SMART Manufacturing review July 2017
Llywodraeth Cymru Welsh Government
Manufacturing Diagnostic Consultancy Report
Prepared on behalf of the Welsh Government SMARTInnovation Programme by
Bill Norris, BIC Innovation Ltd
Red Dragon Manufacturing Ltd
7th August 2017
Report Ref: SI/J0199/C
<C> Crown Copyright
SMARTlnnovalion / SMARTAr1oesl Department for Economy, Science and Transport
Adran yr Economi, Gwyddoniaetha Thrafnidiaeth Llywodraeth Cymru
Sam Mynach, llandudno Junction, LL31 9RZ Sam Mynach, Cyffordd ll andudno, LL31 9RZ
Red Dragon Manufacturing (RDM) is a successful business and social enterprise. There are opportunities to develop further the main flag making business and to increase margin and subsequent profitability. Growth will provide revenue to support further expansion of the workforce (supporting the company’s social objectives) and fund investment in equipment and market development.
ROOF is a garment product under development that has attracted significant interest and if successful will transform the company in terms of turnover and method of manufacture. There are a number of recommendations in this report covering technology, the move to new premises, product margins and quality accreditation.
The most significant recommendation is concerning increasing the management capacity to facilitate growth, relocation of premises and the introduction of a significant diversification of the businesses (ROOF).
Taken from the company’s website:
There are plenty of flag retailers on the market selling standard flag, bunting and banner products at different prices with varying degrees of quality (and ability to deliver).
Buyer beware - not all 'flag makers' actually make the flags they sell..... which means that you the customer are paying a premium for the middle man. Perhaps you'd prefer to buy direct from the manufacturer? You've come to the right place!
We believe there is more than enough business to go around and that the key to success is to be open and transparent, honest and trustworthy and to do 'exactly what it says on the tin'. So this is what we do.
Red Dragon Flag makers make everything from scratch in our own independent workshops. We can (and frequently do) help other flag makers fulfil tenders, contracts, emergency orders and last minute complex non-standard production designs in small or large quantities.
We're pretty unique in what we do, and fundamentally we really are flag makers, in name and function.
We supply a niche product using traditional skills and produce one-off design of every size and complexity of design on a daily basis. 85% of our business is in the production of custom sewn and printed flags. That's what we do. That's what we're great at.
We work closely with other SMEs to fulfil projects requiring flag poles (we are distributors of DanoMast flagpoles), embroidered flags, maintenance, installation and repairs - no job is too small and everything we do is with quality, durability and integrity of product in mind.
Red Dragon Flagmakers was borne out of a family company manufacturing traditional sewn flags, established in 1969 and a result of the merger of several business into one social enterprise under the Limited company name, Red Dragon Manufacturing Ltd in 2014.
RDM is developing a new product called ROOF. It is a full-length coat / sleeping bag aimed at a variety of markets, principally the homeless although outdoor enthusiasts, relief agencies and the military have all shown interest. Funding is being raised which will lead to full scale trials and The Wallich has pledged support.
Number of employees: 7
The business is launching a clothing product which will be a major manufacturing diversification. A full review of the manufacturing operations may yield opportunities for improvement that will support the new product launch and improve efficiency of flag making.
A SWOT analysis of the manufacturing operation was undertaken to demonstrate the internal strengths and weaknesses.
World class knowledge of flags and traditional flag making
High profile reference customers
Image and ethos of a successful social business
Unsuitable manufacturing environment for scale up.
Price charged for flags does not represent their true value
Labour turnover (as a consequence of the businesses social objectives)
Price and margin increase.
Improved operating efficiency associated with growth and new manufacturing facility
Inferior quality products imported in the market keeping down market price.
Management capacity to support growth
Current manufacturing takes place in Victorian residential property in Swansea. Manufacturing is split between two rooms and a connecting passage way.
One room is dedicated to design, pattern and pattern cutting, the other comprises a number of sewing machines. A light box is located in the connecting passageway.
A very large quantity of fabric and patterns are stored on site. Space is a major constraint in operating and growing the current business. However, a high degree of organisation is part of the imbedded culture within the business. Initial impressions of ‘disorganisation’ are quickly dispelled by the comprehensive training programme, standard operating methods and an ‘everything has its place’ discipline.
Managers of the businesses have a ‘world class’ knowledge of traditional flag making and have established a method of operation that focuses on both quality and efficiency
A very large proportion of orders are for the design and manufacture of a single, or very limited number of custom flags. As a result, all orders are processed individually based on customer due date and production schedules.
Pattern design is done by hand using projection and tracing paper. Material is cut by hand in single ply. Operators sew individual flags.
In the past, the business invested in a printer to support pattern production, but this technology was not successful. Whilst CAD and automated cutting would ‘de- skill’ and speed up part of the process it is unlikely to provide a financial return on the investment due to the small volumes and bespoke nature of current manufacturing.
Sewing equipment is simple in nature.
As a result of the above, changeover time between jobs is not a significant cost or issue for the business.
Operators Skills and level of flexibility / multi skills
As part of the business’ social objectives, employment opportunities are offered to individuals who find it difficult to enter (or re-enter) the mainstream job market. As a result, the business has developed a comprehensive and detailed 8 stage training programme that will take a ‘good’ employee at least two months to complete.
At the end of this period the employee will be knowledgeable and capable of delivering all aspects of the flag making process. Whilst training new employees on only one task would be quicker and more cost effective the business believes that this would eventually lead to a lower skilled workforce, increased issues with quality and importantly would compromise the social objectives of the business.
Whilst a number of employees have been with the business a long time and provide the backbone of knowledge, skill and training, many others have proved unreliable or have left unexpectedly. This is an inevitable consequence (and cost) of operating in this social employment ‘marketplace’.
Business management, strategic development and overall responsibility is undertaken by one individual (Director) with the support of a trustee board. As the business grows, particularly if it relocates and expands onto a new manufacturing site then additional management support will be required.
Quality management system
The business competes with low quality printed and often imported flags. The product the business provides is of extremely high quality, sewn by hand, manufactured in the UK and will last considerably longer than the cheaper alternatives. This quality (value) of product and workmanship is difficult to convey until the finished article is seen.
The business has produced a strong and detailed set of standard operating procedures based on its comprehensive training programme. No formal quality management system accreditation has been sought to date.
ISO 9001 would complement and endorse current procedures and provide a ‘mark of quality’ that may be useful in winning new business.
Process flow effectiveness
The typical product process is shown below.
The average sale is £350. All design work (up to T&C’s) is undertaken free of charge. Lead times offered are 5 to 7 days depending on the complexity of the work and production schedules.
Visual management techniques were not evident in controlling the manufacturing process. The team is small, work closely together and management is present and ‘hands on’.
The environment is friendly with clear and effective communication. People are aware of the business aims and aspirations and are able to contribute. ‘Team Thursdays’ take place every four to six weeks depending on production schedule.
People are encouraged to develop their personal skills and the social objective of the business is to provide a route back to main stream employment for those that have previously found this difficult.
Roof is the coatbag that saves lives on the streets. It’s a water-resistant insulated all in one padded coat with an integrated sleeping bag, hood, hidden pockets and breathable interlining - designed to pack-away into a cross over lightweight and portable shoulder bag.
Red Dragon Manufacturing are in the final stages of developing this product. Significant interest in supporting this product has come from UWTSD, The Wallich, the Welsh Regiment (with routes to the MoD) and Welsh Government.
Manufacturing multiple garments is a significantly different operation to the current flag making business. Efficiencies will be gained in batching the cutting operation, with small scale automation (and CAD) giving on a return on investment. Different skills will be required to develop and manage the manufacturing operation.
Current premises would not support volume garment manufacture and capacity will become a major constraint to the ROOF / flagmaking business.
As this review is being undertaken, the business is in discussion with The Wallich and Welsh Government with a view to relocating to two separate industrial / commercial premises more suited to a manufacturing operation.
Benchmarking Prices. Value v Cost
Current prices charged for flags are defined by benchmarking against the alternative of cheaper printed flags and cost of manufacture.
In the words of Warren Buffet: “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
Samples seen of finished product show a standard of detail and quality of work and materials that far exceed printed flag alternatives. It is recommended that Red Dragon reviews its pricing policy. A few 1 to 1 conversations with past customers may inform this policy review and start to define more accurately the real value of the flags sold.
Quality Accreditation – ISO 9001
RDM has a robust quality management system in place based on the detailed training programme that is currently in place.
The business does not believe there is a customer requirement for ISO 9001 accreditation, but adopting the process, including regular audits will help the company through its projected growth cycle.
The 2015 version of ISO 9001 has an emphasis on business strategy and risk that the company would also benefit from.
Developing a QMS system for accreditation will require some additional management time. However, support may be available from Wales Coop and Welsh Government to support this. It is recommended that both are contacted.
In the next 12 months the business will need to relocate to one or more factory units more suited to a manufacturing operation. Support is likely to come from both The Wallich and Welsh Government.
The size of the task and potential disruption to operations should not be under-estimated. Detailed thought and planning should be given to a number of areas including:
- Factory layout, lean and efficient principles, space optimisation and future scale up
- Optimising process flow
- Retention and recruitment of staff
- Infrastructure needs incl business systems, IT and communications
- New equipment and technology eg vacuum cutting table, pattern CAD and printing
- Marketing and PR to key customers and stakeholders.
Currently the Director (Jo Ashburner Farr) runs all aspects of the business from business development to operational fulfilment of orders.
As the business grows, both through ROOF and flag making then it will become increasingly difficult (and risky) for one person to effectively manage. Relocating to new premises (with funding support) both presents a management challenge and opportunity. As part of the cost of relocating a Project Manager should be appointed to initially ensure an effective relocation takes place, minimising business disruption. Resultant business growth should support the retention of this Project Manager in an operational capacity to support the Director. As the business grows it is fundamental that operational management is delegated and shared through the development of a ‘management team’.
Traditional flag making, by its very nature is a labour intensive process with little opportunity for automation. However, pattern design and printing could be made significantly more efficient through the use of CAD and a large format printer. Previous attempts failed due to the poor functionality of the printer purchased. It is recommended the company reconsiders the application of this technology. Further information available at:
When ROOF goes into production the manufacturing process will change significantly. RDM will have moved into the apparel sector where CAD and automated lay-up and cutting is the norm. Whilst the equipment below is currently out of reach for the business, it should offer a direction of travel and aspiration.
See YouTube video:
Pathfinder M-Series: Multi Ply Automatic Cutting System
'Emblematic of Pathfinder's commitment to continuous improvement'
Designed to be the most advanced composite knife cutting system available, producing the highest cut quality and productivity. The M-series conveyorised bristle bed holds material under vacuum during the cutting process, enabling high speed precision cuts from single ply up to 100mm of compressed spreads. From cutting multiple ply kits of Kevlar/Carbon fibre/Polyester fillers and alike or single ply prepregs and honeycomb, Pathfinder's M-series cutter is the ultimate solution.
12 machine models are offered, making it the widest range available. Choose the best machine to suit your application without compromise.
Cutting widths available: Mx180=1800mm (71inches), Mx220=2260mm (89 inches) and Mx390=3900mm (153 inches)
Cutting heights available: M3xxx=30mm (1.2 inches), M5xxx=50mm (2 inches), M7xxx=70mm (2.8 inches) and M10xxx=100mm (3.9 inches)
Enterprise Assistance Record
MANUFACTURING AND DESIGN SUPPORT
Reddraggon Manufacturing ltd
BIC Innovation Ltd
Bill Norris I Ref . No : I SI /J0199/C