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Best Factory Awards 2013
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22 September 2012

Sony UK Technology Centre

Arguably the name in global electronics, Sony has kept pace with fast-paced markets through constant evolution and progress. Its site in south Wales is no exception

Highly Commended: 2012 Best Electronics & Electrical Plant
Highly Commended: 2012 Health & Safety Award
Highly Commended: 2012 Energy & Environment Award

Sony requires little by way of introduction. The company's history at its Pencoed site near Bridgend stretches back to 1973 when it was established as a high-volume manufacturing plant for CRT (cathode ray tube) televisions. However, in 2003-04, TV technology made the quantum leap into the world of flat screen LCD. For whatever reason, this particular technology never came to Pencoed, and instead the site was faced with diversifying into the manufacture of broadcast and professional camera systems.

While loosely falling under the same 'electronics' umbrella, the two products could hardly be more different, nor could the production volumes. With this in mind, what Sony UK Technology Centre has achieved in less than a decade is nothing short of remarkable, along the way finding the time and resources to adopt HD and 3D camera technology, expand its customer services offer, engender greater staff engagement, increase skills and introduce class-leading sustainability initiatives.

In the production process, components leave the warehouse and head for automated or manual PCB mounting operations; or to the clean room for prism and optical head assembly. The two paths merge (along with the power supply) at the general assembly stage. From here, subsequent test, QC, packing and despatch make for a slick operation.

Although the site houses eight surface mount re-flow lines, the challenge here is the company's low volume, high variation product mix, which can mean any one line will require up to nine set-up changes a day. As a result, Sony UKtec has made set-up times a key area of improvement, achieving reductions in excess of 50% in recent years.

The clean room at Pencoed is another impressive asset. Sony says this environment operates at far better than its official Class 10,000 rating, providing the conditions for critical operations such as CCD (charge coupled device)/prism alignment to extremely tight tolerances – perfection is required via innovative assembly techniques to ensure optimum picture quality.

Subsequent general assembly is a lean, high-efficiency process based on a one-person, one-build philosophy in individually tailored cells. The idea is to eliminate waste and promote ownership of quality. Sony UKtec achieves <0.3% defect rate for all complex broadcast equipment. The reward: a high commendation in this year's Best Electronics & Electrical Plant category.

Many will be surprised to learn that this plant has a number of additional revenue streams. For example, the facility offers collaborative contract electronic manufacturing services for non-Sony companies. What's more, the site is a full customer service centre, offering repairs and upgrades to all Sony equipment – everything from TVs and digital cameras, to laptops and games consoles. A fourth revenue stream is created by the provision of a tenant incubation area for start-up or small technology companies. At present there are 23 third party clients on site employing more than 100 people.

As an all-round performer, Sony UKtec is keen to demonstrate strong business credentials across the board, such as a proud health and safety record, for example. Here, extensive education campaigns for operators, engineers and line managers alike are supported with process risk assessments conducted by qualified staff. On the rare occasion of an incident there is always a stringent investigation with root cause analysis to help prevent reoccurrence. As a percentage of headcount, the number of first aid-trained personnel on site is well above industry recommendations.

The company has also established a working group to target energy reduction and waste in its processes. The aim is to inject sustainability into the manufacturing culture without compromising competitive advantage. The result of this investment in time and resources has led to a year-on-year energy reduction trend as well as impressive improvements in waste recycling rates. Overall then, few surprises that Sony UK Technology Centre is highly commended in both the Energy & Environment and Health & Safety categories.

Top 3 Points

  • Pencoed is the only Sony facility outside Japan aligning broadcast optical blocks
  • The company deploys Poke Yoke tests for all PCBs and assembled units
  • The site harbours a long-term ambition to become a zero environmental footprint plant


Sony UK Ltd

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