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The British industry is full steam ahead at its collaborative best in response to COVID-19

AMF member, Spitfire Consultancy has shared its contribution to the nationwide calls to arms made by the UK government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kevin Jones, Partner at Spitfire Consultancy said: “We have been actively involved in three key areas of the co-ordinated COVID-19 response.

“We were asked to use our expertise in ramping up production and improving efficiency, with increased quality and cost control to support the Ventilator Challenge UK, NHS face visor production, and increased food supply to hospitals.”

Ventilator Challenge UK Background

The Ventilator Challenge UK was launched by the British government to procure 15,000 additional ventilators to treat COVID-19 patients in hospitals around the country. It brought together a consortium of significant UK industrial, technology and engineering businesses from across the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors to produce medical ventilators for the UK.

The consortium accelerated production of two agreed designs, based on existing technologies, which were assembled from materials and parts in current production. The critical demand meant that everything had to be carried out at a very high pace with readily available resources in terms of expertise, equipment and labour. Many of the companies involved took team members from their own commercial projects to serve the nation in its time of need.

Spitfire was tasked with aiding the development of one of the ‘pop up’ production lines to increase quality of product and line efficiency. Spitfire carried out on-line investigative work with area engineers, supervisors and team leaders to identify bottlenecks and implement solutions which would quickly improve product flow and increase the daily output.

The next challenge was to achieve consistency of build for a workforce unfamiliar with medical ventilators, the intricate array of parts and criticality of quality on this life saving device; all of this was managed with a transient workforce of volunteers across shifts.

This challenge was met head on with the introduction of very detailed Standardised Work process. An enhanced ‘Standard Operation’ was coupled with the use of a Visual Manual on critical operations; this electronic, interactive autonomous training portal aids accelerated learning and consistency of product. The Visual Manual was particularly useful for volunteers with no previous manufacturing experience who needed to be quickly up to speed.

The required 15,000+ ventilators have been delivered and are now all available to the NHS.

NHS Face Visor Production

The lack of PPE across the UK has been widely publicised throughout the coronavirus response. The urgent need for personal protective equipment once again saw Spitfire able to apply its optimisation know-how to amplify efficiency, increase output and enhance quality. Working in collaboration with a facemask manufacturer which had received an order for circa 20 million NHS grade face visors, which needed to be delivered in the shortest time possible. The manufacturer’s existing infrastructure simply could not produce the volume of products needed in the timeframe given. A plan was developed to re-locate production to a new site and purchase new machinery to vastly increase output.

Spitfire supported the development of the new factory layout to optimize efficiency across every stage of the manufacturing lifecycle, from raw material in to product out. This design work was coupled with the development of shop floor operating practices to assure quality standards, cost efficiencies and quick delivery of the masks while also taking care of and developing staff members.

The output from the new factory is well underway with visors being shipped to the NHS. The manufacturer’s staff are also receiving further support in the new facility to increase efficiency even further and guarantee the supply of this essential equipment for years to come.

UK Food Production Challenge

The Covid-19 pandemic led to an enormous and rapid strain on NHS supply chain capacity. One business feeling the strain was a Spitfire client who is a key food supplier to the NHS and other private healthcare sectors. It needed to rapidly scale up output to satisfy a sharp increase in demand for its chilled and frozen products – completing the trifecta of key areas for the governments coordinated response to COVID-19.

In order to satisfy the roughly 30% increase in demand for food, special intervention and action was swiftly required. At a time where all employees were understandably concerned for their own wellbeing, the intervention required strong situational leadership to support the key worker team in critical areas.

Spitfire fulfilled a project management role to spearhead the delivery of ‘quick win’ capacity improvement actions. These actions were focused on Value Stream key process areas with focused improvements also identified in Production Planning and Engineering.

Through a 6-week period of both on-site and remote support, Spitfire delivered 31 key improvement actions and implemented Short Interval Control and other Visual Controls to support real time production decision making allowing the food manufacturer to increase its supply and meet NHS demand.

To read more about Spitfire Consultancy, visit the member profile here.

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