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fallow period of Avdel innovation under previous ownership. “The decline in the number of innovations being made was clear,” says Daran Hopper, “and a clear decision was made the moment we broke away from the shackles of our previous owners that development would be a key area. That means a lot of pressure on our R&D team to develop and push out new products to repair some of the damage incurred.” The recently launched NeoSpeed™ range, developed at Welwyn using the latest fi nite element methods and manufactured at Warrington, is the fi rst example of this commitment. Daran Hopper describes its launch as “a poignant moment for Avdel. You could call it the new Chobert, the next evolution of its capabilities and application fl exibilities. We’ve pushed the development hard and in quick succession we’ve had a few really good wins come out of the marketplace.” A related development is the current establishment of a


Sample Production Cell at Warrington, aimed at taking products concept to reality in under one month. Together with Welwyn’s


a crucial achievement – nevertheless there is some progressive skills and machinery transfer to Wuxi for breakstem products with primary demand in China. While 80% of Warrington’s volume is in 180 part numbers


there are more than 750 parts variances, factoring up to 6,000 part number variances. One result, and a cogent demonstration of the level of complexity that has to be managed at the plant, is an active tooling component inventory numbering some 30,000. To drive the necessary cultural change and evolution Avdel


has applied visual management systems throughout the plant. “This makes sure everyone understands what their roles are, how they have to perform against those roles, and how that works through to the sales to customers and the volumes we deliver to them,” explains Daran Hopper. Strong operator ‘ownership’ for equipment has been developed through an ongoing ground-up, on-site refurbishment programme. “It works, says Hopper, to the extent we have operators clamouring for their machines to be next.” The consequences of ever increasing zero-


defect requirements are evident in eddie- current testing of wire prior to feed into the headers, process monitoring on production equipment, and extensive use of camera technology, not least in a bank of inspection machinery tailored for Avdel products. In the podding section - a growth area as demand for collated fasteners continually grows - controls are also extremely stringent because of the high risk of component cross contamination. Getting it right is one thing, getting it


right quickly is the modern imperative. “Average manufacturing lead time is the key to everything now,” says Daran Hopper, “because the customer will not wait any longer. Customers are not willing to hold inventory and fasteners are all too often the last thing ordered.” In 2010 that extended to the acquisition of


what is now known as Avdel Metal Finishing. Located at one end of the plant the heat treatment, coating, lubrication and cleaning facility was upgraded with the addition of a


advanced fi nite element technology and skills, the cell will also provide a far more reactive response to customer prototype requirements. The Sample Cell, though, is really only a small wave in a sea


change for the Warrington facility. The plant was established in 1974 and extends across a little short of 12,000 square metres; employing 250 permanent staff. Home to Avdel Speed Fastening® systems as well as break stem products, amongst others including Avbolt®


, Monobolt® , and T-Lok® , the plant headed 2.7


billion fasteners in 2010: after assembly that translates to around 1.8 billion. Output at within group transfer rather than ultimate sales value was US$47 million. “It is a facility culturally ingrained in technology,” says Daran


Hopper. “There is lots of intelligence and lots of good engineering skills – the average time in service is 15 years. With that can come a ‘set in the way’ mentality. Our achievement has been in instilling fl exibility and adaptability to persuasively demonstrate that a UK facility can compete in the world manufacturing market.” Given Infastech’s ‘make it where it is sold’ ethos that is


new continuous feed heat treatment line. “We have gone through a lot of pain to realign our manufacturing processes,” says Hopper, “and although AMF was already on our doorstep we felt the need to get our hands on it as part of that process.” In an area of the UK where heading operation and tool making


skills are not naturally available, there is one other clear proof of commitment to Warrington’s future. The plant reactivated an apprenticeship programme in 2007 and currently four young people are sharing their time between formal education and factory fl oor experience to develop the skills base Warrington needs if it is to continue to effectively compete with its international counterparts in effi cient and responsive fastener manufacturing. Time of course will tell whether Avdel’s vision for regeneration


of a 75 year old brand truly comes to fruition. It is clear that its new owners have provided the latitude to reinvigorate the business. “The business has been given the respect and freedom, ” says Daran Hopper, “to demonstrate its entrepreneurship and to grow itself.”


62 Fastener + Fixing Magazine • Issue 71 September 2011


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