Smaller yet perfectly formed – The advantages of niche production

Bigger is not always better, claims Habasit`s Head of Group Manufacturing, Marcus Mölkner. In a market where more and more products are produced in mass quantities at dizzying speeds, the technological capacity for nuance is rare, however, that is exactly what Marcus Mölkner has come to appreciate about the Habasit production plant in Bingley, UK.

With approximately 40 dedicated employees, many of who have in excess of 25 years service, the Bingley site produces hundreds of thousands of square metres of fabric belt material each year but it is the quality rather than the quantity of their work which makes this site stand out.

Finding the right niche

“Our capability is quite broad,” explains the UK Plant Manager, Mike Tyler. “We typically take on smaller volume niche products because they can`t be made economically in the bigger facilities. All our processes are separate so we can route products through the plant to achieve constructions in several different ways. From the product development point of view, it is quite a useful capability.”

The Bingley plant is able to produce as little as 50-100 metres of one particular belt material without loss of efficiency or economic value. Their main focus is coating polyester fabrics with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), but they also use other polymers, such as TPOs and polypropylene, as well as producing a range of silicone belts.

With a wide range of possible processing permutations, they regularly produce 350-400 belt types in a variety of widths. Mike Tyler explains that it is essential for the plant to be aware of the rise and fall of sales for different products, because what was a popular order in the past, might be obsolete tomorrow. Bringing in new products and eliminating those which are no longer in demand or cost-effective keeps the plant at the cutting edge of their field. Due to their unique flexibility, they can also respond quickly to the changes in market demands by customising belt material. This can be something as small as a variant in colour, a modified finish, or a brand new construction.

“Where a sales opportunity is presented and the quantities are initially small,” says Mike Tyler, “we have been able to develop products specifically for that application.”

The evolution of success

The Bingley site was originally owned by the company Charles Walker that Habasit acquired in 2001. Since then, considerable investments in the infrastructure have been made in order to bring the plant up to Habasit`s high manufacturing standards. Lighting and ventilation were improved for a more suitable working environment and the infrastructure of the building was modified to create a better flow of production. Although the renovation was finished in 2015, Mike Tyler sees it as an ongoing process of training employees and staying up-to-date with production technology.

It is this commitment to change and high flexibility which has brought Bingley big results.

“Our approach isn`t revolutionary change,” explains Mike Tyler, “but evolutionary.” (ST)

Marcus MölknerHead of Group Manufacturing

Mike TylerPlant Manager

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