A Shell Chemicals' subsidiary located at Lydney, Gloucestershire, Vencel Resil manufactures Jablite polystyrene roofing and wall insulation which is widely used in the building industry. It employs only 15 people on a small site, yet nevertheless contrives to show a sales turnover of £2.5 million. The factory also stands out on account of its high value added per square foot, and the rate at which it turns over its inventory - 60 times a year.
The secret lies in good process technology and simple, robust systems. Pellets of raw material are expanded into large blocks which are cured for 24 hours, then slit into sheets by heated wires. As for controls, 'We've got the day-by-day meter readings since we opened the factory 10 years ago,' remarks factory manager Ray Bonser.
Expanded polystyrene is a bulky material and cannot be allowed to hang around for long in a small factory.
Half of the work-in-progress observed by the judges during their visit was on a truck en route to a customer that same day. The order book is also short - around two days' supply on average. Flexibility is therefore another essential. Lean management, a flexible workforce and tight cost control go a long way.
Regional Award: South West - Sponsor: Jersey European Airways.
Jersey European Airways is Britain's fastest expanding independent regional airline and will carry nearly one million passengers during the current year compared to 644,000 last year. The company has recently introduced new routes from London Gatwick to Belfast and Jersey, making a total of 13 destinations including Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds Bradford and Paris. Earlier this year JEA successfully introduced its British Aerospace 146 Whisper Jet fleet to supplement the existing F27-500 and Short SD 360 aircraft.