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GKN Wheels triples output after significant investment
The results of GKN Wheels’ ambitious, multi-million pound investment programme at its Telford manufacturing facility are now being realised.
Despite a number of obstacles, and the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the plant’s operational capabilities, the new manufacturing plant is now producing more than three times as many wheels as its previous plant, with 55 off-highway wheels being manufactured every hour. With the new line now fully operational, the decommissioning and disposal of the old lines and assembly cells has been completed.
The scale of the change to the factory is enormous. From two years ago, virtually all that remains of the production plant is the structure of the building. The entire production line has been completely rebuilt, with new rim lines, robotic weld cells and a state-of-the-art finishing plant.
Darren Dobson, head of operations at Telford, said: “The factory is quite simply unrecognisable from what it was just a couple of years ago and we now have a modern, twenty first century manufacturing facility.
“The project team which managed this whole programme is now working closely with our operations colleagues, helping to embed the new processes and procedures and to ensure the quality of our wheels continues to set the standards for the industry.”
The project’s objectives were to install industry-leading rim, assembly and paint lines. However, with a programme of this magnitude, there were inevitably challenges along the way. These had an effect on the development time, production schedules and throughput, with the company working closely with customers throughout to minimise the impact on their activities.
Darren continued: “Throughout the programme, the Telford team has shown great determination and resilience in striving to achieve and even surpass the objectives we were set. Their efforts to develop and commission the new line and to continually focus on improving quality and efficiency has resulted in the plant running consistently to target.
“Balancing volume production runs and development time, we continue to look for productivity improvements and enhancements to the equipment to further improve efficiency and minimise downtime. It says a great deal about the team that whilst we have the world’s most modern manufacturing facility, we are constantly striving to make it even better.”
One of the features of the new development is its electro-coat and powder coat facilities. The new plant can handle over 4,200 wheels per week, painted in one of the 42 standard colours that make up the company’s colour palette.
Mike Smith, plant director at Telford, added: “Despite the recent business challenges presented by Covid-19, the team has remained focused and fully committed to delivering the project, while at the same time re-configuring the plant to enable social distancing to allow us to get back up and running to full production, ensuring business continuity for our customers.
“Despite having already tripled our production rate, we are excited to now have even more capacity to meet future market demands and we are actively seeking opportunities for new business.
“Having manufactured the world’s first steel wheel in Telford in 1910, we are very proud of our history and pedigree. We are therefore proud to say that we have the most advanced wheel manufacturing line in the world and to be servicing our customer base across the UK and Europe.”