Factory changes boost Merrcyhef production line

Merrychef factory, Sheffield 1

Manitowoc’s Sheffield factory, which is the only place in the world where Merrychef ovens are made, is now shipping to more than 55 countries worldwide, FEJ can reveal.

Recent years have seen the company introduce new lean methods and technologies to create a more flexible manufacturing process, with particular emphasis on ensuring that quality standards within the value stream are met. The investment has resulted in the factory becoming one of the most advanced catering equipment plants in the UK.

“We live and die by the quality experience the customer has,” says senior operations manager, David Sellars, who oversees the plant and the 96 workers employed there. “We track all service call rates and have lots of KPIs to make sure that we are constantly measuring processes and delivering what we need to deliver.”

The factory previously used to operate using a traditional silo-based system, where one part of the facility would make a batch of components and parts that would then be pushed through from station to station. Now it is triggered by the orders that are placed by customers, meaning each station knows exactly how much they need to build on any given day.

BOX OUT 2 - Factory 1“It is now the pull from the customer that replenishes the system rather than a load of silos pushing materials through the building, which is a much more efficient way of doing it,” says Sellars.

Five years ago, it would take around seven hours for a Merrychef oven to be constructed from scratch. With the reorganisation of the operations process, the company has got that down by almost 30% to five hours. Further gains are likely to be made once a state-of-the-art laser machine is introduced to the factory next year after the investment was recently approved by Manitowoc’s leadership team.

Output and capacity are two areas that Sellars constantly has to keep an eye on and, consequently, the companyneeds to have supply chains and processes that can flex up and down. In any given month the forecasted volume of units that need to be built will typically fluctuate by 20% up or down, although in the first quarter of this year the capacity of the plant was 82% higher than the previous year due to a very large chain order.

“The current capacity is 23,000 units a year and the current run-rate is about 17,000, so we can move up and down. That doesn’t mean we can go to 23,000 tomorrow because the supply chain isn’t ready for it, but we can ramp up,” says Sellars.

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