Sheffield Project Holdsworth Packaging and Box Manufacture An example of a small manufacturing company This case study may serve as a resource for the following Applied GCSEs: Manufacturing; Business 1.1 Company Background and Structure Holdsworth is a small company which is located on an industrial estate surrounded by suburbs of new houses to the south-east of the City of Sheffield. Chris Holdsworth started this company in 1989. He had studied business studies at college in the early 1980s and had gone on to gain experience in sales in Italy. Soon afterwards, although he was a local Sheffield lad, Chris was keen to gain experience in London and soon found a job working with a London packaging company, eventually transferring to the London company's Derby subsidiary packaging firm in 1986 where, amongst other things, he created their regional customer database (1). "I had always wanted a job in sales and felt that going down south to London would give me valuable experience. In fact it was an aunt of mine who spotted the job in Enfield. I think they were quite surprised to find someone moving down to London from the North and they were very pleased to give me the job. But I was always keen to have my own business. Before I started this company I was involved in a few other enterprises. But in 1989 I came home to Sheffield and set up Holdsworth packaging" Chris Holdsworth The company premises are simply laid out, with a small suite of offices which include that of the director at the front of a large warehouse style building, where about one- third of the space is dedicated to the manufacture of boxes. SCAN IN PIC OF FRONTAGE - PICTURE 1 1.2 Product His business is very much a "niche market" (2) says Chris. Holdsworth's specialises in small manufacturing "runs" of different types of boxes of all sizes, as well as creating other cardboard items for packaging and protection products of other companies as they are transported to their customers. His firm maintains a cutting edge by being prepared to fill even small orders. "A lot of larger companies today specify that a client has to place a minimum order number before they will do a job. We don't!" he says. Flexibility and responsiveness are also crucial. In order to be able to make and deliver orders quickly, his firm has to keep a large range of cardboard sheeting of many sizes and thicknesses in stock, ready for use. "Most companies will wait for an order before buying in the cardboard. This must make them slower when it comes to delivery". Chris is both the owner and the managing director, controlling a small workforce of 12 people - eight men, who all work on the shopfloor and four women who work in the office. SCAN IN PIC OF WORKERS – PICTURE 2 All work takes place on this single site. The workers don't have to be skilled since they can be quickly trained to use the factory machinery. But occasionally, however, "getting the right people can be hard", and they are often workers of more mature years (3). Interestingly, Holdsworth's doesn't just manufacture boxes. It is able to provide almost every kind of packaging which another company might wish to buy. The company sales brochure lists a huge range: polythene bags of all sizes, woven polypropylene (4), bubble-wrap, rubbish sacks, shrink film, printed carrier bags - an example taken from the brochure is shown below. One of the biggest sales lines is self adhesive tape. 1.3 Customers and competition This is a business where competition is intense. There are a lot of companies in the Sheffield area, both large and small, which provide much the same service. This means that Chris must always ensure that there are more than enough items in stock. You have to be especially sensitive in this industry when it comes to price. "You can lose an order because you're a penny more expensive than a rival company", says Chris. Not only that, the price of materials in this industry is also volatile and variable - it is hard to predict what the cost of your products will be very far in advance. However, Holdsworth's doesn't make many of the huge number of items which it stocks. As we have seen, its manufacturing specialism is box making. This can be quite a complex process and it is in this area where most of the new ideas generated by the company are likely to appear. Consider this This picture shows a cardboard sheet which has been cut out ready to be made up into some form of box. Can you guess simply by looking at it, what sort of purpose it will have? For the answer, see the picture at the end of this report! 1.4 Production Line activity Let's now look at the manufacturing process. Firstly, it's worth noting that the materials used for production consist of simple raw cardboard sheets. In this factory these are located in large stacks and positioned near to the cutting machines. The job of making a box starts with the creation of a "job sheet" which is produced in the main office and which shows the name of the customer and the size of the box to be made. A completed example can be seen below.. INSERT COPY OF COMPLETED JOB SHEET – ITEM 4 If you look at this document you'll see a number of important sets of information. These are: • The quantity needed - in this instance they want to make 100; • The "board grade" - this specifies the quality of the corrugated (5) board which is going to be used; • The length and width of the corrugated ‘blank’; • the "slot scale" - which shows where the cardboard has to have slots added to help the folding process and allow the box to be made up from the single bit of card; • Notice too that at the bottom of the job sheet, a record has been kept of the size of the piece of board being fed into the machine - in this case1280mm * 2255mm • Alongside this is the price of this board - set in this instance at £2.24; • The start date is filled in by the machine worker, along with the time estimated as needed for this particular "run". • It’s especially interesting in this case, that 70 of the 100 boxes are being made from "off cuts" - in other words, from board left over from a previous job. • Of course this is ideal from the point of view of the company - there's no waste and this means more profit! Although the principle of cutting and marking cardboard seems quite simple, this first machine has a computer linked to it which can allow calculations to be made about the size, depth and height of the box to be produced. Of course, all boxes have three dimensions; and these can be punched into the machine's computer. In this manufacturing industry, the manufacturing process can be quite labour- intensive. Here, for example, is an example of a slitting machine which cuts the board to the size needed. A ‘blank’ can be fed through the machine with the cardboard resting on top of it. Once inside the machine, a "Magic Eye" is able to "read" the board and the blank; and then rollers come down to press out the necessary crease in the board. After that the paper is slit or cut in the right places. There may be a further stage at the end of this process where it is necessary to glue or stable some sections together. The picture shows this happening. However, most of the assembly work is actually done by the customers and the shapes which have been cut out to be made into boxes are "flat-packed" and then will be put together by the customer after they have received a delivery. Here's another machine below, which was bought by the company five years ago for about £40,000. It's a far wider piece of electronic equipment which has revolutionised box making in the factory since it's so quick. Now, instead of having to adjust the slitting wheels in the machine to the right width using a special key, it can all be done automatically by the machine. Apparently, the best equipment for this kind of manufacturing job is provided by a French company. Their specially designed machines can take the box manufacturing process to its ultimate form. It would cost a company £120,000 - but for that price you would get a machine which would take a complete sheet of cardboard and do everything for you. For Chris this is something of a dream: that level of investment is beyond the reach of a small company since the return on such a big capital outlay would not return any profit fast enough. Here you can see the largest production machine in the factory which is able to make complicated folds and divisions in cardboard - to produce, for example, a wine bottle carrier such as is found in supermarkets and provided free for customers. Here, a template (6) is placed under the cardboard and entered into the machine which then rolls over the outline, crushing the cardboard to the right shape. To support both the manufacture and sales processes, good stock control is essential and the director takes personal responsibility for this. Chris will check the shelves regularly, working on the basis that they need to be full in order to meet any order that might come in. He also aims to buy materials when prices are as low as possible. However, this can be a tricky business. Recently, polymer products increased in price by 28 per cent due to increasing international oil prices (polymer being an oil product) and general supply shortages. The Holdsworth company is introducing a computerised stock control system (7), but this personal touch is often faster. The stock items are not deleted on the computer until the delivery note is returned: and this may mean that people think there is more stock available than is in fact the case. It is also true that Sheffield customers have changed in recent years. When the company started up its supply service, the city had a lot of heavy manufacturers; but many of these have now gone and in their place have appeared many smaller specialist companies. Technological change has helped the company however, through more computerised machinery and office equipment. It has been especially helpful in the area of invoice control and allowing the director to analyse the sales patterns for the products which he keeps in stock. He can see at a glance what is selling well and what appears no longer to be popular. Chris, as managing director, thoroughly enjoys his job, especially since his company supplies a wide range of businesses. So, for example, one day he may visit a steel mill, the next a paint manufacturer or a medical supplier. The key he says is "to stick your neck out, to try to deliver next day and to have no minimum order value. Remember that sometimes a small delivery can then lead to a larger order". As in many businesses, it is important to make things easier for your clients and to create as much goodwill as possible. The purpose of the cut-out You probably found it very hard to guess simply from the flat cardboard form. Once it is made up, as can be seen in this picture, it in fact becomes a protective corner for a company which is shipping types of bed. Each bed would need four of these cardboard corners; one for each corner. Its design makes it incredibly strong once it is made up. There is an alternative - in the shape of polystyrene, which is also shown in the picture. But this product is becoming less fashionable since it is also non- biodegradable (8); and this, of course, helps a company like Holdsworth. INSERT PAGES BELOW BOX – ITEMS 5 AND 6 activity: The pages below outline a whole range of different boxes. The pictures show just how complicated the cutting out process can be. You may wish to try to create similar boxes in class as a measurement exercise. Consider the measurement of the "Storbin” products. Look at the company order sheet and calculate which size of cardboard sheet might be most appropriate. What would be the cost of 100 of them? 1.5 Finding out about the business: Here are some investigations which you can carry out about the company. The number at the front of each question links to the number and highlighted words in the case study above. 1. What is a customer database? How important is it likely to be to a company? 2. What exactly is a ‘niche market’? Give some examples of others you might have found in companies you have visited or know. 3. Why are these jobs likely to be unpopular with young people? 4. What is the difference between polythene and polypropylene? 5. Check out the meaning of this word. 6. Do the same for this word. 7. Research other examples of computerised stock control systems. 8. 9. List why you think they would be a useful development for a company. 10. What does this mean exactly and why is ‘biodegradability’ ever more important these days?