In line for success
With successful sales growth and improvements across its manufacturing productivity, the last year for Mettler-Toledo Safeline has been extremely positive
Back in August 2015 we spoke with Alan Purvis, MD of Mettler-Toledo (MT) Safeline Ltd, a Salford based subsidiary of the MT group specialising in the manufacture of high precision, inline metal detection systems for the food and pharmaceutical industries. Then, Alan discussed the launch of the company’s new Profile Advantage range, an innovative detection system developed in close co-operation with PhD students and senior researchers of the University of Manchester. Using multi-simultaneous radio frequencies, as opposed to the traditionally and widely used single frequency set-up, the Profile Advantage was a true step up in available precision technology within this niche market and confirmed Safeline’s position as an industry forerunner.
“I am happy to report that after the first full year of sales we have managed to sell more than 1000 units around the world, which accounts for about 20 per cent of our total sales,” Alan highlights today. “This has been an incredible rate of adoption by the market and it’s because the Profile Advantage really has provided a significant performance leap for our customers. It’s really helped us to defend and enhance our premium position as the global leader for these challenging applications and has rewarded us with greater sales to new customers who we may never have reached with our previous offering.”
The last feature also highlighted Safeline’s efforts to achieve a much more productive manufacturing process, and once again Alan is able to report significant progress. Around 60 per cent of all production output has moved to a new assembly method and 98 per cent to a new coil encapsulation process, which has involved a £100k investment in a new resin potting machine from Germany. “The impact of the design and method changes has been fantastic,” he says. “We are achieving 100 per cent right-first-time from this new method for potting the coil system, which in turn has resulted in a 35-40 per cent reduction in re-work time in the factory as well as a financial saving. Overall, on the back of these process changes the productivity per shop floor employee has risen by about five per cent across the last year, much higher than the UK manufacturing average.”
The transformation has also allowed Safeline to take real strides on its lean manufacturing journey. Alan outlines that the factory now demonstrates a 98 per cent on-time delivery rate for its complex, made-to-order equipment, has reduced its average lead time by cutting a week off of in-factory time, and seen a 25 per cent fall in its working capital levels and stock turnover levels soar to record highs. “The upshot is that we’re really motoring in the factory,” he expresses. “In honesty, I think people used to think that whilst we had a great product, the factory was unpredictable, but now we have a fantastic range of improved products and a reliable, on-time operations machine that can support sales around the world.”
Other significant investments have been in its sales channels around the world. As part of a group effort with its parent company, Safeline has benefited from converting some country-based distributors into direct MT sales and service operations to better serve its customers. “Last year we went direct in Turkey, which is a market with high growth potential because of its large population, its strong food sector and its gateway position between Europe and Asia,” highlights Alan. “We did the same in Indonesia, which is a fantastic market that we have been under-serving before, and also in New Zealand. By doing this we improve our access to market and our customer service, and have the potential to increase sales by being far more proactive in these additional countries, hopefully bringing accelerated organic growth.”
With such developments moving forward, both in terms of product technology and its manufacturing and sales organisation, Safeline has been successful in many countries around the world over the last year. Market conditions in general are favourable, and whilst sales have dropped in countries like China, Russia and Brazil due to macroeconomic pressures, improved performance in South East Asia, Mexico and Canada has helped to balance this. Performance in Europe at present is stable with some market’s proving more successful than others, but Alan points out that this is most likely down to its own activities rather than any wider economic conditions.
Challenges continue to present themselves in the form of increased competition as other suppliers bring new products to market, albeit with poorer performance, more than a year after Safeline first launched the Profile Advantage range. Whilst the company is keen not to become complacent, never underestimating the speed at which the market can follow its lead, Alan is will allow it to retain its product leadership. A complete redesign of its product platforms will follow over the next two years, once again taking Safeline to the next level of technological capability.
As far as the future is concerned for Safeline, continuing on the same trajectory it has experienced over the last few years is very much the commitment with continued staff training, product development and lean manufacturing progress. Responding to the requirements of new GFSI regulations (global food safety initiative) and improving the way it manages key accounts with multi-national clients (who are looking for highly configured, but standardised solutions) will also be key over the coming year. In the more immediate future, in April Safeline will be implementing a new SAP business management system – an MT programme that is being progressively rolled out across the group’s multiple manufacturing sites and customer operations in many countries. The new systems will improve information flow across the full network of sales, service and supply chain operations – taking customer responsiveness and business efficiency to the next level.
Mettler-Toledo Safeline Ltd
Products: Manufactures specialist metal detection equipment for complex process applications