This article has been written by Gregg Hudson, Miller’s Global Manufacturing Leader. Possessing almost 15 years’ experience in senior positions in operations, Gregg has been pivotal in streamlining Miller’s global manufacturing processes over the last couple of years, growing the company’s supply chain and adopting multiple LEAN processes throughout the business.
The UK has a strong history in manufacturing spanning back from the Industrial Revolution. Accounting for almost 10% of the country’s total economic output (gross value added), the manufacturing sector still very much holds a prominent place in our society. As global manufacturing, particularly in China, US and Japan is progressing at a rapid rate, this is accelerating the need for manufacturing in the UK to quickly evolve. To stay ahead of the curve, and to futureproof our manufacturing facility in the UK, Miller has embraced new ways of doing things to maintain a competitive advantage in a crowded global marketplace.
Embracing New Technologies and Empowering our Workforce
Over the last few years Miller has significantly invested in robot welding automation in the UK. By doing so, this has enabled us to significantly increase our stock production with highly accurate and repeatable welding automation processes allowing us to have an advantage on lead times in the market.
Understanding the high runners of our sectors, we have the right stock available, ready on the shelf for dispatch, that we know our customers will be ordering.
An important aspect of embracing this new technology has been encouraging staff to adopt new ways of working and understand how such investment can only enhance our offering – ensure we remain competitive across the globe – whilst futureproofing manufacturing from our UK headquarters and protecting our skilled workforce. As such, upskilling the team to operate such advanced machinery has been an absolute priority with a real opportunity for staff to further develop their skills to complement their core welding capabilities, which can never be fully replaced by robots.
Through having a collaborative robot line, this allows us to produce more, whilst guaranteeing quality. And through delivering increased volume, we can drive our costs down to ensure our customers are making savings on what we consider to be the highest quality couplers and buckets with the very best weld finishes that you will find in the global market.
By digitally connecting our workforce – a key driver in today’s manufacturing industry – we can do things better.
At present, we are well underway in implementing a new digital quality control and supply chain audit system that will not only streamline operations but will allow us to ensure our supply chains are robust and our rigorous internal quality standards are being met. No matter what location our processes are being completed in, the quality of Miller products will be exactly the same.
Embracing new technology presents an exciting opportunity for our current workforce to work with the next generation of welding automation and digital tools, allowing Miller to very much remain an attractive place to work across our global facilities. It is also integral that not only do we appeal to young budding talented welders, fabricators, and engineers, we continue to connect an ageing skilled workforce and provide adequate resources to ensure they are comfortable with embracing technological change and collaborative working.
Accelerating Sustainability and Driving Efficiencies
We understand our impact on the environment both manufacturing and supplying our products across the globe. As such, we continue to strengthen our sustainability initiatives ensuring that we continually evolve and implement new ways to reduce our environmental impact and enhance our social responsibility.
One area that we have further invested in is improving our equipment/machinery across our UK facilities. This includes a new plasma cutting machine, CNC lathe and profile shop dresser machine upgrade right through to a new artic truck. Through continual investment, this ensures that we have the most energy efficient equipment in the work environment, whilst also maximising productivity of such machines. Regular maintenance of our equipment is also integral across the business to drive efficiencies and maximise uptime.
The team at Miller is very focused on continually driving efficiencies – without compromising on quality – which is what we are well known for in our industry. A few LEAN processes implemented over the last six months have included:
- The introduction of a new coupler line relocated in the factory. Each bay within the line now has its own overhead crane, which facilitates a much faster turnaround. Current implementation of a dedicated test centre in the same zone will further streamline our operations;
- An increase of pre-assembled parts assigned to designated area eliminating the need to cut individual parts as and when required;
- Increase in sub-assembly manufacturing, particularly driven by the robots, reducing production time;
- A restructure of our storage environment to allow more stock to be easily stored in accessible and safe locations;
- Uplift in capabilities to do things in-house – through the investment of new equipment and upskilling of staff – reducing the need to outsource, allowing us to improve costs, increase capacity and be more reactive with quicker turnarounds;
- Manufactured and installed several jigs with hydraulics for buckets that are high runners to improve quality of weld placement on workpieces. This has significantly reduced production times with better ergonomics for operators and increased safety. A guaranteed right first time approach subsequently reduces inspection time.
The drive for such efficiencies has been largely driven by a shift in focus to have 80% stock production and replenishment with 20% just in time manufacturing to accommodate for custom builds and tailored product specifications, which has been achieved throughout 2023.
Agile Supply Chains
Having a robust global supply chain allows Miller to be nimble and reactive in, what can be, a volatile and fast changing marketplace. This has never been more so proven during the pandemic with the fragility of supply chains impacting so many manufacturing companies.
Our supply chain diversification – with manufacturing hubs across the globe – allows Miller to have a broad supply ecosystem. Complemented by reshaping our global manufacturing landscape by introducing advanced robotics, this has enabled Miller to maximise labour and capital cost dynamics to ensure we have a competitive advantage, this passing on any savings to our customers.
Through implementing digital systems, such as our new quality system, which is being rolled out worldwide, such investment allows Miller to further solidify our global supply chain as we have full control and ensure compliance and quality is met across the globe.
Constant adaptability to the way we do things is integral to remain competitive in our marketplace. It is important that we continually implement LEAN processes – whilst doing so in the most sustainable way – as there will always be better ways of doing things. Having that reactivity ensures that we remain one step ahead at all times in the marketplace with quality and safety being at the very forefront of everything we do.
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