Ciaran Connor Manufacturing Technician

My name is Jimmy De Beer and I am a Manufacturing Team Leader for Malvern Instruments. I have been working for Malvern Instruments for the past 9 years. Today I will be taking you though a typical day in Manufacturing. You might not know this, but here at the global headquarters in Malvern, Worcestershire, we assemble, calibrate and verify more than 90% of Malvern’s product range. The Manufacturing area is divided into different product groups, where I oversee the production of the Mastersizer 3000.

Jimmy's Team

Far left: Kelsey Dixon, Marcin Lewicki, Hazel Doughty, Chris Holland, Ciaran Connor, Ian Sampson, Simon Hardy, Jimmy De Beer

A typical day for me starts with my team, who are Chris Holland (Assistant Leader), Hazel Doughty, Marcin Lewiki, Simon Hardy, Ian Sampson (Manufacturing Technicians), and Kelsey Dixon (Manufacturing Apprentice). Every morning I will brief them on the previous day’s performance and then set out the direction for the day ahead. Key areas discussed are safety, quality, throughput and efficiency. Concerns or issues that my team might identify either with the product or process gets recorded on our whiteboard.

Seeing is Believing

Visual Management

Visual management is very important, as this can tell any bystander how the line is performing. It shows if the process is on target and in line with customer demand. It shows where the current concerns are and which shortages are holding up the line. We also display the process capability and stability through the use of Statistical Process Control Charts.

Once a week members, representing the New Product Introduction, Manufacturing Engineering, and Purchasing, teams will meet around the Visual Management boards, working together to try find sensible solutions for the problems we experience. This 15 minute stand up meeting is run by the Manufacturing Manager, Chris Poole.

The outcome of the morning brief can sometimes lead to a full day’s worth of follow ups and further technical investigations on a non-conforming part or process. The focus is on working closely with my team on identifying the root causing issues and implementing a solution that will prevent this issue from reoccurring. We try to avoid ‘firefighting’ with quick workarounds. A more effective approach is to spend time solving all aspects of the problem. To me this not only offers significant team working and problem solving opportunities, but develops relationships and trust between my team and I.

“Firstly I will ensure the chassis is square and that all optics and sub-assemblies have been prepared. I will then assemble the main instrument and run an initial test. Once the instrument has passed and the various serial numbers have been recorded, I will pass the instrument through to test with its accompanying shipping label. There are often 2 to 3 of us (the team) working on systems at any given time, which allows for both constant product flow, as well as social interaction to help the day along. Building a system takes me approximately one and a half hours.” Hazel (Manufacturing Technician).

Right Hand Man

Throughout the day I will constantly talk to my team making sure they have the correct tools for the job. Are the COSHH materials within shelf life limits? Are the drawings up to date and are the team working to these drawings? Chasing any shortages of parts. Dealing with non-conforming parts by reporting the issues back to the Purchasing department and organising replacement parts. Most of these tasks will be dealt with my Team Leader Assistant, Chris, who also stands in for me when I take a holiday.

Having an assistant to help overlook some of my day to day duties, I can spend more of my time focusing on the team’s development and on improvement projects. I like to spend time with my teamManufacturing coaching them through technical problem solving techniques, helping them understand the process and product better. We also like to enjoy ourselves during our working day, as keeping team moral high helps to keep production flowing. Whenever someone has a birthday at Malvern Instruments, it is tradition for that person to bring some cakes or sweets into the workplace; this will cause almost the entire workshop floor to head towards the cantine and have a quick piece of cake. Jokes are often made amongst the workforce as to who is the quickest to get to the cakes!

Keeping Trim

Lean ManufacturingManufacturing at Malvern is very much structured and procedural, but there are times where we work outside this environment. This is where we brainstorm new ideas on how to improve our processes to make us more efficient and productive, as well as working towards increased technician comfort. We started implementing Lean Manufacturing about 3 years ago and it has significantly transformed the manufacturing area.

We started out by implementing the basics of 5S. This is the name of a workplace organization method based around five Japanese words, all stating with the letter “S” of course –  seiri (sort), seiton (streamline), seiso (shine), seiketsu (standardize), and shitsuke (sustain).  The method describes how to organize a work space for efficiency and effectiveness by identifying and storing the items used, maintaining the area and items, and sustaining the new order.  The ultimate goal is to maximise the value we provide to the customer.

“Hazel will supply us with an instrument. I will then start an alignment process where the laser beam is directed through a series of optics. When this is done, I will calibrate the instrument using various sizes of latex. Once this has passed, I will generate a Verification certificate. This all takes me around Four hours.” Rob ( Manufacturing Technician)

We are constantly trying to improve the way we do things. My team is currently working on a project on how to improve the flow for the Mastersizer 3000 production. Reducing inventory, making the actual build easier and quicker for the technician, and eliminating bottle necks between processes using a tool called Value Stream Mapping which calculates value added and non-value added tasks.

Value Mapping

Manufacturing is not only a place where we put together measurement instruments. For us it is all about understanding what we do and why we do it. An integral part of this is to take ownership of the work you do and to have fun with your colleagues. Next time you use your Malvern instrument, you can rest assured that it has been built by hand, by skilled technicians who take pride in what they produce.