Brick Fabrication Ltd was established in 1997, based in the heart of industrial Wales at Pontypool. The company has seen steady growth over the last 19 years and now employs 70 staff across two sites.
Brickfab is a customer focussed manufacturing business which creates pre-fabricated arches, brick specials, Brickclad & GRP chimneys, GRP canopies and Glass-Resin (GRP) wall panels for the UK Home Building industry, including many prestigious ‘blue-chip’ clients such as RedRow, Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Homes, Charles Church, Persimmon, Bloor Homes and Kier.
The business has recently undergone a company-wide rebranding process, changing its name to Brickfab and refocusing its marketing activities to provide a more interactive customer experience – including the development of a new website and product catalogue at www.brickfab.com .
Keen to increase capacity and take the business to another level, Director John White contacted Construction Futures Wales earlier in 2016 and, following a successful Company Health Check assessment, was offered a package of fully subsidised support with a member of the consultancy team - Construction Manufacturing expert John Clement.
Working closely with John White and Sajith Soman, a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) associate, the Construction Futures Wales team conducted a series of workshops and development sessions with the workshop staff and Senior Management teams, on Lean Management and Value Stream Mapping, leading on to the design and implementation of a new factory layout.
In total, CFW conducted 5 sessions with the team, looking at:
- Identifying layout options for the new factory
- 3 x Value Stream Mapping (VSM) workshops with shop-floor staff, including Continuous Improvement (CI) activity
- 2 x Lean ‘Back-Office’ mapping workshops with back-office staff, discussing options for all office processes including ordering / procurement, recruitment and induction and disciplinary processes.
Following these sessions, shop floor staff visited other ‘best in class’ factories including JCB and Toyota in order to deepen their understanding of Lean in practice. Together with Sajith Soman and John Clement, the staff then went on to design their new factory layout with the knowledge and skills they had gained.
As a result, Brickfab has been transformed through a new level of automation –CFW support combined with Sajith’s KTP project means products move straight from drawing to production and with the adoption of Lean principles, the number of processes has been reduced and significant savings have been leveraged, resulting in increase in production capacity.
The business has also become more sustainable, responding to their client’s needs by tracking activity, reducing waste, sourcing sustainable resources and reducing consumption of energy.
These changes have had a positive impact on Brickfab’s customers. Combined with the rebranding, Brickfab has presented a fresh and dynamic offering to their supply chains and challenged the market with new products and augmented capacity. This increased confidence has resulted in winning new business and significant improvements in quality and safety.
Reflecting on the implementation process, John White expressed his appreciation for the support received:
“The focus of our business is to create those ‘difficult-to-make-on-site’ features and products, the parts of the construction projects that often require skills that are no longer available, or are not readily available at that time. We create these features as part of a large manufacturing process and ship them to our clients ready to fit.”
“The CFW support, alongside our KTP project was very successful for the company in introducing Lean manufacturing techniques and improving our manufacturing processes. The training with John Clement was accessible for staff at all levels of the business, he was able to give us the full benefit of his knowledge and experience as well as a raft of practical tools enabling us to realise savings across the business. The workshops gave us an excellent foundation for Lean – it encouraged ideas and innovation from the team.”
“We have recently been able to put these new skills into practice in creating a business case for a new production machine, using our knowledge to evaluate savings – space, tooling and jobs to project an increase in quality and safety. It’s given us more confidence to make strategic investment decisions.”
“There were also a number of challenges – people were almost too enthusiastic and trying to make too many changes, too fast. It was a test of our new knowledge to ensure that changes were structured and strategic, reducing unintended consequences.”
“Construction manufacturing is in really good health in Wales. It is an industry most definitely on the rise and there are many smaller manufacturers like ourselves making truly World-class products and these should be celebrated and supported.”
Looking to the future, Brickfab sees further technological advancements on the horizon, with further investments in production line machinery and online facilities to enhance the customer experience.
Brickfab was recently featured as the BBC Wales Business of the Week – listen to the Radio feature here http://www.brickfab.com/brickfab-live-radio-interview-john-white/