When it comes to British catering equipment manufacture, Parry Catering Equipment is one of the most established names in the business.
But if you’re looking to identify a defining moment in its 60-plus year history, you don’t need to go back any further than the last 18-24 months. Unless you’ve been inside its factory, the changes might not be instantly obvious, but behind the walls of its Draycott HQ, Parry has been managing a major transformation of the way its entire business functions.
And the changes have come right the way through the organisation, kicking off with a “stepped change” in management control that began in early 2012 and reinforced with a drive towards a culture of continuous improvement. On top of all this, the company has rolled out new manufacturing, CRM and enterprise accounting software in less than a year.
It is a strategy that has not only led to results in terms of cost management, product build quality and workflow efficiency, but revitalised the shop floor.
Gary Rose, managing director of Parry, says the process to execute change started when the company put more than 40 staff through an NVQ Level 2 course in Business Improvement Techniques two years ago: “We had people go through that training from across the whole business, from shop floor personnel to admin staff. That laid the foundations, if you like, of the Lean principles.”
Not long after that took place, Mark Banton joined Parry as operations director and his experience of manufacturing improvement techniques has been invaluable in accelerating the adoption of Lean practices and building on the initial training that staff went through. With Parry’s stainless steel fabrication going from strength to strength, and its bespoke capabilities also growing, the timing couldn’t have been better.
“Since Mark has joined us we have made a lot of changes within the business, not just on workshop organisation and workflow, but we are also driving change through culture as well,” says Rose.
“That is a big thing because it is not an easy thing to change. When you have got a lot of long-term serving staff, it is quite difficult to switch them from one method of thinking to another, but it is very apparent that people are accepting these changes now, thankfully.” The launch of a continuous improvement culture has been augmented by the internal training of all Parry’s management team on KPIs and value stream mapping, followed by the introduction of a 12-month programme of ‘5s projects’ in all areas of the business, including internal sales through to individual factory manufacturing cells.
Banton says the whole purpose of a 5s exercise is to look at how one particular area operates and establish how it can be made more efficient, before embedding it into the organisation: “If you look at it from the point of view of a guy on a bench building the same product all week, it could be something as straightforward as him looking at what he uses on an hourly basis, a daily basis and a weekly basis.
"Obviously the things that he uses on an hourly basis he needs in front of him and he doesn’t need to be walking three or four paces to get it; the thing that he is using every day needs to be a step away.
“It is that mindset of understanding, because whenever he is not actually building he is not adding value. There has been a 12-month programme of 5s projects running throughout the business, which has been very successful, and we are now moving into the second phase of that.”
Another key change with regards to business performance has been the introduction of managed KPIs for all relevant functions. These are produced daily and weekly, culminating in a monthly report that includes completed ‘continuous improvement’ activities.
“All of the managers and supervisors have a target of completing one continuous improvement exercise every month,” explains Banton. “If you multiple that out, it means that as a business we are getting somewhere between 180 and 200 continuous improvement activities completed every year.”
Parry staff now work to controlled processes, while value stream mapping is used to assist managers in defining practical process controls. This has helped to remove ambiguity for staff and customers in everything from order acknowledgement and production to despatch and warranty.
Flexibility and speed of reaction forms a key part of Parry’s mission statement, with the company priding itself on fulfilling any catering order, even if it hasn’t actually got it in finished goods, within five days, and any fabrication order in seven working days.
The benefits of adopting Lean principles and continuous improvement initiatives are now evident throughout the factory floor, with ‘visual management’ an important element of this strategy. Continuous improvement boards that are populated by shop floor workers as they encounter issues or suggest product improvements are located in every manufacturing cell, while production planning, performance reporting, error reports and improvement plans are now used by all supervisors on a daily basis.
This extra diligence is good news for distributor customers, with Rose noting that its data shows the company has been able to improve customer service and availability.
“Product quality is an area dealers will gain from and we are also trying to reduce product build costs, so they will benefit in that area by us maintaining a competitive price and no price increases — we have got no planned price increases for 2014, for example.”
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From a workforce perspective, a flat supervisory structure has been implemented, empowering supervisors to take actions at the ‘coal face’ of the manufacturing operations. The hierarchy between supervisors has also been reduced, with each one now reporting daily to their ‘internal customer’ on cell performance versus planned target, creating a natural chain of communication that flows right the way through the production line.
“One of the most difficult things through this whole process is that you find a continuous improvement, but it is the sustaining of that which is the important bit,” says Rose. “That is why the culture change is essential because if people aren’t on board with it, then they will just walk away from it and everything will just revert back to how it was previously.”
The introduction of Short Interval Control measures, which are embedded for production planning and line side kitting, has improved productivity by an impressive 21% and reduced lead times on non-core product manufacture. It’s a simple principle, but the daily production of figures that comes from this process means the business can instantly spot and react to any anomalies or problems.
Rose says the overriding goal is to achieve its target of achieving world-class performance. It defines this in a number of numerical ways, including zero environmental and safety incidents, 99% service on time in full, 99% product quality, 90% availability, 95% performance and 90% overall equipment effectiveness.
“We have taken a traditional family-run business, which has been run in a particular way for 50 or 60 years, and given it a good shake and got it into a fitter, leaner state,” he says. “We are aspiring to be a world-class company in terms of manufacturing and there is no reason why we can’t be. I don’t think there is any manufacturing company in our industry that is down the road as far as we are and have adopted it the way we have. There might be one or two wearing the badge, but they are probably not living and breathing it.”
Lean principles: The employee view
There are plenty of examples of manufacturers attempting to embrace new methods and techniques only to struggle to implement them due to resistance from employees accustomed to an existing way of working.
Fortunately for Parry, staff have bought into the cultural changes it has introduced and workers are now seeing the fruits of the new approach on a day-to-day basis.
Wendy Millward, ELEC supervisor at Parry, says that small improvements to ensure people are working more efficiently has led to the overall production operation becoming far more controlled.
“The whole process has got quicker and everyone seems to be working smarter now, plus they are being encouraged to come up with ideas on a constant basis,” she says. “I have been here nine years and the changes have made a massive difference to the culture, the engagement of the people and the way of working.”
Paul Henshaw, supervisor on the bend cell and gas cell, believes the emphasis on short interval control has been instrumental in driving a greater awareness of the priorities of the business and ensuring workers understand the value of carrying out their roles effectively.
“The new [KPI] sheets that have come out make life so much easier. Bending wise, we would just bend what was coming off the machine before, there wasn’t really any list involved. It has been a complete change around, so we are now only putting on our racks what is needed. It has reduced the high volume of wastage that there used to be.”
Lean principles: The dealer view
Catering equipment distributors that have visited Parry’s production facility in Derbyshire say they have seen an improvement in their engagement with the company since it began adopting Lean principles.
“After my recent visit, which was my first for nearly two years, it was clear to see the impressive changes that Gary [Rose], Mark [Banton] and the Parry team have made, from the sales team to the factory floor,” says Richard Davies, managing director of Telford-based Catering Centre UK, which has worked with Parry for more than 30 years. “It is all more efficient and gives me the confidence to know that a British manufacturer is moving forward in such a positive way,” he adds.
Leeds-based CS Catering Equipment was invited to visit the company’s head office to view the operational improvements made to the factory following some historical issues with Parry. Commercial catering manager, Phil Dixon, was impressed with what he saw.
“This was my second visit and after our initial meeting regarding present business I had a full tour of the factory and offices and felt that Parry were now in a position to offer CS Catering Equipment the level of service and response we require,” he says. “They have moved things forward and now have a much better set-up, enabling us to increase the volume of business we are doing with them.”