Worldwide demand for the laurel-wreath Sunseeker International brand yachts is at an all time high. The privately-owned business has grown steadily over its 40-year history and now has a fleet of luxury performance yachts ranging from 35ft to more than 100ft, with price tags ranging from £150,000 to £5million.
Most recently, the company launched its new flagship – the breathtakingly 108ft ‘Predator’ yacht – the largest vessel ever built by Sunseeker.
The company’s latest step on the lean manufacturing road has been to select Key Industrial Equipment in Dorset to supply all its consumable products as part of a three-year multimillion pound contract.
Key will draw on its 30 years of expertise in industrial and commercial supplies to manage all aspects of the purchase, supply and daily replenishment of consumable products to Sunseeker’s manufacturing floor.
Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) is a natural extension of Key’s core business. The company’s skills in managing its award-winning mail order catalogue business with an unrivalled range of more than 50,000 products alongside its logistics and supply chain excellence were the exact skills which Sunseeker needed.
Geoff Kemp, manufacturing and supply chain manager at Sunseeker International, sets out the company’s requirements: “As part of our lean manufacturing philosophy, we aim to reduce waste from every element of the manufacturing process including sales specifications, product design, supplier networks and factory management. A continual issue for us has been the supply of vital daily consumables to the yacht production lines.
“We never want to see craftsmen and technicians wasting time queuing or waiting for the products they need to do their jobs. Key’s role is to help us manage the consumable stores at their optimum levels.”
Sunseeker has five manufacturing sites located in Poole – two are quayside and include specialist facilities such as wood mills, a metal technology centre, an electrical assembly unit and five moulding sites. From the moulds, the sleek distinctive profiles of the Sunseeker hulls are lifted onto adjacent assembly lines. As many as 13 yacht models are in production at any given time, with the majority headed for export to overseas customers in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Far East.
The production teams draw their supplies from 50-plus stores deployed as close as possible to the point of use. These vary in size from being a small cupboard, to a cage or a large storeroom.
Together they hold more than 9,000 bins with 1,600-plus products ranging from epoxies, resins, paints, finishing materials and specialised protective wear through to drill bits, jig saw blades, buckets and paint brushes – all the consumables required to produce a yacht.
From the outset of negotiations, Key volunteered a team to spend time on site and study Sunseeker’s supply and manufacturing processes. For ten months, the team familiarised themselves with the challenges of this industry. The result was a bespoke solution based 100% upon the demands of the manufacturing process within Sunseeker International.
Julia Harding, Key’s project manager to Sunseeker, says: “Every morning from 8am, Key’s team of assessors start their tour of every Sunseeker store and crib to check and restock supplies. Each bin location is tagged for three items of information – the part number, the bin location, and the required maximum stocking level – presented as a barcode and readable text.
“The assessor, equipped with remote PDT, scans the code at each location and counts the current stock. After a three-hour circuit, the assessors return to their delivery vehicles and download the information over the net direct to Key’s warehouse. A Pick Note is immediately generated in the warehouse. This then drives the order placement and subsequent invoicing process. Key’s depth of IT infrastructure and sophisticated eProcurement platform readily accepts these remote inputs.”
Visual inspection is assisted by a simple colour-coded tagging system at each bin. When the bin is fully stocked the tag shows green and when stock is drawn the tag is turned to red to show that depletion has begun and that the stock should be counted. The team replenishes all used stock daily – urgent items can be supplied the same day.
In keeping with lean manufacturing practice, Key holds and owns all stock until the point when that item is drawn for use in production. “Stockholding for the client is minimal and we have complete visibility and control of the entire supply process,” confirms Harding. Key keeps up to six weeks stock in designated zones within the main 7,440sq m warehouse at Verwood, about 18 miles from Poole.
Geoff Kemp says: “The system has been fully operational since January. Stock-outs have been reduced to virtually zero. The production line teams have access to all the products and parts they need, and manufacturing downtime is reduced to a minimum.”