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Extraordinary extruders

Extraordinary extruders

30/06/2006 | Channel: Manufacturing, Automotive

Crosslink is aiming to become the automotive industry’s first choice for moulded and extruded rubber products.

Offering rubber to meet any customer specification, recently established Crosslink dedicates its resources to continually improve the quality, cost and delivery of its service. Through the progressive use of lean manufacturing and rapid prototyping and tooling, the company is attempting to significantly increase its impact on the global automotive market.

The management team acquired the business in January 2005, with financial assistance provided by the Welsh Assembly Government. Under the management of Jack Shore, Joe Dourneen and Mike Hobson, the business is aiming to diversify the production range, while continuing to work alongside the existing blue-chip customers. Commenting on the Maerdy plant’s history, sales and engineering director, Mike Hobson, says: “The factory was built in 1997, and became United Polymers in 2000. We acquired it five years later, with trading commencing under the Crosslink name from 26th January 2005.”

Through design, project management, FE analysis, rapid prototyping, in-house
tooling, lean manufacturing and addedvalue operations, Crosslink offers a wide service to its customers. “Predominantly we are an automotive business, manufacturing rubber compounds, moulds and extruders,” explains Mike. “We make virtually anything in a car that has rubber content, including air ducting, rubber-to-metal structural parts, suspension mounts, steering bushes and couplings, matting, exhaust hangers, engine dressing, HVAC dash seals and radiator mouldings, speaker surrounds, short and long length shaped air hoses, oil seals in Silicon and rubber. Eighty per cent of our products are sold in the UK, with the remainder mostly exported to mainland Europe, with an increasing amount travelling to North America and the Far East.

“Crosslink is dealing directly with both the OEMs and first tier automotive industry. To support our components customers and third party compound customers the business manufactures well over 100 formulations of rubber that go into a wide variety of different products.”

Looking at the current state of the market, Mike continues: “It is tough with everybody talking about low cost countries in Eastern Europe and the Far East, however we are winning business and are currently doing an incredible rate of quotations. We had a turnover over £7 million in 2005, but in the first quarter of 2006 we have already had a greater enquiry rate than that, with a significant level converted into contracts.”

While Crosslink is not planning on moving any of its operations to the East, Mike acknowledges that the company has to take advantage of the lower cost countries
through its supply chain. “All of our manufacturing is done in the UK, but we are currently looking at our metal purchasing, taking quotations from Poland, India and China, as well as the UK. Looking abroad for suppliers will help to mitigate some of the cost pressures of not going to those countries ourselves.”

Another attempt by the company to control costs has been the implementation of continuous in-house training in lean manufacturing, 5S, Six-Sigma, FMEA, G8D and APQP, with the business culture changing from traditional to progressive. “Most of the efforts in our first 18 months have been inward looking, as we have looked to improve the factory and our product offering. For example we have added lathecut seals and extruded hoses to the range,” explains Mike. “We are currently around three quarters of the way through our transformation from batch production to lean manufacturing, and in December this culminated in us winning the Accelerate Wales award for the most improved business performance.”

Improving efficiency has enabled Crosslink to retain business and win new contracts. Mike continues: “We have recently exhibited at Autolink in South Wales and Birmingham, and it was good to have the award on our stand. In December we also achieved registration to TS16949, which is fairly fundamental, but the plant has not had this before. The important thing is getting the cost base right through lean manufacturing and then driving continuous improvement from there.”

Part of the company’s attempts to maintain the pace of change has been the implementation of a new IT and production monitoring system. Mike comments: “We have installed a computer-based system that helps us to drive the business by focusing on the right areas. It is something that we have developed ourselves from previous business ventures where it has worked very well.”

Still in its early stages as a new business, Crosslink’s focus on lean manufacturing is an integral part of its future success as it looks to become a full service supplier of all rubber components, assemblies and extrusions to the automotive industry. Mike concludes: “When we acquired the business it was under-utilised, but with the capacity and equipment that we have, we are capable of turning over three to four times what we achieved last year.”

Employees 135
Industry Automotive