Delivering the world’s coinage: a mix of heritage and modern manufacturing
05 July 2015
Editor Les Hunt was granted rare access to one of Britain’s great institutions – The Royal Mint – to see how this venerable operation is embracing current plant management practices to meet the needs of its growing global customer base.
The Royal Mint is the UK's oldest manufacturing concern; spanning almost 1,100 years, its history is woven into that of Britain itself. In 2010, it became a government owned company - a move designed to provide it with greater operating and commercial freedom. And those operational and commercial freedoms are today manifest in the achievements of this organisation, which serves on average, 60 countries, supplying 100 issuing authorities around the world with coins and blanks.
Walking around the Llantrisant site and meeting the people that operate the processes and manage the operations, it is evident there is a will, not only to improve upon current practices, but to ensure that there is a process of continuing improvement in place. Indeed, the modern Royal Mint is today as much a follower of the Shingo Model for process improvement, as any other large, ambitious private enterprise.
Head of engineering at The Royal Mint, Dr Tony Baker has responsibility for a huge variety of process operations and equipment, from furnaces through to the blanking presses and plating operations – equipment that can be anything between two and 40 years old. He has a key role to play in this drive for continual improvement at the Llantrisant site, where, as part of their daily routines, his team members are busy conducting hardware failure analyses, monitoring energy consumption and planning for those all-important process improvements.
Dr Baker is aided in this task by Rockwell Automation, whose involvement with operations at the site go back almost 20 years. A casual glance around the site will reveal control hardware not just from Rockwell Automation but from a variety of other sources, and while Dr Baker hints at a plan that will eventually see the plant’s primary control architecture based on Allen-Bradley programmable logic controllers, Rockwell Automation’s current role is more resident consultant, than hardware supplier, providing advice and expertise in areas that are of critical importance to the culture of continuing operational improvement. That includes the provision of a variety of services, maintenance, plant repairs and plant appraisal, as well as a key involvement in ongoing project work and plant/process design.
Energy management is a good example of the way in which The Royal Mint is taking its operations forward. The Llantrisant site is ISO 50001 accredited, with energy statistics measured daily and reviewed on a weekly basis for analysis and future planning, the latter including the gradual roll-out of variable speed drives and high-efficiency motors, where appropriate, throughout the plant.
As part of its consultancy role, Rockwell Automation is also called upon to take an independent view of engineering strategy and to this end, is currently advising the involvement of external OEMs in more of the onsite project work, outsourcing tasks that hitherto would have been undertaken by Mint staff, and thereby freeing up vital resources.
For obvious reasons, the Llantrisant site is heavily secured; the perimeter wall is pretty forbidding and reminds one more of a prison than a factory site. While there is presently no public access to the Royal Mint, that is about to change with the development of an £8m onsite museum and visitor centre that is due to open next year. And the Mint is expecting quite a heavy footfall, with ambitions for it to become the fourth most popular visitor attraction in Wales.