TRB Ltd. switches to Tube and Bracket

Leading automotive switch manufacturer TRB Limited has selected us to supply the modular storage and handling equipment used extensively at its factory in North Wales to optimise lean manufacturing operations.

TRB now receives overnight delivery of Leantek components and can implement rapid changes to storage and handling facilities at the lineside as part of its ongoing performance improvement programme. TRB estimates that utilising Leantek products has enabled it to improve its TAKT time – a key metric in lean manufacturing – by up to 20 per cent.

“Our customers continue to place more demands on us which means we need to be more demanding on our own suppliers,” says Annesley Wright, Managing Director at TRB Limited.

“Suppliers that are too large cannot be flexible and those that are too small cannot provide the support we need. The Tube and Bracket Company provides a happy medium.”

Wholly owned subsidiary of the Japanese multinational Tokai Rika Company, TRB Ltd produces high quality automotive switch products for many of Europe’s leading vehicle manufacturers. Its 15,500 square foot site in St Asaph, North Wales was opened in 2000 and was the group’s first assembly plant in Europe. The company employs lean manufacturing principles to deliver continuous performance improvement in terms of increased productivity and efficiency and reduced inventory to reduce costs and maintain reasonable prices for its customers.

Modular storage and handling solutions including dynamic lineside racking, trolleys and workstations are central to the lean manufacturing concept at TRB because they support, and can be adapted to, changing process requirements. The company has hundreds of units in use at any given time. When the factory opened the company sourced its modular storage components from the Far East but deliveries could take up to six weeks. This did not allow the company to implement rapid changes in production areas. Over time the need for faster component delivery became an issue and the company looked for a local supplier. It identified the Tube and Bracket Company as an ideal supplier with the relevant experience and catalogue to fulfil its requirements.

“We supply switches to our customers on a just-in-time basis and need flexible solutions for storing and handling components and finished products in volumes that are ever increasing,” says Mike Robinson, Assistant Manager, Production Engineering at TRB Ltd. “We have to be able to build and adapt racking, often at short notice, that has the right depth and incline for our specific production and handling requirements.”

The Leantek system comprises an extensive range of tubes, brackets, wheels, rollers and other components that can be assembled into virtually any storage and handling solution. The Tube and Bracket Company now delivers components from stock for overnight delivery to the TRB factory. These are used by TRB’s own technicians to create lineside storage and handling facilities including dynamic live racking, trolleys and team leader workstations. Existing facilities can be modified and adapted at any time because all components are interchangeable and reusable.

“As production volumes increase we need to make new racking and reconfigure existing installations to accommodate more components in larger boxes,” says Mike Robinson. “The Tube & Bracket Company has been excellent at supplying the components we need.”

Modular storage and handling solutions can be adapted when requirements change, for example as production volumes increase or if the manufacturing process is changed to accommodate new products. In these circumstances TRB needs to ensure it maintains optimum flow of material through the production process so that it can meet its just-in-time supply commitments.

“We measure our build times in seconds and need to be able to keep a minimum of two hours worth of components on the racking,” says Mike Robinson. “We use the racking to hold goods in production and we hold minimum stock so it’s important to see what is available at any given time. With the open frames of the Lean Tek racking we can.”

TRB’s programme of continuous performance improvement has led to some significant gains since the factory opened. A key measure is in the lean manufacturing concept is the TAKT time, in effect the time taken to produce a finished product.

“We estimate that we could have increased our TAKT time efficiency by between 10 and 20 per cent depending on the specific model,” says Annesley Wright.