The results of GKN Wheels’ ambitious, multi-million pound investment program in its Telford manufacturing facility in the UK are now being realized.
Despite a number of obstacles, not least the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the plant’s operational capabilities, the new manufacturing plant is now producing more than three times as many wheels as the old plant, with 55, high quality off-highway wheels now being manufactured every hour. With the new line now fully operational, the old lines and assembly cells have now been decommissioned and disposed of.
The scale of the change to the factory is enormous, with virtually all that remains of the production plant from 2 years ago being the structure of the building. The entire production line has been completely re-built, with new rim lines, robotic weld cells and a state-of-the-art finishing plant.
Darren Dobson, Head of Operations at Telford, says, “The factory is quite simply unrecognizable from what it was just a couple of years ago and we now have a modern, twenty first century manufacturing facility.
“The project team which managed this whole program is now working closely with our operations colleagues, helping to embed the new processes and procedures and to ensure the quality of our wheels continues to set the standards for the industry.”
The project’s objectives were to install industry-leading rim, assembly and paint lines. However, with a program of this magnitude, there were inevitably challenges along the way. These had an effect on the development time, production schedules and throughput, with the company working closely with customers throughout to minimize the impact on their activities.
Dobson continues,: “Throughout the program, the Telford team has shown great determination and resilience in striving to achieve and even surpass the objectives we were set. Their efforts to develop and commission the new line and to continually focus on improving quality and efficiency has resulted in the plant running consistently to target.
“Balancing volume production runs and development time, we continue to look for productivity improvements and enhancements to the equipment to further improve efficiency and minimize downtime. It says a great deal about the team that whilst we have the world’s most modern manufacturing facility, we are constantly striving to make it even better!”
One of the features of the new development is the electrocoat and powder coat facilities, which provide GKN Wheels’ products with a ‘best-in-class’ finish. This new plant can handle over 4,200 wheels per week, painted in one of the 42 standard colors that make up the company’s color palette.
Mike Smith, Plant Director at Telford, comments, “The Telford team has endured some obstacles and challenges, but it is great to see all their hard work and dedication now being rewarded.
“Despite the recent business challenges presented by COVID-19, the team has remained focused and fully committed to delivering the project, while at the same time re-configuring the plant to enable social distancing to allow us to get back up and running to full production, ensuring business continuity for our customers.
“Despite having already tripled our production rate, we are excited to now have even more capacity to meet future market demands and we are actively seeking opportunities for new business.
“Having manufactured the world’s first steel wheel in Telford in 1910, we are very proud of our history and pedigree. We are therefore proud to say that we have the most advanced wheel manufacturing line in the world and to be servicing our customer base across the UK and Europe.”