Judges' Special Award; Outstanding achievement in a specific area.
'Inspirational' was how the judges summed up last year's Welsh winner, Allevard Springs. European Component Company's seat belt factory in Belfast is just as inspiring - or, to be accurate, part of it is. Managing director Walter Carruthers would readily concede that there is plenty of progress to be made elsewhere, in areas where the factory is still laid out along strictly functional lines. On the other hand, the cell-based assembly operation is among the slickest that the team of judges has ever seen. For pace, fail-safe systems, and production engineering in general, the assembly cells set a standard that would be hard to beat.
ECC - as it calls itself - makes seat belt fittings and latches for a list of vehicle manufacturers that includes General Motors, Land Rover, Honda, Nissan and Toyota. (It supplies approximately half GM's total European requirement for seat belts.) For seat belt assembly, read the complete ready-to-fit unit: the buckles, brackets, inertia reel mechanism and webbing. The product has to be produced in left and right, front and rear versions. A single unit may consist of 20 or more metal or plastic sub-components, the majority of which are produced in-house.