six hours to two. But it was the intangible gains that lingered longest – operators realised managers were listening; managers understood the importance of doing so. The principles have been replicated across Ramsgate's three lines producing small-range generators with three-litre tanks through to large, high-horsepower units packing over 90 litres.

The emphasis on kaizen is sustained through cross-functional work teams, which have a management sponsor and meet twice a week. Latest action points include an electronic signalling board that will allow operators to communicate with forklift drivers on the go – a white board version is being trialled before the purchase goes ahead.

Not that the plant is afraid to invest where the business case convinces. Almost £2m was spent on a new test area to bring generators into line with latest testing criteria and enhance performance. The extra testing capacity also alleviates the bottlenecks caused by generators queuing up to be put through their paces.

And queues have been lengthening. Ramsgate's rigour helped it win a £436,000 contract to build powerbox containers previously made at a sister site in Singapore. Export business is booming, with 43% sales growth since 2007. Russia and the Middle East are key markets, with Cummins generators in everything from hospitals to palm oil mills.

As a result, Ramsgate has earned some strong admirers back at Cummins global HQ in Indiana, says Bown. "You could fit Ramsgate into a tiny area of the Indiana plant and we've always been slightly in their shadow. But now there's been a paradigm shift with all the good work in Kent, meaning we're the yardstick."

And the pace is not about to ease. Ramsgate aims to collaborate with other Cummins sites in the UK to create a slicker supply chain. Overall sales are predicted to soar 50% by 2017, meaning yet more focus on powerful processes and lineside ergonomics. After the big day at the BFAs, the Ramsgate team will be gearing up for an extended honeymoon in 2013.

Top 3 Points

  • Shopfloor-led improvement in flow has trebled daily capacity on some lines
  • Commitment to quality enshrined by a £2m investment in new generator test area
  • Sales have soared 43% since 2007: from $100m a quarter to $100m a month


Cummins Power Generation Ltd

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