Tag Archive | "Manufacturing"

KEEPING IN LINE WITH TRADITION

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KEEPING IN LINE WITH TRADITION


Ian Hughes shows us around Wilcox Limousines in Wigan, Lancashire

Whatever the economy is doing, there’s one business that will never run out of customers, and as a reliable supplier to funeral directors across the nation, Wilcox Limousines has enjoyed steady orders for almost 70 years.

OFFERINGS AND SERVICES

Founded by William and May Wilcox in the late 1940s, the Wigan-based firm originally provided chauffeured vehicles to the nearby Eagle Studios, but a turning point came when Wilcox began to buy and sell limousines in addition to hiring them out. Another key deal for the business was with Daimler to supply coach built bodies on the DS420 platform.

It’s fair to say the family’s hard work paid off for them operating across three locations and generating a company turnover in excess of £20m. The current Wigan site was our stop today comprising a 55,000 sq ft. warehouse space, 60 staff and plenty of shiny limousines to feast one’s eye on. We met William’s granddaughter Leila who provided an insight into the third generation business. “We are a family business selling to family businesses”, she said. “90 percent of our turnover is UK-based funeral directors and we recently launched our Jaguar XF Hearse for the overseas market which is rapidly growing”.

To say Wilcox Limousines only caters to funeral directors would be false, as there are many services in the firm’s itinerary including classic car restoration and prototype projects for car rallies. Leila elaborates. “We also have people coming to us for supercharged limousines from commercial backgrounds. At our Northampton site we perform classic car restoration and one off prototype projects where we have a strong development team in-house”.

WAREHOUSE TOUR
Production Director Ian Hughes took us around the warehouse to get a gist of the business. The first point of call started in the depot where a number of new and used Jaguar XJ and Volvo S80 models were lined up for service. For vehicles coming directly from the VM’s factory, a job number is generated along with a spec sheet and route card. Hughes added. “From that point, a pre-delivery inspection is carried out to ensure there are no Jaguar issues we can’t solve, otherwise, it goes back to the local dealer who can claim it back on their warranty”.

Hearse production

Once given the all clear, the vehicle is stripped down to its shell removing the glass, wiring and interior to begin the process. “Once the glass has been taken out we have a glass transporter that takes it to our Northampton site” said Hughes. “Bodywork extension is carried out there using aluminium for the Jaguar XJ hearses and limousines ”. A key factor when constructing these vehicles is ‘keeping them in line with tradition’, meaning each hearse is measured to the correct height allowing enough head space for undertakers to wear a top hat inside without fear of knocking it over.

After the bodywork extension is complete, the hearse is hand painted and its original components restored. “All the parts that came off the job will be fitted back on the vehicle”, Hughes continued. “We will then install the side windows, carpets, interiors and complete the deck work, hearse seating and the rest of the tailgate”, adding that the firm buys the exact materials originally fitted to the vehicle from its VM’s supplier.

TOOLS AND TRAINING
The vehicle will then enter the ramp and is rigorously tested for leaks, fault codes, followed by a test drive in different driving conditions ensuring it meets or champions that of the VM’s original specifications. This is backed-up with Jaguar’s diagnostic tools and training on site as Leila explains. “We have invested over £1m in tooling and equipment. As the VMs release new technology we will be implementing it while working alongside our key manufacturers”. Hughes concurs. “Our first point of call is our Jaguar dealer. We have our own Service Region Manager from Jaguar who visits us frequently to make sure we are up-to-date with the latest diagnostic tools and training offerings”. A detailing bay is used at the final checkpoint where the hearse/limousine gets the once over and a full inspection, checking every nook and cranny is intact before it’s sent out for delivery.

EXPANSION PLANS
Leila and her family have some exciting plans in the pipeline, which includes marketing expanding into new territory. She concluded. “We have never marketed overseas, but now we are branching out internationally with our Jaguar XF hearse as well as progressing with our car restoration and prototype businesses. I think the long term plan will be expanding our Wigan site rather than build more premises around the UK”. The Wilcox family are also brainstorming ideas to commend the firm’s 70th anniversary next year with talks of a 1940’s themed celebration on the cards. Whatever they decide to do will be a great event to commend May and William’s legacy.

Posted in Car Care, Factor & Supplier News, News, Out and About with CAT, Steering & Suspension, StylingComments (0)

MORE THAN JUST FILTRATION

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MORE THAN JUST FILTRATION


We take a tour around Mahle’s plant facilities in Telford

Mahle’s Telford site

Say ‘Mahle’ to most garages and they’d think of the traditional blue and white livery, as well as its extensive filtration range. In fact, the firm produces up to 1.1 billion a year across 170 production sites worldwide. However, filters are just one of many lines produced by the firm. In fact, the total number of products is set to increase as it prepares for electric and hybrid technology coming into the market.

ACQUISITIONS
The parts manufacturer has made gains amidst market consolidations over the past few years. It acquired the majority of shares in Slovenia-based Letrika in 2014 and Mahle-Behr took over Delphi Thermal Systems in 2015. In addition, Mahle has added mechatronics and hybrid systems to its portfolio for the same reasons as Jonathan Walker, Managing Director of Mahle Aftermarket, explains. “There’s so much consolidation happening at the moment and we’re aware of it happening elsewhere”, he said. “What we’re doing is adding additional businesses technical capabilities to what we can do as the systems interrelate”.

This was clearly evident at the firm’s Telford-based facility, which used to manufacture Dunlop tennis rackets, but is now home to an operation employing 206 staff of whom 90 work on the shop floor producing up to 30,000 components a day. From filters and manifold systems to valves and thermostats for passenger cars and commercial vehicles, were just a few of many parts coming off the production lines.

SHOP FLOOR
With a vast space to operate, the management team has implemented a new lean strategy over the past four years, both to drive productivity, and also make it a safe and comfortable place to work. “Part of the shop f loor management is making sure people know what is going on hence why we have direct production data coming live onto the shop floor every hour”, said Walker. “The management team can then see how each area is performing so they can tackle any issues that may arise”, adding that the new structure has significantly reduced management meeting time to as little as fifteen minutes.

The factory is split into four sections with fast moving components placed at the front of the premises. We were keen to find out more about this setup. “We have high and low volume manufacturing areas because the positioning of the factory is all about cost”, Walker replied. “We’re always trying to add value for the customer rather than wasting money when it goes on additional resources”.
The plant also features multiple assembly stations where a filter is produced every 6.8 seconds. Walker elaborates. “The operators will solely focus on assembling the components that are delivered by the logistics team by their train systems. Once the rack becomes empty, he or she will drop it to the bottom one below, at which point the logistics team will walk over, grab the barcode at the back, which tells the people in the warehouse that the operator needs another box of components so they can then bring it back on the train system”.

PACKAGING AND DISTRIBUTION
Once parts have been built, tested and receive the green light, the final step is packaging them for distribution. Whether it’s an aftermarket or OE component, Walker points out that both products undergo the same rigorous manufacturing processes with only the packaging being the differentiator between the two.

BUSINESS STRATEGY
Recent launches include Caremetix cabin filters, with air conditioning compressors set to launch in the middle of this year. Walker concluded. “Not enough people know we’ve been in the UK since 1996. In the UK aftermarket, it’s filtration that we’re known for but it’s really important we change that perception to encompass all of our other products that we do by bringing our ranges that we make as a fit first to the independent automotive aftermarket”. We look forward to catching up with the Mahle team again in the not so distant future.

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COMMA EXTENDS PLANT WITH NEW LAB FACILITY

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COMMA EXTENDS PLANT WITH NEW LAB FACILITY


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New lab space for Comma

Oil brand Comma has opened a new laboratory facility for product development and testing, situated near its blending plant in Gravesend, Kent.

The extension comes as part of a multi-million pound investment programme from parent company Moove, in an attempt to maintain Comma’s competitiveness for automotive lubricant, coolant and brake fluid testing. “There is no let-up in the pace at which vehicle manufacturers are introducing new specifications for the engine and gear oils for their latest models, and in many cases, upgrading existing specifications”, said Mike Bewsey, Sales and Marketing Director at the firm.

“These investments are designed to ensure that we’re using the latest manufacturing techniques so that the quality of our products can be maintained in a scalable and efficient way, as we enter a new phase in our growth strategy”, Bewsey continued. “The investments that have taken place are on our existing blending plant here in the UK – although our product portfolio continues to be developed and expand”.

Bewsey said that Comma will begin training staff up with its latest test and quality control equipment so they can utilise the laboratory at its full capacity. He said. “As we invest in new equipment for the laboratory, we’re also investing heavily in the development of our people there, so they are equipped to use it to its full potential”.

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KEEPING CARBON AT THE CORE

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KEEPING CARBON AT THE CORE


Christopher Shelley takes CAT on tour around Dymag Wheels production facilities in Chippenham

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Whether you’re a fan of superbike racing or a sports car enthusiast, there’s no doubt you would have come across Dymag Wheels, who have produced wheels for 43 years and more recently introduced some extremely light – and very sexy – rims made from carbon fibre.

The firm has been busy of late with a new Research and Development programme, designed not only to bring the wheels to market, but also implement an efficient and profitable manufacturing process, as Christopher Shelley, Chief Executive of Dymag Wheels, explains: “The product we have developed with the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative – a funding programme to improve global competitiveness, has enabled us to develop a product and low cost high volume manufacturing process, which are our two key things to market”. Shelley has also been working closely with the National Composite Centre in Bristol on the production of these carbon wheels.

PRODUCTION
We were keen to see the production process in action. “Typically we make the wheels to order which includes the colour, style and application before we distribute them to customers” said Shelley, adding that it would not be unusual for a set of four wheels to cost £14,000.

The first stop on our tour was the Machine Shop, home to milling machines whose purpose was forging motorcycle wheel hubs and centerpieces to the wheels, before ending up in the Paint Room next door, which on our visit, had a number of BAC Mono Wheels awaiting a spray job. However, the unit that caught most of our attention was a two- minute drive up the road where the main production is based. Shelley elaborated: “We are looking to develop the manufacturing process here with the help of the National Composite Centre, where we have a couple of other rooms like that over there; developing machines to automate the manufacturing process.” He added: “We lay up carbon wheels individually where we look to bring more semi- automation to speed up the manufacturing process and improve repeatability”. If all goes to plan, Shelley said the facility is hoping to roll out 10 carbon wheels per day.

PROJECTSDymag Wheels in production
Before hitting the road, Shelley wrapped up proceedings by discussing the firms business propositions for 2017, which includes building a UK and international dealer and distribution network. “We have a lot of investment going on where we’re looking to Dymag Wheels in production progressively build up our own distribution company”, replied Shelley. “Dymag Japan has been set up in Yokohama, we are also setting up Dymag USA, and selling directly to dealers in the EU from our UK base”, adding that the Dymag China group will complete the companies plans for ‘world domination’.

Shelley informed CAT that the wheel manufacturer is going through a tooling programme to expand its current range of sizes and fitments and will be presenting its next generation product at the SEMA show in Las Vegas. All of this, plus housing its seven units under one roof in a 20,000 – 40,000 sq ft facility in the Wiltshire area, it’s fair to say the company’s hands are full at the moment. We definitely will roll by for another visit to see Shelley and the team in their new digs later this year.

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Out and About with CATComments (0)

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