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12th August 2009

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Wednesday 12th August, 2009

When Mike Price joined Ultraframe as Operations Director four years ago, no one knew what a ‘lean journey’ was. Now – as Chief Executive – Mike is just as passionate about lean manufacturing and along with his management team and employees is pursuing its principles just as assertively. Here we explain how the continuing adoption of ‘lean principles’ is helping further strengthen Ultraframe’s brand, reputation and service.

In 2007 Ultraframe was awarded a Best Factory Award – winning Best Engineering Plant. The benchmarking report that always accompanies these awards highlighted a number of operational and performance gaps which the company prioritised and then tackled, driving further improvements.

So, the question was – where to next? How could Ultraframe push itself even harder? How could we improve service levels for customers and push to the next level?

It just so happened that the UK based Manufacturing Institute  – a leader in operational excellence – was collaborating with a North American based organisation, The Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence.

Named after one of the architects of the Toyota Production System, Dr Shigeo Shingo, The Shingo Prize (www.shingoprize.co.uk) provides a framework and benchmark for excellence for all organisations of all sizes and sectors – whether they are hospitals, government departments, universities, banks, or manufacturing businesses.

The Shingo philosophy is that world class performance in quality, cost, service and delivery can be achieved through the application of ‘true north’ lean principles and techniques to core operational and business processes. It provides the guiding principles, systems and tools needed to build and sustain globally competitive forward-looking enterprises.

Previous winners, including Baxter Healthcare, BAE Systems US, Raytheon, Boeing and TI Automotive, have achieved outstanding results – delivering superior quality, competitive cost performance and high customer satisfaction.

A board of examiners, comprising lean leaders from across the world, carry out the rigorous evaluation process. The entrant’s detailed achievement report is validated during a two to three day company site evaluation visit and then the board scores the applicant according to Shingo performance criteria and then recommends the applicant for the Shingo Bronze Medallion, the Shingo Silver Medallion, or The Shingo Prize. 

Ultraframe and BAE Systems UK – by coincidence both Lancashire based - are the first two UK organisations to achieve recognition in the international award process, which has been cited as the ‘Nobel Prize’ of operational excellence by Business Week.

Ultraframe was presented in mid- June with it’s bronze medallion at the UK/US Shingo Summit in Manchester – a week-long conference dedicated to lean and operational excellence - featuring world leading authorities and practitioners at the cutting edge of business transformation from both sides of the Atlantic. 

For many organisations the Bronze Medallion is the first step in the journey towards the ultimate Shingo Prize for outstanding world class performance in every aspect of business enterprise. Next step is the Silver Medallion, but organisations can leap that stage to achieve full Shingo Prize status if they achieve exceptional scores in the rigorous evaluation process

Presenting the awards, Robert Miller, Executive Director, Shingo Prize for Operational Excellence, USA, said: “Ultraframe is a business that is a shining example of excellence and that truly understands the principles of lean transformation and are applying it to all their business processes. The empowerment of their people and the culture of continuous improvement that it demonstrates is particularly impressive.”

Added Mike Price, Chief Executive of Ultraframe, “It is less than nine months since Ultraframe first challenged for the Shingo Prize, so it is a fantastic achievement that we have received the bronze medallion in this short space of time. We can continue to use the Shingo Prize framework to achieve even higher levels of quality, customer satisfaction, cost performance and delivery, and we are certain that we will succeed in claiming the ultimate Shingo Prize!”.

In these difficult times, it would be all too easy to dismiss as marginal something that doesn’t give immediate ‘bottom line’ results. Ultraframe has pushed itself hard to independently compare it’s operational performance against other companies who are performing on the world stage .Ultimately - to create a robust ‘end to end’ supply chain – Ultraframe would like some of its key suppliers and customers to go through the same process, so that together we can all enjoy the fruits such as better customer satisfaction, better quality and better service.

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