Seven students studying A level Business Studies from the King Edward VI School paid us a visit on the 20th of May for a tour of our production floor.
Attending with the students was Head of Upper School, Mr P. Sheppard, who said; “It’s amazing to have a world-leading technology company right on our doorstep.”
A culture of improvement
The students were first given a demonstration of how Bowman keeps track of all KPI’s (key performance indicators) on the production floor. Nils Jolliffe, our Operations Director, explained; “The processes we have in place make sure our team are challenged to continuously improve, and we do that by asking ourselves ‘where are the areas we can increase productivity?’”
One of the students asked, “What culture do you try and embed in your workforce?” to which Nils replied “Being a part of Bowman is about your ideas, and being part of the team. If you’ve got an idea, we have the forums to share and explore those ideas, and we’ll get people involved in them.”
Understanding the flow of production
The students were then shown around the different areas of Bowman’s shop floor, which is designed to follow the flow of the turbogenerator manufacturing process. One student commented; “I thought the U-shape of the shop floor was really good, because you could see how everything’s being put together in a step-by-step way.”
Following the production of the turbogenerator through the shop floor, the students were shown the complex methods by which our ETC system is manufactured, including re-stocking processes, safety checks, and quality assurance.
On what their impression of the shop floor was, one student said; “It’s much calmer and cleaner than I thought it would be, but at the same time it’s very busy.” to which Nils responded “You’ve got to have an organised workplace. It’s the most fundamental part of our organisation.”
Can we do better?
Nils asked the students to highlight areas which they thought could be improved upon or handled in a different way.
Regarding the supply of our components, one student suggested to locate suppliers which are closer to Bowman’s site to cut transportation times. Nils responded; “When we look at manufacturing, reliability and quality is the top priority, rather than the transportation cost of a particular part. If it fails on a customer and we have to send an engineer out to fix it, both we and the customer lose out.”
Looking at our production line, one student commented “I thought that you had the different areas well organised, but then there seemed to be an opportunity to move the products through the shop floor quicker, especially when it requires more than one person to move.”
Darren Smith, our Production & Site Services Manager said; “There is always room to improve, and one of the things we’ve been looking at is reducing the effort it takes to move our product from one area to another.”
Mr Sheppard asked; “In terms of keeping in contact with your customers, is that something you look into regularly?” Nils answered; “Yes, we follow-up with our customers throughout the sales and installation process, getting them from the initial stages when they’re introduced to the product, through to when they’re ready to see our technology in action. Customers are keen to trial our technology, and once that happens they’re always confident that we can deliver exactly what we’ve promised.”
Taking away new insights
On his impression of the visit, one student said; “The best thing I got from this was that even though you’re quite small, you’re operating really quickly and efficiently. It’s given me a really good insight into business already.”
Mr Sheppard commented; “You’ve probably seen their eyes light up, and some of the things which you’ve said on the side have been incredibly important and very helpful.”
The number of students enrolling in Business Studies has steadily dropped over the past 15 years, and since 2010 numbers have fallen consecutively year on year. From 2013 to 2014, students who chose Business Studies fell by 3.4% alone. (Source) Engineering graduate numbers are also in need of growth, and need to “double by 2020” to meet demand (Source), with especially low enrolment figures showing for women – currently, only 6% of the UK’s engineering workforce is female. (Source)
Inspiring younger people with a passion for business, manufacturing and engineering is crucial in turning these declining numbers around. We hope that through our on-site visit, the King Edward VI School students were able to learn from a real look into manufacturing and business.