Through continuous innovation, the company is meeting the increasing demands made on all the tufting equipment supplied to carpet manufacturers and has a projected turnover of £12 million for 2015.
Fashion inevitably plays its part in driving demand for machines that are ever more complex and incorporate more technology than a decade ago and must deliver a greater scope of carpet patterns and textures. Customers work closely with Cobble from the concept stage of any new designs and ultimately want faster and more flexible machines that can change between carpet qualities more rapidly than ever before.
Made to individual order, no two machines are the same and the company produces and sells in the region of 18 to 22 machines per annum. It works closely with customers from the concept of any new design right through to production. However, with increasing complexity and a desire to raise the number of machines manufactured to 30 machines per annum, Cobble Van De Wiele must aim for a leaner manufacturing process, one that is more seamless across the wider Van De Wiele group of companies, reducing lead times and increasing efficiencies.
With this in mind, the company is embarking on a project to create its factory of the future.
“In2grate got to know the business inside out and understood the challenges ahead. The project management was very detailed in understanding the scope of what we were trying to achieve”
Jason Kent, MD, Cobble Van De Wiele
Central to achieving leaner manufacturing at its factory in Lancashire, Cobble Van De Wiele is now embarking on modernising its traditional manufacturing facility whilst also extending it to grow its spares and gauge parts business. This includes upgrading its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software to manage the supply chain more efficiently.
Jason Kent, managing director of Cobble Van De Wiele explains; “As part of a much bigger group of companies, it’s important that we can not only achieve our manufacturing objectives, but we can also keep tighter controls on the supply chain – being able to job cost much more effectively, which in turn positively affects manufacturing and our bottom line. As part of a wider group of companies, there’s a greater level of vertical integration and so we need more visibility in rationalising parts across the whole group before sourcing and buying products externally.
“For this reason it’s no longer just our production team that requires access to information, but our group procurement department too. Also, the sales team must be confident in estimating and quoting for a product that can be physically made and delivered, which means being able to better manage the bill of materials for each product along the production process from design to final assembly and testing.”
Going forward, Cobble would also like to be able to grow its potentially lucrative spares and gauge parts business. The machines are totally bespoke and therefore the company keeps records of the customer’s specific designs and engineering specifications to be able to support and supply spares. Each machine contains thousands of sewing parts that must be replaced at regular intervals.
Jason explains: “We need more visibility of the supply chain across the group in rationalising parts within the machines and we’d like to be able to supply knives, loopers and hooks more widely to the market place for tufting machines. It’s excellent repeat business for us.”
The company must also be more competitive in terms of meeting delivery dates for individual customer requirements, reducing its lead times, which have already shrunk from 16 to 12 weeks, the goal being to get closer to an eight week window if possible.
Cobble realised the need to invest in upgrading its technology to help manage the supply chain. The existing traditional factory had standardised on Jobscope ERP for Engineer/Make To Order manufacturing from In2grate Business Solutions for its ‘make to order’ business but the vision of a new leaner manufacturing facility requires an upgrade to Jobscope Version 17.
Cobble needed to re-affirm that Jobscope was still the right software to do the job going forward, so In2grate used data from the Cobble business to demonstrate how it would work.
Jason explains: “In2grate got to know the business inside out and understood the challenges ahead. The project management was very detailed in understanding the scope of what we were trying to achieve beforehand so we didn’t try to change the world overnight. The newer version of Jobscope fits well with what Cobble is trying to do as a business and it will speed up the procurement process that in turn will allow us to forecast and schedule jobs more accurately.
“Building bespoke products means that we have to purchase the exact bill of materials required. We don’t hold stocks of goods because they can quickly become obsolete. It’s just in time (JIT) manufacturing.”
The new version of Jobscope is very intuitive to use, will provide shop floor data capture and will allow exact job costing including tracking labour costs more accurately. The length of time employees spend on each task can now be captured and costed and as a result, standard operating procedures can be written within PEAK software so that it’s easier for employees to do other roles more simply. As procedures are inspected they will be re-documented to provide material for staff training procedures. PEAK allows step-by-step documentation of process and procedures and also provides online training capabilities.
Jason explains: “From the bill of materials to the customer requirements, through to procurement, production, assembly, testing and field service, Jobscope will allow us to extend who in the business gets involved in different tasks. Field service and warranty have been analysed recently and we’re about to get an after sales team involved in it too. It makes our employees more versatile as they can be taught how to do other jobs relatively easily and make decisions based on up to date information.”
The benefits of the upgraded version of Jobscope mean that Cobble Van De Wiele can begin to create a lean manufacturing model and look to reduce lead times and grow its spares and gauge parts business.
Ultimately more visibility of job cost data will allow it to become more competitive with future orders. Optimising the information out of engineering into production and purchasing and beyond will help to reduce the lead times down further to around eight weeks per order, delivering to customers faster than before.
As part of a wider group of companies, it will also be possible to source internally as well as externally for materials – purchase order analysis is key, keeping the procurement team in the loop and keeping costs down. And with the opportunity to integrate both sales and aftersales into the system, the spares and gauge parts business can also grow.
“Off the back of growth, we will look to investing in a heat treatment plant along with automated work cell manufacture for the knives, loopers and hooks that we supply to machine owners in the market place – so ultimately we can expand that part of the business,” explains Jason.
“Once again, as customers demand parts, these can be expedited much faster and more efficiently and can be tracked through the software from order to shipment with a full audit trail. Once they have been dispatched - 98% go overseas - customers can be kept up to date with delivery and shipping details. Customer service is improved and that is all achieved with the help of Jobscope.”
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