Extending the use of Mestec’s software to its latest overseas manufacturing plant in Romania gives GTK a fast and efficient factory floor solution to measure and control remote production.
From its UK plant, GTK specialises in manufacturing custom cable assemblies in volumes of up to 25 pieces. With batch sizes too low to justify full automation, GTK instead relies heavily on the manual skills of operators using hand tools.
Driving resource efficiency
GTK introduced Mestec’s software solution several years ago primarily to help measure and improve labour productivity in its Basingstoke facility.
“Mestec’s solution has been a resounding success for us from day one,” explains Steve Robinson, operations director for GTK. “As a result of the data Mestec collects from the shop floor, we are in complete control of our operations, with significant benefits for our customers. We can price and schedule accurately, and our key labour KPIs have increased dramatically since adopting Mestec. Operator utilisation now runs at just under 90% and overall labour effectiveness (OLE) is just a few points lower.”
GTK is investing in an automated plant for its Romanian factory. It anticipates stepping up its manufacturing volumes to open new markets and enable the company to serve existing customers with higher volume needs.
Opening the new factory has involved much detailed planning by Robinson and his team. “We have seven essential systems that must be up and running and interacting with each other to enable the Romanian plant to be fully functional,” states Robinson. “For our planning & scheduling system, HR, CRM, email, stock control and finance systems, we have had to perform extensive issues analyses and model as much as we could here in the UK before deploying in Romania. By way of example, we have spent more than 100 hours getting our ERP system ready for the new site.”
The experience of deploying Mestec at the new site couldn’t have been more different.
“The truth is, we were up and running in 15 minutes,” continues Robinson. “It’s been seamless. We have had multiple issues and a lot of stress preparing our other systems for the migration – not so with Mestec. Deploying Mestec at the new site couldn’t have been easier”
GTK uses the same Mestec database for both its UK and Romania plant, so adding the overseas plant was simply a case of creating a new team, adding login details for the new employees and issuing their ID cards for scanning. When new employees join, GTK simply issues a new ID card and provides in-house training to use the system.
“The new team could have been located anywhere and the start-up process would have been just as easy,” claims Robinson. “To use Mestec from Romania we just needed a web browser and Internet access. High-speed broadband access means that the usability of the Mestec environment is as good in Craiova as it is in Basingstoke.”
“Training the new team on the Mestec system has also been straightforward,” says Robinson. “We showed our lead Craiova operator how to use the system while she was in the UK for her induction training. Now she is able to get new starters up to speed on the system with no involvement from the UK or Mestec consultants – that really does demonstrate the system’s ease of use. As we grow we’ll just add new terminals and ID cards and that’s about it.
“In terms of language issues – there have been none. Mestec’s software is intuitive; it’s tile-based with good use of icons, which means there’s been no need for any language localisation. The fact that we have had no missed bookings since starting up proves the point.”
While its production processes are complex, GTK’s manufacturing philosophy is to keep its factory floor analysis simple. It measures just three components of its process: first-off time; assembly time and rework time. Applying these same metrics to the Romanian plant gives Robinson a straightforward way to benchmark the new factory.
“Having all our data in the same system enables us to measure and set expectations for any new team,” continues Robinson. “The team in Craiova knows what’s expected from them and has the data in place to enable them to work together and use their own initiative to improve performance where necessary.”
Mestec’s solution provides GTK with the flexibility to give the remote team as much or as little control as they want. Robinson explains: “The Mestec solution gives us visibility and control over the remote site from the UK without having a physical presence – that’s critical for us. We can monitor and benchmark productivity while continuing to schedule accurately.
“Having real-time metrics from the new site will enable us to quantify the benefits of our on-going investment in automation equipment. The higher volumes coming out of the Romanian plant mean scheduling accuracy is even more critical than normal. A key aim is to maintain our on-time delivery commitments to customers.
“At the appropriate time, we will hand over more control to the Craiova team so that they can become more self-sufficient and introduce their own initiatives to continue to improve performance locally.”
Rapid system integration
Manufacturing environments typically require interoperability between multiple systems to offer effective automation. Mestec has created an ‘open’ system from the ground up to enable rapid integration. “What integration we required for the Romanian site was carried out in the UK,” comments Robinson. “Connecting Mestec to our other systems was fast and resulted in extremely reliable data exchange. If we do need any help, we know that the Mestec support team has a high level of expertise and is extremely responsive – that reduces any risk for us in using their system. For example, they configured the new dashboard for the Craiova team that we requested within a few hours.
“Benchmarking against our other systems, Mestec’s is easily the most reliable software we use by some margin. System availability has been outstanding since day one, and unlike other tools we use we don’t need to take it offline for maintenance.”
Robinson concludes: “As an ‘out-of-the-box’ yet highly configurable product, Mestec has been delivering value from day one. It’s proven itself to be low risk and highly efficient for multi-site rollouts. It has been pivotal in enabling us to get the best out of the people we employ – wherever they are – without experienced production managers having to hop on a plane every week. It’s a much more sustainable approach.”
GTK is a world-class provider of high quality electronics solutions, including standard and custom cable assemblies, connectors and optoelectronics. Founded in 1990, GTK has over 25 years’ experience in sourcing, designing and supplying customers with a wide range of high performance products.
Headquartered in Basingstoke, UK, with offices and manufacturing locations worldwide, GTK has the infrastructure and resources in place to ensure highly tailored production engineering processes and manufacturing quality control.