Most Improved Factory; Sponsored by KPMG Peat Marwick.
The peace dividend has not been good news for defence manufacturers, but one factory at least has something to smile about. The Dynamics Division of British Aerospace Defence Ltd, at Lostock, near Bolton, is this year's Most Improved Factory. The plant makes missiles - Rapier, Alarm, Seawolf, and others - along with (in the case of land-based weapons) their guidance and launcher trailer units. It should not be assumed, that a military trailer is anything like as simple as its civilian counterpart. These have unique wheels, hubs, brake drums, even tyres - 10,000 individual components and an equally staggering price-tag.
The factory, which occupies a sprawling 42-acre site, was at one time 'the largest machine shop in Western Europe' - and it had problems to match. 'We used to be world class at fire fighting,' remarks Dave Aspey, head of manufacturing, wryly. But in recent years it has changed out of all recognition. Management layers have been stripped out: there are now only half as many as in 1989. Steps have been taken to end the old 'them' and 'us' attitudes by eliminating divisive conditions of service: there used to be five levels of canteen, for example. The former functional layout has been replaced by product-related cells with painted kanban squares. The most committed aficionado of Japanese-style production techniques would find plenty to applaud here. But he would also find a lot more that is novel, individual and genuinely innovative.