Within the past five years, dozens of Japanese and Korean OEM companies
have set up manufacturing plants in England to supply automobiles, computers,
appliances, and more to the European market. Many have been drawn to Northeast
England by government-sponsored incentives designed to revitalize a regional
economy suffering from a decline in coal mining and ship building. Korean
electronics marketer Samsung, for example, has a sizable and growing production
facility in Wynyard. Where, you might ask, does this good news for the
British economy leave the company's previous suppliers?
Automation is a key to keeping
K.J. Park had been a successful supplier of injection moulded parts
to Samsung in Korea for many years. Instead of seeing a loss when Samsung
began production in England, Park saw an opportunity and went to England
to learn first-hand what was possible. He then returned to Korea and, with
four other injection moulding veterans, formed Woo One UK Ltd. to mould
housings, bezels, and other parts for Samsung's British-made computer monitors.
In the true entrepreneurial spirit, he wanted to begin production immediately...halfway
around the world...in a different social and business culture...in the
midst of the European Community's CE regulations.
To help Park in such matters as site location and staffing, the Northern
Development Group, supported by the British Department of Trade and Industry
among others, formed a group of specialists from industry and local and
regional government to expedite the project. They quickly found an idle
manufacturing building in Hartlepool that only needed some floor reinforcement
to support the weight of moulding machines, and preliminary plans were
The building previously contained two businesses. An opening was made
in the dividing wall so one section could be used for manufacturing and
the other for warehousing raw material and finished goods. Woo One's start-up
plan called for eight injection machines, reclaim of all production scrap,
and automated handling of raw material and mouldings.
For injection machines, Park turned to a familiar name, Korean manufacturer
Dong Shin, and that gave him access to the local know-how of General Plastics,
which markets Dong Shin machines in the United Kingdom.
General Plastics completes the assembly of the Korean-built machines
to conform with local electrical specifications and the safety and other
requirements for the European Community's essential ? that is, you
cannot operate a machine without it ? CE mark. However, even if you
have a CE label on a machine, CE regulations may prevent you from starting
Raw materials and finished parts
With his operating plan in hand, Park wanted the minimum number of
suppliers in the plant to simplify management. For example, he wanted one
supplier for all the plant's automation: material handling, machine robots,
conveyor lines. He also wanted that supplier to provide mould temperature
controls, grinders, hoppers ? in short, all auxiliary and ancillary
equipment. Several companies submitted proposals, and local know-how again
figured strongly in the outcome.
Conair Europe's proposal to supply a £300,000 (US$ 500,000) package
of systems was accepted just two weeks after Conair received the lead.
Conair's central vacuum loading system moves incoming ABS into one of three
2.5- ton silos, each sized for an 8-hour shift. One ABS grade is loaded
into a separate 1-ton bin. From a central drying station, material moves
to six of the injection machines by vacuum system. The two smallest machines
(50 tons) have single-phase vacuum loaders. Robots move mouldings from
the large machines onto a conveyor system going to the warehouse. Some
parts require assembly and/or pad printing.
Although most of the parts are
Moulds are cooled by an externally mounted chiller and a Conair air
blast system cools the hydraulic oil. In low ambient conditions, the air
blast cooler can also handle the moulds, allowing the chiller to be turned
off for energy savings. Woo One chose the air blast cooler based on a combination
of economics and Conair's knowledge of British health and safety regulations.
The air blast, unlike evaporative tower coolers, is a closed circuit. In
England, open systems have been subject to inspection by authorities since
the discovery of how legionella bacteria can be transmitted by evaporating
water. The capital cost of the closed system was higher, but payback came
in six months, and there are no health inspections nor ongoing expenses
for water replacement and treatment.
Park began looking for a site in July 1995. Early the following February,
Woo One began bringing its machines online, following operator training
by the British Polymer Training Association. By June it was in full production:
six General Plastics/Dong Shin machines ranging from 150 to 850 tons with
robots and Barber-Colman closed loop controls; two 50-ton Arburgs without
robots for moulding smaller parts; automated raw material and finished
parts handling systems; and CE labels on everything.
We mentioned that sometimes a machine with a CE label still cannot be
operated. Although many European manufacturers now supply their products
with CE labels already in place, if you add a robot with a CE label to
an injection machine with a CE label, you create a "system."
The system needs CE certification before use. Knowing that, Woo One made
arrangements with Longlands College in nearby Middlesbrough to inspect
the assembled systems and affix the CE label.
Woo One now runs seven days a week using four production teams. Each
team consists of eight production specialists, one technician, and a quality
control person. A day is divided into two 12-hour shifts with changeovers
at 0600H and 1800H. A team works four day shifts, has four days off, then
works four night shifts followed by another four days off. Including warehousing
personnel and management, Woo One currently has 51 employees. To handle
growth, there is a plan for the warehouse part of the structure to be converted
to manufacturing and warehousing to be shifted to a new location.
Manager, Human Resources Unit B, Sovereign Park Brenda Road Hartlepool,
TS25 1NN England Phone: (44) 1429 867744 Fax: (44) 1429 862170
General Plastics Mr. Ian Hamer, Managing Director 319 Vale Enterprise
Park Hays Road, Sully South Glamorgan CF6 5SY England Phone: (44) 1446
700537 Fax: (44) 1446 740841
Conair Europe Ltd., Mr. John Smith, Business Manager, Materials Handling
Riverside Way Uxbridge, Middlesex, UB8 2YF England Phone: (44) 1895 258181
Fax. (44) 1895 850016