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