“A special process – perforating – and a special company, Robert Bion, make for a worthy highly commended in this year’s Judges’ Special Award”
At Reading-based Robert Bion & Co, perforating is a way of life. Indeed, the products passing through its factory are all around: light fittings, audio panels, baking trays, cooker grilles, microwave doors, exhaust tubes and electronics enclosures, to name but a few.
And while making holes in metal or plastic sounds easy enough, there are many complex factors at work here to ensure the barriers to entry for potential competitors remain high. With a staff of 28, investment levels run at around £150,000 per employee, for example. Furthermore, all products are bespoke, a mix of repeaters or unique specification, while the varying sectors served all require different product characteristics.
At Bion there are 3 perforating lines in a range of tonnages, while further operations can include notching, levelling, shearing, forming and degreasing. Levelling is a particular skill set cloaked in secrecy. It’s notoriously difficult to predict how material will react to perforation without contravening flatness tolerances.
But by using Bion’s expertise together with specialist levelling equipment costing around £300,000, it’s possible to anticipate and prevent unwanted effects such as curvature. Other contributing factors include special tooling alignment methodology.
In this market, business responsiveness is vital. Accordingly, Bion provides quotes within 24 hours (KPI-measured) and can switch capacity on and off quickly – a third (night) shift can be activated with seven days’ notice, for example. Visibility is short, typically around two or three weeks, demanding a flexible manufacturing facility capable of absorbing extreme variation in throughput.
For instance, Bion perforates 60 billion holes in 4,000 tonnes of material per annum on a make-to-order basis, but May this year saw twice the invoiced sales of April without any lengthening of lead times.
Responsiveness is part of the privately-owned company’s 3R customer satisfaction strategy, with Reliability and (low) Risk the other two. Price is also important and although Bion aims to have the lowest costs in the market, it sets itself apart with added value, production engineering and quality leadership. All of this bolsters the company’s rising UK market share, which currently stands at 22%.
Other market differentiators include in-house tooling design and manufacture, allowing Bion to react quickly to convert a tool from 0.6mm thick mild steel to 2.0mm aluminium, for instance. What’s more, skills such as these sometimes allow Bion to find means of producing high quality products from cheaper and/or more readily available material, giving further competitive gain.
Other systems deployed include TPM, process planning, OEE, SMED, SPC and an energy use reduction programme, making this an engineering plant of distinction.
Read the Full Article at www.bestfactoryawards.co.uk
EEF Future Manufacturing Awards celebrate the achievements of manufacturing businesses who have improved operational efficiency while reducing their environmental impact. We were pleased to be recognised for the work we had undertaken during 2010 and 2011.
We undertook a variety of projects some in conjunction with the Manufactory Advisory Service. We tackled waste via Six Sigma, look at energy monitoring software, layout of premises and packaging. Many of our most successful projects have come from employee suggestions.
For more information visit: http://www.eef.org.uk/awards/
Bion were pleased to be accepted as members to the BSSA this year. Perforating stainless steel in a variety of gauges is technically challenging. We therefore look to work with an organisation where we can share our knowledge and expertise in order to manufacture a superior product and thus benefit our Clients.
For more information visit: http://www.bssa.org.uk
Bion have consistently achieved and maintained their ISO accreditation since first gaining BS5750 in 1993. In the last 12 years they have done this without acquiring any non conformances. We believe this is testamount to a good quality system well embedded into the culture of our organisation.
For more information visit: http://www.bsigroup.com
EEF is dedicated to the future of manufacturing. Everything they do is designed to help manufacturing businesses evolve, innovate and compete in a fast-changing world. With their unique combination of business services, government representation and industry intelligence, no other organisation is better placed to provide the skills, knowledge and networks they need to thrive.
As the manufacturers’ organisation, they believe that a modern, competitive and innovative manufacturing industry is central to the UK’s economic future. Everything they do – working with manufacturers and policy makers – is designed to help that industry flourish and to meet the world’s evolving appetite for innovative and responsibly-produced manufactured goods.
Manufacturing is responsible for half of UK exports and its productivity regularly outpaces economic growth. All of this helps the UK maintain its position as the world’s sixth largest manufacturing nation – a position they’re working diligently to improve.
Fore more information visit: http://www.eef.org.uk