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

21 September 2012

Stannah Stairlifts

Most people can only recall one name when it comes to stairlifts – Stannah. The brand is a hallmark of quality, ably supported by manufacturing and supply chain excellence

Highly Commended: 2012 Best Engineering Plant
Highly Commended: 2012 Supply Chain Award

Ageing populations, sales growth in Asia and South America, high cost barriers to market entry: these are all modest explanations of why Stannah Stairlifts is riding high. The truth is far closer to home – the brand is respected and trusted. Why? Well, it all stems back to product quality, which in effect is a reflection of the company's impressive manufacturing prowess.

At the Stannah Stairlifts plant in Andover, CI is core to progress and is the underlying reason why productivity measured as the number of stairlifts produced per head, per year, has grown some 45% since 2003 with approximately the same headcount.

Stannah has made more than half a million stairlifts since its inception, and is the biggest operator in its market by both turnover and profit. If it all sounds like plain sailing so far, think again: due to a myriad of different chair and upholstery options there are thousands of possible product variants. With this in mind, the supply chain has to be smart, but Stannah is rising to the challenge. With regard to on-time in-full (OTIF), of the 16,785 shipments so far in 2012, only one was late (by one day). This is even more impressive given the lead time reduction initiatives implemented over the past 18 months. Delivery times (from order to installation) to Germany, for example, have halved in this period and currently stand at just 11 days.

Intensive process mapping – incorporating manufacturing, quality, distribution and planning – has paid huge dividends. Getting the suppliers on board has also proved critical. Around 80% of the company's spend is with 14 suppliers, and these select few regularly walk the production lines at Andover to help identify and agree collaborative cost-down opportunities.

There are also various webcams around the site so suppliers can manage stock visually. Furthermore, there are no 'buyers' at Stannah, only account managers who have extra responsibilities such as visiting and auditing major suppliers, some as far afield as China. These are just a few of the initiatives behind Stannah's high commendation in this year's Supply Chain Award.

Of course, having a well-drilled supply chain means manufacturing operations have a fighting chance. Simply put, Stannah at Andover is a showcase of best practice. Capital investment tops £1.65m over the past five years, supporting an engaged team committed to learning and development. CI is a daily part of the company's operational effectiveness – there is even a departmental budget for day-to-day CI activities.

In the fabrication shop, a 35% increase in output has been achieved despite a 28% headcount reduction (through natural wastage). What's more, plated part inventory has been reduced by 25%, while operations such as studding and reaming have been designed-out.

The paint shop has seen investment of circa £500,000 recently and witnessed some big sustainability wins, while further along the manufacturing process are the plant's assembly lines, which provide a strong emphasis on flow: 40 operators serve 60 workstations. Lineside storage and VMI (vendor-managed inventory) have eliminated stores, with shopfloor demand pulled from finished-goods despatch – kanban is prevalent throughout the factory.

CI initiatives are ongoing as Stannah builds towards its aim of doubling output by 2020, which along with greater product complexity (more customer choice) means Stannah has some interesting challenges ahead. However, it comes as no surprise that its admirable endeavours to date have produced a well-deserved high commendation in the Best Engineering Plant category.

Ultimately, Stannah products change lives. Delivering this level of quality and reliability calls for a true team effort, from the bottom up – not one person or one technology. Stannah Stairlifts exemplifies all that is good about UK manufacturing.

Top 3 Points

  • Two CNC laser profiling centres can run lights-out from pre-programmed production plans
  • Assembly lines are product specific, with operators flexing between lines depending on demand
  • A percentage of monthly profit is shared equally among employees



Stannah Stairlifts Ltd

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