WINNER: BEST ELECTRONICS AND ELECTRICAL PLANT - Highly Commended: Domino Printing Sciences.
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You can't have a world-leading product without a world-leading manufacturing process - at least not for long. Cambridge-based Domino Printing Sciences, maker of industrial inkjet printers, is well aware of the relationship between the two. Demand for its printers, used for putting date stamps and codes on everything from eggs to window frames, is global - 85% of its output is exported. But so is the competition. And both technology and prices are moving fast. So advances in product features must be matched by improvements in manufacturing to reduce costs and increase reliability and quality.
Domino has already travelled some distance down that route. When it introduced its high-selling A-series inkjet in 1997, the design was a step-change in both product reliability and manufacturability.
At the Cambridge plant, the group's central manufacturing and development site, printers are made to order in single-piece flow (batches of one) on flow-lines with minimal amounts of buffering work-in-progress. Lead times are typically 10 days and coming down. Material controls are simple (no MRP), using kanban and lineside delivery for simple parts. There are no stocks of unsold finished goods.
That is an impressive performance, given that the 11,000 A-series printers produced last year contained 3,500 variations. No less so is the fact that, although output has doubled over the past five years, headcount and space used remain unchanged.
Modularity of design has played a part here. So has modularity of manufacture, with task stages standardised into seven-minute chunks. Shopfloor ingenuity and teamwork have been critical, encouraged by annualised hours and pay for competences - enabling production to flex by up to 60% to meet seasonal peaks.
These efforts leave Domino in good shape for the ambitious next stages of its adventure. One prong of its strategy is a push into China, a huge market where the company is already exporting 200 kits a month for final assembly. The second is the readying of a new generation of printers, which Domino promises will provide a further step-change in benefits for the customer and in ease of manufacture for the maker. That's another opportunity for improvement - and another step towards world-class.
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