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New Age Caravans and the commitment to constant improvement

New Age Caravans operate out of two closely situated sites in the Northern Melbourne suburb of Epping in Victoria. They aren’t the biggest manufacturer of recreational vehicles, but they are amongst the best in terms of quality. To manufacture a quality product that consistently meets the needs and expectations of their customers, David Lawrence; New Age Site Manufacturing Manager, turned to Empower Factory Productivity & Job Scheduling Software. Empower was created through the manufacturing revolution of Kaizen and we know it today as lean manufacturing. But Empower isn’t just a time tracker; it’s much more than that, a whole lot more.

In lean manufacturing, Kaizen refers to brainstorming ideas and implementing daily activities that continuously improve processes. It involves all employees from management to factory-floor workers. It’s not just about recording what’s going on in the factory, it’s about fitting the right employees to work where they’re strongest. A slow worker in cabinet making could be a wizard on the beam saw. Someone struggling on the CNC machine may be better suited to cabinetry assembly. David says, “You need the right tools to manage your greatest resource; your people”

But it’s not all about productivity. New owners Walkinshaw Automotive Group are famous for their high-performance and luxury GMH vehicles. They are an Australian icon and have integrated their unprecedented automotive expertise in engineering, design, and manufacturing to introduce a new level of innovation to the RV industry. You don’t compete successfully at Bathurst unless you understand something about reliability and performance and so, New Age use their expertise and know-how in rough durability testing; robotic welded chassis and clay modelling for prototype design that has resulted in numerous design awards.

Around a staggering 90% of Australian joiners and cabinet manufacturers either use paper time sheets or no time sheets at all. This results in management knowing little about the productivity in their workplace. At best, time sheets are unreliable and collect little useful information that management can use to make positive changes. In addition to that, time sheets only provide limited data when they are collated, and this usually happens at the end of the day and at some cost to a manager who has to sift through all the paperwork. It’s too little and it’s too late. For David and the management team at New Age, this was unacceptable.

David started out at New Age eighteen months ago and set about rebuilding a team of skilled workers who would rely on each other to meet deadlines and keep New Age profitable. In addition to a plan to upgrade the company’s equipment, David set about ensuring that each employee worked as part of a well-knit team where each person’s unique skills were utilised to the full advantage of the company. To achieve an outcome that could justify pay increases for workers and investment in new technology, David needed to know exactly what was going on in the factory. Empower provides David the ability to fully understand the costs to manufacture every single part of a caravan.

There are three major influences on any manufacturing plant. These are your materials, your equipment, processes and your labour. Of these three, your labour is the most difficult to keep track of and to utilise effectively. Empower allows David to see what’s going on in the factory at any time. It’s instant feedback and changes can be made based on real-time information that is always reliable. David previously took a cabinetry company with eighteen factory workers and reduced the factory workforce to six people with the same output! David’s work in the CNC department and cabinetry assembly area have yielded such positive results that the processes are to be rolled into manufacturing across every New Age department.

Already at the New Age cabinet shop, David has reduced the number of CNC machines from six to two and although they intend to invest in a CNC machine with on-board edge banding, the reduction in equipment has saved the company not only machines, but floor space, time and labour costs. It’s a staggering saving for small to medium companies that amounts to millions of dollars even over a few years. David said, “I know exactly what’s going on in the factory without ever leaving my office. Even if I am away, I can see what’s going on. If we make a change to our processes, we can evaluate them based on past performance; there’s never a backward move, it’s all progress and savings.”

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