Issue Issue 3 2008
A high tech future for Birkby’s
Birkby’s Plastics specialises in the design, manufacture and assembly of plastic components for automotive and specialist industries worldwide using state-of-the-art technology.
By offering cost-effective technical solutions with best practice quality systems, Birkby’s is well placed to take on the toughest competition and ensure complete customer satisfaction. “Today, Birkby’s delivers quality exports, tomorrow, the company is set to break the mould, taking the plastics industry into a high tech future,” as the website states.
Macartan Flanagan, sales and engineering director for the business comments: “Birkby’s is primarily a component supplier to the first tier automotive businesses, such as Toyota and Honda. Based in West Yorkshire and with a workforce of approximately 500, we develop components for interior trims, functional trims and structural needs. We are currently consolidating our business and we have developed business units for our three main OEM customers – Toyota, Honda and Ford. In addition, other services such as sales and engineering are held centrally.
“There are two main reasons why we have implemented this approach. Firstly the centrally held functions can focus on issues or problems within the organisation and the appropriate team can then quickly resolve these. Secondly, and more importantly, we can now offer the customer a bespoke solution before we get to the quotation stage. Working with the OEMs, the engineering, design and laboratory team can put together a package up front. Whilst working with the tier one suppliers, we can act as their plastics expert and advise them on the best solutions to use,” Macartan adds.
A strong customer focus and a dynamic approach to individual market sectors are key factors to thesuccess of Birkby’s Plastics. The business units act as specialised divisions within the company, offering expert knowledge on the products provided for specific customers. This unique structure provides a better understanding of client requirements, improved performance in respect to project timing and smoother communications.
Macartan comments: “The business units allow us to speak to our customers in their technical language and avoid confusion. For example, the operational systems of Toyota are completely different to Honda’s. In addition, the quality systems are also very diverse – Ford uses a Q1 methodology whereas Toyota uses SQAM methodology.”
Birkby’s is proud of the service it is able to offer its customers, ensuring speed, accuracy and excellent cost management from concept through to delivery. The company can offer a complete onestop- shop in terms of the development of plastic components for the automotive industry. This includes design, product engineering, prototyping, tool making, validation testing, manufacture and assembly, and after-sales services. Consequently, Birkby’s has proved, time and time again, that being proactive in all aspects of injection moulding and utilising its extensive resources and expertise brings measurable benefits to its clients.
With this in mind, Birkby’s works closely with its customers to determine their needs and meet the changing demands of the market. Macartan explains: “This is a two-way process – if we have an idea, which can save our clients money, we will go to them. However, if they want us to trial new materials then we can do that for them as well. For example, we are currently working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and looking at the development of plastic materials with fillers that are from a sustainable source. We are also working with our polymer suppliers to remove the need to use solvent based paints, as these are harmful to the environment.”
It is through these working relationships, with other companies, suppliers and associations, that Birkby’s has been able to provide quality improvements and more cost effective solutions. This has been further highlighted with the recent award for Quality Management and recognition for the efforts Birkby’s has put in its cost effective solutions. In order to improve its offering even further, the organisation has recently completed an investment of nearly £1.8 million into its facility. “This has created a new manufacturing site with two new 1700-tonne machines. The investment was a result of our ‘big machine strategy’, which looks at producing larger parts for larger vehicles in the UK,” Marcartan comments.
He concludes: “The main vision for Birkby’s Plastics is to hold its strong position in its home market and continue to meet customers’ needs. We also plan to develop a foothold in a low cost country over the next few years for the development of smaller components. Overall, the key to success for Birkby’s is its focus on building relationships with its clients. A saying, which is constantly used within the organisation is: ‘companies don’t buy from companies, people buy from people’. We believe if we offer our clients a one-to-one service then they will continue to do business with us.”
Products: Plastic components
Sites: West Yorkshire, UK