Rolls-Royce today formally opened its new £7 million facility in Barnoldswick that has been designed to manufacture a range of specialised aero-engine components. This modern, purpose-built factory, which will make stators, vanes, seals, solid fan blades, outlet guide vanes, combustion casings and liners, was one of four developments given the go-ahead in April 2004. This investment was a key element within a broader programme to modernise factories, drive down costs and ensure the company’s domestic facilities operate at world-best levels of competitiveness.
A key factor in each of the four investment decisions was the existing highly-skilled workforce – and employees’ commitment to implement modern working practices. The smooth progress of the Barnoldswick project was boosted throughout by the co-operation and contribution of the Compression Systems workforce in Barnoldswick.
Mike Lloyd, Director of Gas Turbine Operations at Rolls-Royce, said: “We are here today to celebrate the success of a great team effort. This building is solid evidence of the justifiable confidence and commitment Rolls-Royce has in its people, its technology and its manufacturing capability.
“Our new breed of ‘focused factories’ are about simple layouts with dedicated machines and resources arranged to provide optimum operation and flow – but it’s people that really unlock their full potential. The focused factory performs at its best when people operate as a team to decide the best way of getting the job done.
“We’ve seen strong evidence of that approach with our employees here in Barnoldswick working together to ensure minimal disruption to customers at a time when we are transitioning from old facilities into this new one.”
The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) provided training investment towards the 5,000 square-metre factory, which was built by Skipton based J N Bentley Ltd.
Mark Hughes, Executive Director of Enterprise, Innovation and Skills at the NWDA, said: “The NWDA is pleased to provide its support for this project, which will not only significantly strengthen the operations of Rolls-Royce, a major employer in the area, but also help to stimulate further growth and development in the region’s world-class aerospace sector.”
Construction work began in September 2004 and the structure was completed in summer 2005. The first people and machine tools transferred during June 2005.
The new facility was planned, built, equipped and executed using guidelines from the Rolls-Royce Production System, which draws on a wealth of best practice accumulated across the company. It incorporates the latest in factory layout and visual workload management methods, with growth potential accommodated in each cell.
1. The company looks for continuous improvement in operational excellence – from strategic decisions on what to make and what to buy, though the growing efficiency of its domestic facilities, to the streamlining of its supply chain, which provides around 70 per cent of an engine’s constituent parts.
2. In April 2004, the company announced it was to invest £100 million in four new facilities. These are now at various stages of development: Hucknall opened a new Combustion Systems factory in October 2005, and the other two, both making good progress, are Derby’s Compression Systems facility and Bristol’s Turbine Systems/Component Services facility.
3. Experience of the modern ‘focused factory’ was gained through two other investments prior to the 2004 decisions. In 1999, a £45 million turbine blade facility in Derby introduced simplified work flow, ‘single-piece’ manufacturing concepts and the co-location of everyone involved in the production process, as well as pioneering some of the new ways of working. Between 2002 and 2004 a large £85 million facility was built at Inchinnan, near Glasgow, to replace the Hillington factory, which finally closed last year after operating for over 60 years. This workforce was involved from the outset, as dedicated teams, using best practice from the Rolls-Royce Production System to design cell layouts, decide training requirements and establish the fine detail ahead of physical transfer, so minimising production down-time.
4. Last year, sales per employee rose by ten per cent, and the company managed to reduce product cost further despite heavy increases in the cost of raw materials and fuel. The number of suppliers reduced further, while product quality continued its improvement.
5. Rolls-Royce took over the Barnoldswick site from Rover in April 1943 and, with it, began a revolution in the transport industry as it turned the site into the company’s research and development centre for the newly-invented jet engine. The first engine designed and built at the site was the B23 (later named the Welland) and was delivered to power the Meteor in July 1944. This was the first RAF jet fighter and the only allied jet to see operational service in World War II.
6. Today there are two Rolls-Royce sites in Barnoldswick, though the facility is no-longer a major research and development centre. Collectively, they employ over 800 people. The Bankfield and Ghyll Brow facilities are now responsible for the production of key components such as wide-chord fan blades, front bearing housings and the range of parts undertaken by the new facility.
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