24th January 2021 Blog

Alpha Manufacturing Operations Manager Neal Lafford on why leadership matters more than ever in Manufacturing.

Sub contract manufacturing is always a challenging environment, with an ever-changing portfolio of parts that present their own unique hurdles to overcome. The production team must be flexible and dynamic in order to meet demand and deliver consistently. This is “the norm” in a fast-paced manufacturing environment and at Alpha Manufacturing, we have the people in our teams to constantly meet these challenges.

Since March 2020 however, the challenges faced by manufacturing production teams have been amplified as they have had to adapt to situations that could never have been expected 12 months ago due to COVID-19. From the quick adoption of new safe working practices, to the rapidly changing nature of work, to availability of material and indeed, availability of our people. Combine all this with unprecedented demand for COVID safety products and the task becomes a complicated one.

Managing all of these moving parts has been a challenge but as a team, we have managed not only to survive the situation but thrive, acquiring new customers in the process. To date, we have produced close to 10,000 sanitising and cleaning units of different types and 5000 segregation screens, since March 2020. In one project in particular, design, procurement, production and quality all came together to adapt a segregation screen design and put that new design into full production within 72 hours over a weekend in order to meet the customer’s emergency demand.

There are certainly unexpected positive outcomes that we can also take forward from the current situation. For example, the strengthening of existing relationships with customers and suppliers as we have all pulled together and adapted our methods of working. Simple things such as using platforms like Zoom in place of traditional face to face meetings, allow us to be more open and connect in a flexible way. We have also learned that remote working can be done effectively and, in some situations, actually boosts output.

Leading our teams during this period has tested us without a doubt but through strong communication and agile management I feel we’ll actually emerge stronger together. By all pulling in the same direction and adapting to changing situations as they’ve arisen, we’ve built a greater trust and understanding within our business.


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Neal Lafford has 17 years’ experience in engineering and manufacturing, with a deep understanding of operations and production management. He joined Alpha in 2012 as Business Improvement Manager before becoming Quality Manager. Neal has been Operations Manager for two years and leads Alpha’s Production, Planning, Purchasing, Production Engineering & NPI, Quality and Logistics teams.