As Hyster celebrates 35 years of manufacturing in Craigavon, Northern Ireland, Alan Little says that a focus on quality has been the biggest contributor to its success.
“We have been making Hyster forklifts in Northern Ireland since 1981,” says Alan Little, Vice President Manufacturing & Logistics EMEA. “Back then, forklifts were less sophisticated, but we had the same principles of total quality management throughout the manufacturing process.
“In the 80’s, reliability, strength and low operating costs were some of the main aims of the design and build, and this is still true today,” says Alan, who joined Hyster Company in 1983 and became Craigavon Plant Manager in 1998.
“Throughout our history, extensive customer research has fed the design objectives of each truck, ensuring that we always focus on what owners and operators really want and need,” he says. “Today, we have a huge choice of forklifts and related solutions to support a wide range of businesses, no matter how extreme their applications are.”
Quality products for a global market
Thousands of forklift trucks are manufactured each year at the plant located to the south-west of Belfast. It is the largest counterbalanced forklift truck factory left in the UK and is the European source for all Hyster® branded:
• 1.3 - 3.5 tonne Electric counterbalanced lift trucks
• 1.6 - 5.5 tonne pneumatic tyred Internal Combustion counterbalanced lift trucks
(Including the Fortens® and the brand new XT series)
It is also the global source for selected series of hoist cylinders.
The large majority of all products manufactured in the Craigavon plant are exported to Europe, Russia, Africa and the Middle East, making it a significant contributor to the UK’s export market. The 41,300 m2 (444,500 sq ft) facility opened in April 1981 and now employs several hundred people working to ensure Hyster® quality remains built in.
“There have been significant investments over the years to maintain a philosophy of high volume, low cost, high quality and on time delivery,” Alan says. “Quality has been a major contributor for growth, helping to maintain existing customers and win new business with some of the largest manufacturing and logistics operations in the world.”
The quality of service support is also an essential part of the customer experience. Hyster has carefully selected the worldwide network of hundreds of local distribution partners, based on the strength of their customer support capability and outstanding service ethic to provide expert consultancy and responsive local service and parts supply.
Setting the standard in manufacturing
With ever improving practices, Craigavon has set the standard for Hyster® quality across the world. Hyster Company benefits from the expertise and resources of a global manufacturing organisation, with operations in 12 locations across the world producing quality components and assembling complete trucks for different world markets.
All sites are ISO certified and employ world class manufacturing technology and state of the art processes, including Demand Flow Technology (DFT), originally introduced at the Craigavon plant in 1995 and now used in all the group’s manufacturing plants globally. This pioneering system transformed the factory operations, providing the capability to produce any model, any day, based on customer demand. The processes utilize a flexible workforce and allow product volume and mix to be adjusted based on actual sales and maximize manufacturing and financial assets by eliminating waste. As opposed to checking quality at the end of the truck build, with DFT quality checks form an integral part of the assembly process, driving built-in quality.
Alan says “the quality of our people, processes and suppliers is essential to the process. In recognition of this, and in addition to the Quality Assurance function, Supplier Quality Engineers are located at each of the manufacturing locations globally. These SQEs work with suppliers to help them to develop repeatable processes producing consistently high quality components.”
Continuous improvement is central to the manufacturing process with Six Sigma initiatives running through the manufacturing operation. Projects are also linked with dealer Six Sigma initiatives, which have helped improve the quality of products even further, such as the popular Hyster Fortens®.
Driving quality through technology
Millions have been invested in new technologies at the plant to integrate even greater quality at every stage of the manufacturing process. In 2004, a new paint system was introduced which substantially increased the number of trucks that could be painted per day. Using powder paint reduces the cost to the customer, vastly improves finish quality and durability as well as being better for the environment with less pollution than wet paint.
In recent years, other investments have taken place in areas such as rod and tube turning centres which incorporate handling robots and laser measuring for added mistake-proofing and an oil test rig allowing production of quality cylinders for customers. Two improved robotic weld cells were also introduced in January 2016 to enhance functionality, flexibility and ease of programming as well as having a reduced impact on the environment as fumes are captured and filtered in the roof ventilation system.
Sustainability for a quality environment
In 2011, Craigavon implemented an energy monitoring system to form the basis of an energy management strategy and has driven activity such as the installation of energy efficient lighting. Work is also underway on introducing perimeter lighting that can reduce energy consumption by up to 50 per cent.
In 2013, the introduction of a waste compactor onsite and the selection of a local waste management company allowed Craigavon to outsource recycling to avoid landfilling unsegregated waste. On average, Craigavon now recovers 95 per cent of waste - this equates to 200 tonnes diverted from landfill, or the equivalent of 222 average households – and in 2015, the plant achieved a 97 per cent waste diversion rate.
Other investments in the Craigavon site have helped to reduce its environmental impact. Bringing storage on site removes the need to transport materials between sites reducing CO2 emissions by 108 tonnes per year, while replacing the on-site water main has reduced water consumption from 28 million litres to 10 million litres. Planning is also underway for a significant solar panel installation which will provide Craigavon with a renewable energy source for the future.
Awarding Craigavon’s success
This commitment to quality at the Craigavon facility has been recognized with a number of different awards. In 2015, the plant achieved ISO 50001 certification for its commitment to energy efficiency and development of an energy management system (EnMS). It also received the accolade of the prestigious ROSPA Gold Award for Health and Safety.
Other recent successes include achieving the Investors in People Gold Award recognizing effective people management, receiving OHSAS 18001 accreditation for occupational health and safety, and being crowned “Best Place to Work” at The Irish News Workplace & Employment Awards 2013.
The high quality standards were also acknowledged when the Craigavon factory achieved the prestigious Northern Ireland Quality Award 2011 (EFQM). The Quality Award is described as “the highest form of recognition an organisation can achieve, discerned from among its own peers.” Organised by the Centre for Competitiveness, as part of the judging process and 500 hours of assessment, the plant was compared against other leading world-class manufacturers.
The Northern Ireland Quality Awards are based on the internationally recognised European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Excellence Model, which provides one of the most robust methods of assessing how well an organisation is performing in the areas of Leadership, People, Strategy, Partnerships and Resources, Processes, Products and Services, Customers, Key Results and Social Welfare.
Additionally, in 2013, Alan Little was recognised for services to Industry in Northern Ireland and was awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire).
Notably, the Craigavon factory also received a visit from the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in November 2012, during which he emphasised the importance of great manufacturing operations like this to the UK’s ability to compete and succeed in what he referred to as “the global race”.