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

23 September 2012

Siemens MR Magnet Technology

With greater emphasis on the supply chain and workforce flexibility, Siemens MR Magnet Technology is back for a renewed assault on the Best Factory Awards

Winner: 2012 Best Engineering Plant
Winner: 2012 Supply Chain Award
Winner: 2012 Innovation Award
Highly Commended: 2012 Skills Development Award

More than 30% of the MRI scanners installed in hospitals worldwide feature a superconducting magnet manufactured at the Siemens MR Magnet Technology (SMT) plant in Eynsham, Oxfordshire. And quite a plant it is.

Operational excellence at this make-to-order business is about getting the basics right: deliver on time, at the right price and quality. This is a big ask considering that in 2011, 35% of orders changed in the final four weeks leading up to delivery. Flexibility is clearly paramount, and so SMT has implemented measures that include a formal monthly review where capacity is realigned to meet new demand levels, and weekend operations across all manufacturing areas to improve product flow and generate more effective 'pull'. The company has also developed a headcount model to better understand manned capacity and increased cross-cell training for operators.

Every cell at SMT is expected to come up with a weekly quality improvement idea that positively affects the product. Today, the company has halved the cost of quality (scrap, rework) from four years ago. And the icing on the cake is that SMT has doubled output since 2006 with half the direct labour. The improvements result from relentless CI: 85 lean improvement projects have generated savings worth over £250,000 in the past 12 months. This is a smart plant, so smart that it's a worthy winner of the 2012 Best Engineering Plant.

Of course, supply chain agility is equally vital. Here, recent initiatives include the creation of vendor capacity models and global master production schedule documents, as well as introducing more frequent forecast information – now weekly instead of monthly.

The company is in fact already embarked on a journey to further develop its supply chain. Monthly reviews are now in place for suppliers who collaborate with SMT to identify improvement opportunities. Set KPIs are measured against each supplier, and each has a balanced scorecard and skills excellence matrix. With this much endeavour and achievement, it's no wonder the company is this year's winner of the Supply Chain Award.

Making superconducting magnets isn't easy: every stage of the process demands home-grown innovation with regard to process equipment and technology. One recent challenge tested SMT's resolve to the limit, but innovation saved the day. The company uses helium as a coolant for its superconductive windings (the magnets operate at 4.2°K) but due to dwindling global resources, SMT was forced to take multi-faceted action in collaboration with key supplier, BOC.

Using process mapping, data collection, KPIs and the EPDCA (evaluate, plan, do, check, act) cycle, the company discovered it could ship magnets with far less helium without affecting product integrity. Today the plant vents 60% less helium than it did in 2010 but has seen a 50% improvement in cold-shipped helium, all the while maintaining 100% customer deliveries. According to SMT, without this innovation the helium would have run out months ago, stopping magnet production.

Now, dynamic process simulation using Siemens Tecnomatix software is being used to identify and validate future improvements with regard to helium shortage. The savings projected by the best case simulation could future-proof the business for the next 15 years and investment plans are in place. SMT is the unquestionable winner of this year's Innovation Award.

Of course, none of this is possible without skills and this 450-employee company is a proven class leader in the development of its staff. In pursuit of a motivated and engaged workforce there are a myriad of training and learning opportunities on offer, from enhancing shopfloor skills right through to leadership training – with plenty in between.

Citing just one example, the company's people and business management course is targeted at shopfloor personnel who have the potential to go further in the organisation. All of this adds up to high commendation in the 2012 Skills Development Award.

Top 3 Points

  • The Avanto product has seen a 19% build time reduction since 2007, representing a seven-figure financial saving
  • SMT's suggestion scheme has been known to pay out over five figures for individual ideas
  • 25% (and rising) of the shopfloor are 'lean' qualified


Siemens Magnet Technology Ltd

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