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No more fire-fighting production snags

Hose reel production efficiency is greatly improved
Hose reel production efficiency is greatly improved

Norfolk-based Fireater Ltd produces fire fighting aids such as hose reels, foam equipment and fixed systems for home and export markets. Manufacture of hose reels is an important aspect of the company's business. Fireater asked TWI to carry out a Product and Process Review (PPR) to see if improvements in welding activities would reduce costs.

Reels must be highly functional, conform to the latest EN quality specification and be aesthetically pleasing. Meeting the needs of individual clients means that over 35 variants need to be produced to satisfy orders. These range from one to several hundred units, which makes production very involved.

The PPR recommended a follow-up Feasibility Study, which focused on reorganising hose reel manufacture. This involved:

  • exercises in lean manufacturing
  • grouping and consolidation of sub-assembly manufacture
  • reorganisation of layout
  • introducing Kanban methodology to pull work through the facility
  • carrying out all the above within available factory floor-space

This study led to the cellular fabrication and auto assembly of a swinging arm unit, saving both labour and factory space. A painting facility was relocated and Kanban trolleys were introduced bringing additional time and labour savings. Overall operations were made easier and work-in-progress reduced as a result of the reorganisation of the areas. The PPR and Feasibility Study brought significant business benefits to Fireater, including:

  • the ability to turn-round both large and small orders at short notice, without affecting overall production
  • reduced stock levels without adversely affecting delivery
  • easier and online monitoring of quality
  • higher output per man-hour

This study was carried out as part of a government-supported Joining Forces programme.

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