Blackpool - home of the Elite cab
Our Blackpool facility has been making components for Dennis Eagle vehicles since 1960, and today is home to the market leading Elite cab. Plant Manager Steve Spence leads the team of 73 staff at the site.
“It begins in the fabrication shop where we spot weld, sub-assemble and MIG weld the cab shell,” he explained.
“A team of 20 assembles ‘white cabs’ – our term for pre-painted cabs. Then the work is inspected before going to our paint shop.
“We have eight painters. Based on customer specification, they prime and complete a top coat which can range from any single colour to two-tone colours and stripe decals.
“Then the cab goes to the assembly shop where 30 people assemble the internal components. They start with a bare, painted product and fit all the parts that you normally see inside a vehicle, including electrics, seats, panelling and lights.”
Steve has been at Blackpool since 2007. In his time he has had a range of responsibilities, starting as a Production Engineer. Today, as Plant Manager, Steve uses his wealth of experience to ensure the facility runs as efficiently as possible.
“I manage the day-to-day running of the factory, making sure the managers have the tools, equipment and information they need. I forecast the workload we have in the pipeline, usually planning projects around six-to-eight weeks in advance.
“Part of my role is to look at new products. We have to make sure we have the correct structure in place to manage a new product when it comes to site. Sometimes this means changing the facility in some way using internal labour and outside contractors.
“I aim to make sure we’re working as efficiently as possible and that’s a responsibility beyond just the product; it’s looking after the team as well.”
Investment in Blackpool facility
“We’ve gone through a lot of changes in the last three years, from the re-cladding of the roof to the complete refurbishment of our fabrication area.
“We now have a more efficient facility that is both clean and bright. We’ve installed LED lighting throughout, significantly improving visibility and we’re now using the most up-to-date equipment too. Everyone knows what they need to do and everything is in place to improve our efficiency.
“We’ve also made similar changes to the paint shop, with LED lighting in four individual preparation bays which has increased our capacity.
“In terms of processes, we have introduced a system of ‘enhanced organisation’ to increase our efficiency across the site.”
Quality assurance is key
Throughout all the changes, one key part of the process has remained front-of-mind: quality assurance. Steve and his team have built this into the foundations of each stage of production.
“We have regular inspections throughout the production process. One of those is a self-inspection process, which involves each worker on the shop floor checking their work individually.
“This ‘no faults forward’ system means faults will not be passed on to the next person. The aim is that you’ll either rectify a fault before passing it on or notify the next person. This strategy works very well for us.
“We also have two Quality Facilitators on site. They check all the cabs before they are painted. This includes checking all fabrication processes, like welding and spot welding, to make sure they are as they need to be. They also check all cabs after painting with the Lead Co-ordinator to ensure our work is of a high enough standard.
“When the cabs come off the assembly line, we perform electrical testing which includes 150 individual component checks. Each of these is carried out on every cab. Only when they have been signed off, are the cabs allowed to leave the factory.”
Simplicity works for monitoring production
“We keep the monitoring processes as simple as we can because it doesn’t help it to be over-complicated. The more complicated it becomes, the more difficult it is to manage.
“We have a system in place so we know what’s being made, at what time, right through the factory. On average, the cab takes about seven days to progress through the facility – that’s from fabrication through to assembly. The inspection process takes place simultaneously.”
Like Dennis Eagle’s Warwick site, the Blackpool plant uses the Production Monitoring System (PMS) where documentation accompanies the cab throughout the process and is updated at every stage with serial numbers, notes and recommendations.
This digital system has helped streamline and standardise the quality management processes at Blackpool.
And the result: 20 top quality Dennis Eagle cabs-a-week, ready to send to the next stage of production in Warwick. Job done.