Automotive and high technology parts maker Ford Component Manufacturing (0191 428 6600) has officially opened its new high volume plant in North Tyneside. Precision pressing and metal treatments, including components made durable and anti-corrosive using a phosphating treatments line – a first for the award- winning company – will be carried out there. Initially 25 staff will work at the new facility, producing an estimated 40 million parts per year, mainly supplying Freudenberg Technical Products, a member of the German family-owned Freudenberg Group, with components employed in rubber seals used in the automotive industry. Freudenberg develops and manufactures seals, vibration control technology components, filters, non-wovens, surface treatment products and other technologies. Work at the plant started in January and saw production of high-volume parts switch from Ford Component Manufacturing's plant at Monkton Business Park North, Hebburn, South Tyneside. The move allows the Monkton facility to concentrate on low to medium volume manufacture and laser. It creates valuable space for expansion at the Monkton site, with the hope that further jobs will be created later in the year. Ford Component Manufacturing specialises in presswork, from washers to complex parts, requiring the latest in progression tooling. Its products are used in railway rolling stock, heavy earth-moving equipment, HGVs, power generation, construction, mining, material handling, electronics and agricultural equipment. The company is part of an award-winning business, which also features Ford Aerospace, based at Tyne Dock, South Shields. SUCCESS DRIVES DIVERSIFICATION Company chairman Geoff Ford MBE welcomed dignitaries to the opening, saying: "This is a significant day in the long and outstanding history of Ford. I am delighted that this fantastic facility has officially opened for business. The opening is a reflection of how well Ford continues to do and of the ambitions for growth we have." Successful subcontracting network the Midlands Assembly Network (MAN) has welcomed another member, Mec Com, taking the number of members to nine. Says Richard Bunce (pictured), managing director: "Joining the Midlands Assembly Network is an important step in our ambitious growth plans. The group is a great champion of UK manufacturing and provides us with the perfect opportunity to access new markets that we are not currently involved in. "We will bring specialist fabrication and light assembly capabilities to the mix, and we are already working with PP Electrical Systems and a number of other [MAN] member businesses." A specialist in fabrication, light assembly, coil winding and general machining, Mec Com currently supplies components into the power generation, food processing, rail, medical and renewable energy sectors for clients including Alstom, DEK, Schneider Electric and Siemens. The company manufactures bespoke enclosures used on the West Coast Mainline and in the newest hospitals, while other components end up in solar equipment and food processing machines. Its facility on Hixon Airfield Industrial Estate caters for low volume work, with European Fabrications – its Romanian subsidiary – providing a competitive cost base for higher volume production. Prior to joining MAN, the company is already celebrating business success, with international demand for its services seeing it secure orders worth more than £2.5 million from China, India and Tunisa. Mec Com is looking to hit sales of £12 million in 2013. As part of an expansion, the firm has invested nearly £1 million on a state-of-the-art Trumpf laser cutting machine, a solvent-free powder coating plant and the creation of 20 new jobs to take its total workforce to 130. The Midlands Assembly Network is made up of nine companies, including Mec Com, Advanced Chemical Etching, Alucast, Barkley Plastics, Brandauer, FW Cables, PP Electrical Systems, SMT Developments and Westley Engineering. Together they employ over 600 people, with a turnover in excess of £60 million, providing access to world-class manufacturing in precision pressings, casting, etching, injection moulding, wiring looms, toolmaking, PCB assembly, and electrical control systems and assemblies. Also expanding its business is Unicut Precision, which has invested £27,000 in a dedicated inspection, packaging, storage and despatch department that was completed in October. The company, which produces more than 1.5 million parts on a monthly basis, runs an efficient operation to ensure this vast quantity of components is all manufactured, inspected, packaged and dispatched to the Kanban or JIT demands of its customers. The new investment further supports that. The new department has been established to increase the storage and flexibility needs of a business that has grown by over 25% in the last 12 months, with turnover doubling in just two years. Deburring, sorting, counting and packaging were previously in one department, with shopfloor staff all contributing to the extensive effort to get parts out of the door each month. To improve workflow, efficiency and quality, the Welwyn Garden City company has built the dedicated department with three separate rooms within the new structure. The new layout incorporates an area for visual final inspection of parts, with the components placed in coloured trays and moved along a roller conveyor system for inspection. Once inspected, the trays are moved to the next area for picking and packing. This room ensures that all customers parts are counted, boxed and labelled in accordance with end user demands. Once the parts are allocated to customer-specific boxes or packaging, they are labelled and moved to the new goods-out area. This area incorporates a new storage facility where parts can be booked into stock, ready for shipping or shipped out immediately, depending upon delivery requirements. All of this is overseen by a PSL Datatrack system that has been continually upgraded with new modules since its initial introduction in 2004. However, with the new dispatch department, Unicut now has a visual traffic light system from PSL Datatrack that operates throughout the company, with large screen displays to give shopfloor staff an update on each job. TRAFFIC LIGHTS BOOST AWARENESS As Unicut Precision's managing director, Jason Nicholson, explains: "The new traffic light system from PSL Datatrack is visually available for all staff, with screens throughout our facility to enable the shopfloor to be fully aware of the progress of each job. These status boards enable staff to extract information from the system, rather than be informed by the office of the progress of each job and what job takes priority. The status boards inform the staff in the new despatch department what to prepare and package for delivery, rather than waiting for jobs to come in. This new traffic light system, combined with the building of the new department, has improved what was already an efficient process." And Unicut Precision has now taken its on-time delivery levels from an impressive 93% to over 98%. Considering the new despatch department and traffic light system has only been in place for a matter of weeks, the on-time delivery at Unicut will, it is believed, hit 100%. Box item 1 of 1 More news in brief [] Employees at Newcastle under Lyme-based KMF (Precision Sheet Metal) raised £19,000 for the Donna Louise Trust, a children's hospice in Stoke on Trent, during 2012. www.machinery.co.uk/48320 [] Key appointments have been made at a Mollart Engineering's headquarters in Chessington, its subcontract manufacturing facility in Resolven and its Bencere tooling operation. www.machinery.co.uk/48486 [] Press tool maker Lodent Precision has appointed Bill Hogg as design manager, bringing its design operation in house, and has invested in supporting software. www.machinery.co.uk/48487 [] KMF (Precision Sheet Metal) apprentice Sam Dutton has been selected to be one of the first members of the Industry Apprentice Council (IAC) and will, along with other members of the council, represent the voice of apprentices across the UK.www.machinery.co.uk/48095 First published in Machinery, April 2013