WINNER: RECKITT BENCKISER HEALTHCARE MANUFACTURING
< products:="" healthcare="" and="" otc="" drugs="" plant="" turnover="" or="" equivalent:="" pounds="" 150m+="" employees:="" 220="" highlights:="" applying="" consumer="" manufacturing="" techniques="" to="" pharma,="" transformation="" of="" working="" culture="" (wow),="" including="" annualised="" hours,="" elimination="" of="" waste="">
It's getting to be a habit. In 1999 Reckitt Benckiser's global manufacturing centre for healthcare products at Hull - maker of Lemsip, Gaviscon and Fybogel among many others - was MT's best process plant. Last year, the group's Derby household products plant was runner-up. This year it's Hull's turn again.
The success of the two plants is linked by more than sibling rivalry. Hull's aim is simple: to run a highly regulated pharma factory as tightly as its high-volume consumer products sister. What was good in 1999 is no longer enough, and the venerable city-centre site is again in the middle of what can only be called a revolution - waging war on waste, reorganising production and empowering employees to improve every aspect of its operation.
Driving the changes is a combination of external and internal factors: the elimination of Retail Price Maintenance and the threat of generics from the outside, increasing volumes and complexity, and the demands of a hard-nosed Anglo-Dutch group parent from within. The factory had already made changes since 1999. It had outsourced its maintenance, implemented low-cost Kenji line improvements to simplify layouts and free up space, introduced a continuous improvement team and launched an assault on waste that will cumulatively save pounds 1.5 million over three years. It has also driven hard and clever bargains along the supply chain and begun a far-reaching people-development programme.
All this was radical enough for a traditional site, where people did what they were told in return for secure employment and a good pension.
But it is now being subsumed into a second, larger wave of change. This seeks to build on the previous achievements with a pounds 15 million capital investment programme underpinned by 'Ways of Working' changes (WOW), designed to give people the tools to contribute to the plant's success by producing ideas as well as product - working smarter, not harder. This in turn has generated a rush of new ideas - including annualised hours.
The results too will be radical. By the end of 2003, Hull will be producing higher volumes and more variants, with half the number of people working one shift rather than two. Unskilled work will have been eliminated. Inventory is down, quality is up and more compact operations leave space for the possible insourcing of production that was previously farmed out. Overall costs will have been cut by 10%, with pleasing effect on margins. And, as ever on the journey to lean, there's plenty more to shoot for.
- PICME is a DTI-funded project that helps UK process manufacturers reduce manufacturing costs while increasing work satisfaction and productivity - through benchmarking and lean manufacturing techniques. Participating company costs are assisted by a DTI grant and may be paid for out of savings and efficiencies made. Uptake in chemicals, polymer and pharmaceutical processing has been high since PICME's March 2001 launch (01642 430 021; email@example.com).