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Springing Into Action

01 June 2003

Electrical equipment manufacturer, MEM places total reliance on its
spring supplier to ensure a continuous feed of components to its
production lines, matching delivery levels precisely to the factory

Richard Turner, senior buyer for electrical equipment manufacturer, MEM,
admits he hardly ever hears of delivery problems with the 50 or so
different types of springs and other parts supplied by William Hughes to
his Birmingham factory. Absolute reliability of supply is vital to MEM,
who manufactures to order rather than for stock, with everything being
expedited out of the door once it is manufactured.

It's more or less the same with component parts. The objective is to take
in only sufficient quantities to satisfy immediate needs, as opposed to
buying in bulk and becoming a warehouse of spares. The trick is to take
advantage of the factory supply technique, Direct Line Feed (DLF), where
the onus is on the supplier - William Hughes, in the case of the springs
- to deliver directly to the production lines, in quantities that
accurately reflect their rates of consumption.

The only concession is an acceptance by Mr Turner that MEM actually has
to hold certain minimum levels of component stocks, but he sets this as
low as two to three day's requirements. So, twice a week a member of
William Hughes' staff visits the site to analyse current holdings,
monitor their rates of usage and assess what needs to be supplied on the
next visit. At the same time, he tops up the tote bins in accordance with
his previous assessment.

In the same way that its customer is concerned about keeping stock levels
to a minimum, William Hughes is also loath to manufacture for stock. For
the more common spring types in regular demand by MEM (often at rates of
up to 3,000 units per week), regular bulk delivery is assured by
scheduled allocation of factory machine time. For springs in lower demand
(between 50 and 500, say), the answer is batch production, with William
Hughes making in a single run enough for a whole year's supply and
holding them on the shelf, to be called off as required.

All coil springs in wire diameters between 0.3 and 3mm are manufactured
at William Hughes' Dorset factory, as are many leaf springs and certain
parts in brass and phosphor bronze. However, flat metal pressings and
small moulded plastic parts are bought in; indeed, on this contract, the
external sources of components are entirely at William Hughes'
discretion. In addition to the DLF service, the company also likes to get
involved with special projects, where assistance may be required, for
example, in the development of new springs for prototype products.

William Hughes dedicates around 5% of its annual turnover to
manufacturing equipment upgrades and expansions, year on year. Some of
its plant is unique in this country and represents some of the most
sophisticated spring-making technology in the world.

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