Investing in a major digital transformation programme has helped one of the UK’s leading fabricators of windows, doors, home extensions and conservatory products to bounce back from global supply chain disruption and rising energy prices.
Wakefield-based Conservatory Outlet, which supplies a 27-strong network of home improvement retailers across England and Scotland, is now back at 98.5% on time in full (OTIF) for the last four weeks and is aiming to build on this even further over the next six months.
The company has had to manage increased lead times for material and unprecedented demand from customers, who have been benefitting from the massive surge in spending on homes and domestic office spaces.
At the heart of the approach has been a £250,000 investment in creating a live tracking system in the factory, meaning that everyone in the business has real-time information on where a product is in the manufacturing process, starting from initial order right through to dispatch.
Led by Group Head of IT Craig Schmidt, the digital transformation has also given it critical information on improved order planning, material utilisation and predictive maintenance on machines, reducing downtime in the process.
“The whole team has worked tirelessly over the last six months to get production back to what we saw prior to Covid-19 with a stable supply chain and full control of the factory,” commented Michael Giscombe, Managing Director of Conservatory Outlet.
“This has basically translated into lead times being brought back into what customers would normally expect, despite volumes increasing by 20% since March 2019.”
He continued: “We had been looking at introducing more digitalisation to the shopfloor, but the pandemic accelerated how quickly we did this, and the live tracking manufacturing system has been a real gamechanger for the business, delivering efficiencies we didn’t deem possible six months ago.
“Craig and his IT team have opened our eyes now and this will be the first of many steps along our digital transformation journey.”
Whilst technology is playing an increasing role in production, Conservatory Outlet continues to be committed to developing its workforce and recruiting the talent of the future.
The company, which recently achieved Investors in People for the first time, is putting all the office team through an intensive product training programme to allow them to better respond to any customer service or product related issues.
A new training academy for attracting and developing future sales talent is also set to be launched shortly and will be rolled out across its network of retailers.
Michael concluded: “There are so many fabricators out there worrying about the ‘next big thing’ that sometimes they forget the basics. It’s been a tough challenge over the past two years, but we can confidently say we have quality and reliability nailed on for our customers and we’re back to pre-pandemic levels of service, consistently.
“A big thank you to our clients who have been patient during the initial disruption and worked with us to collectively get the right result for our sector.”