If you run a lean manufacturing operation with limited stock levels and demanding deadlines, you had better ensure that your production and materials handling assets are up to the task, as downtime will inevitably be even more punishing if links in the process fail. Having the reassurance that a trusted materials handling partner is working diligently, providing effective support which is efficiently managed, ensures that a key area of the operation is well looked after. And that is just how one manufacturer, with a reputation for product quality and on-time order fulfilment likes to operate.
Back in 1990 as Kylie and Madonna slugged it out in the charts, people marched against the poll tax and McDonalds flipped its first burger in Moscow, along with two colleagues Ian Richardson strapped himself into a new challenge as the new owner of an industrial packaging company in the historic city of Hull.
Twenty-six years later RLM Packaging has seen off several economic downturns and plenty of change in the various markets they supply tin container products, including an impressive list of brand leaders in numerous lubricants, additives, paints and automotive products.
The business itself originally started over 50 years ago and has always remained independent. Producing around 5million cans per year from around 1000 tonnes of tin plate, is the core of the operation. In amongst the various product lines produced are several specialised containers that only RLM manufacture.
Logistically the manufacturing process involves highly automated precision slitters, forming, pressing, welding and seaming procedures. This is served by a materials handling operation that delivers bulk tin plate from suppliers and various other raw materials, removes waste and transports finished goods for despatch to customers.
Simple enough you might think. But then RLM has no large warehousing facilities, or at least nothing that carries stocks of finished goods. All products are made direct to order to a 4 weeks turnaround schedule, and even shorter for products on a regular call-off demand.
A lean manufacturing model calls for efficient materials handling. At RLM this comes in the form of local TCM forklift dealer Barek Lift Trucks, one of the leading materials handling specialists in Hull, York, Harrogate and across much of the region. They have developed an excellent reputation for reliable service with over 30 years in the sector.
RLMs forklifts have a particularly tough workload, in action for up to 50hrs per week, from loading and unloading to general factory duties. As they are in pretty constant use, durability and reliability is paramount. Clearly forklifts play a massive part in production and productivity so Managing Director Ian Richardson insists on simple, reliable trucks whichÂ are replaced every 5 years.
TCM dealer Barek Lift Trucks, has been sole supplier and materials handling partner to RLM Packaging for over 20 years and are now on the 4th generation of trucks. They have always worked with TCM or their predecessor brand of the same pedigree.
We operate electric trucks as they have multiple inside and out duties, said Ian Richardson. They are versatile, easy to look after and simple to operate. Our operators know and like them.
RLM also operates an adapted truck with an attachment that rotates the forks to carry and empty scrap metals, this means it adapts to other duties when the business needs it. Crucially it’s the service and support that counts for RLM. Having a local partner that hasÂ invested time to get to know their business and is committed to a fast response is a priority.
So there is no national call centre to tangle with, just a local number and a guaranteed response within 2 hours. And if a breakdown cannot be fixed within a working day the truck is substituted whilst a satisfactory repair is made. This means that RLM is never without the forklift for longer than a day.
This also means that RLM can afford to optimise their truck fleet. Unlike some companies where materials handling is an important resource and failure can affect production, the need to have excess forklift capacity to bridge breakdowns is an additional and arguably an avoidable cost. RLM have the level of confidence in the service, support and truck durability that the fleet can also be lean and simple. Saving cost and time.
It’s the beauty of working with a local trusted partner, explained Richardson. They understand the complexities of our business and the critical nature of their role in it. It allows me to focus on other things knowing that they are a very reliable back-up. Having said that, touch-wood, we have experienced very few breakdowns over the years. A routine maintenance package and a sensible replacement cycle keeps our trucks up to the task.
When it comes to negotiating a new deal for replacement trucks the ability to get around a table with decision makers also makes things simpler and smarter. I prefer to deal peer to peer in our important partnership relationships, reveals Richardson. Clearly decisions can be made without reference to or limited by some corporate structure, so agreements are flexible and tailored to my needs. But it is still valuable to know that the trucks themselves have a robust global resource behind them. It is obviously better to do business with people you know and trust.