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A major coach and bus manufacturer was considering closing one of its manufacturing sites in the UK as it was not performing; it was a loss making site; quality was poor, and it was market contracted by over 20%. Pressure was coming from the company’s joint investors who perceived that there were inefficiencies and over capacity across its operational sites in Europe.

The company engaged Explic8 to review its operations and provide a road map to avoid site closure.


The Challenge

The quality of output had slipped significantly while costs increased, and customers were becoming frustrated. The site was set up to produce both coaches and buses but was doing neither well.

The site was sprawled over 600k ft2, comprising several buildings. Part-built vehicles were being towed between buildings to complete the manufacturing process, exposing them to the elements and creating significant inefficiencies.

In addition, every vehicle was taking up to 20 weeks to build and each one was a loss-maker as they had been costed on a superseded design that gave them the ability to produce 1200 vehicles annually, but this was no longer the case.

It was clear that a radical shift was required to give the company any hope of retaining the site. However, with a ‘died in the wool” unionised employee base, workers had historically benefited from powerful union control. This dominance created an environment that was not conducive to change.

The Solution

Explic8 quickly identified that to stop the closure they needed to redefine how this factory would operate moving forward and persuade shareholders that it could return to profitability. This would entail a major overhaul to methods and support systems to reduce costs and increase quality at the site.

Our team began with a review of operations, critiquing this against the competition to understand the opportunities and capabilities of the site. Next, we examined the product portfolio to understand what was needed to differentiate this site from others and make it a unique and valuable asset for the company.

Through this process, we identified that the best course of action was to re-engineer and re-launch the factory as a luxury coach assembly site. We created a detailed blueprint for the factory’s future, which was used to gain buy-in from the board.

It was clear, however, that the required changes would involve significant loss of manpower. It was critical to find a way to involve the workforce in this process, gaining traction and overcoming a history of labour relations issues.

We worked closely with the team at all levels, from the shop floor to the c-suite to design, trial and build the facilities and capabilities required to enable the shift, re-engineering processes and re-defining operations. We then worked hand-in-hand with sales and marketing, to relaunch the site from this new footing.

The Result

The site moved from at-risk of closure to achieving £45M profit in the first 12 months.

The entire operation was restructured end-to-end within six months to re-launch as a luxury coach assembly site. The operations were now all under one roof and the shop floor team engaged through an intensive education program and a heavy involvement at all stages.

There was a significant reduction in build cycle, from 20 weeks to just 5, with a single piece flow operation. A 90-stage build was reduced to 25 with lineside Kanbans reducing stock and WIP, and a quality RFT focus improved output and therefore client satisfaction.

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