Continuous Improvement breeds success

Maximising the capability of your supply chain is essential to business profitability and sustainability.

A focus on reducing waste in your supply chain and making the most of resources is commercially essential in today’s highly competitive market place. This is particularly relevant among companies with a large local supply base, such as those operating within our advanced manufacturing sectors.

That’s why we are working with such companies and their network of suppliers to help them collectively identify cost savings and drive productivity improvements.

Successful supply chain development projects

Ballymena-based Wrightbus has an extensive supply chain including Hutchinson Engineering in Kilrea, McAuley Engineering in Ballymoney, Indicators International in Magherafelt, Metallix and Wright Composites in Ballymena.

In a joint effort to overcome the issues normally associated with a supply chain, such as wasted effort, materials and time, these companies engaged Invest NI support towards an improvement programme. Over £1million in cost savings has been achieved as a result.

Along with the financial saving, Wrightbus is benefiting from:

  • Improved communication with its suppliers
  • Increased production line efficiency
  • Development of an automated Supplier Performance Business Intelligence system
  • Assured levels of Quality and Delivery Performance

We are pleased to see businesses like Wrightbus investing the time and effort to develop the competitiveness of their local supply chain. This initiative has resulted in many benefits for all involved and it is an excellent example of what can be achieved when you get businesses and their suppliers working collectively to improve the efficiency of the supply chain.

Why are we doing this?

  • To encourage businesses to invest in further developing the capability of their local supply chain
  • To improve the competitiveness of local supply chains among Northern Ireland businesses so they can successfully compete in international markets
  • To help develop more strategic partnerships among this network of companies

How did we facilitate this collaborative initiative

  • We provided training for all companies involved which enhanced building relationships, stimulated motivation and provided tools for improvement
  • We provided consistent benchmarks to measure performance from both Supplier and Customer perspectives
  • We organised regular monthly meetings to iron out any inconsistencies in processes

Richard Hutchinson, Operations Director at Hutchinsons Engineering, comments about his experience:

“The Wrightbus Supplier Development Programme developed by Invest NI was an essential aspect to Hutchinson Engineering's business strategy. As with any customer and in this case, as a supplier for Wrightbus, it was key to ensure that we had a solid partnership. This programme achieved this and much more, improving communication and cementing our relationship so that we now have an enduring long term strategic partnership with them.

“One other important outcome of this programme was the fact that we were able to improve our ‘on time delivery’ by 40%, which is a fantastic achievement for us. Hutchinson Engineering has also found that initiatives like this add real value to the business, adding to our knowledge base within lean manufacturing and supplier development skills. This could have not been achieved without the support of Invest NI."

David Condell, General Manager of McAuley Engineering, adds:

“Invest NI worked with both companies and gained an understanding of the issues which cause disruption in the supply chain. Using as a guide the principles of supply chain best practice we set about an improvement program, firstly aligning the data then putting some measurements and targets in place which both parties agreed to. This was backed up by regular review meetings between both companies and also each company individually with Invest NI.

“This was a very worthwhile initiative that has ensured that our customer’s requirements and our production are now much better aligned. Invest NI’s input in this initiative provided the catalyst for a fresh prospective on the issues and how we develop measures and targets which accurately reflect each company’s requirements for both information and product.”

Invest NI is calling for more companies to explore how altering their supply chain practices could improve their competiveness and avoid common pitfalls including:

  • No formal supplier KPI’s and Service Level Agreements in place
  • Late deliveries or quality not to specification
  • Poor relationships or communication with suppliers
  • Inaccurate forecasting of orders - leading to varying requirements and infringement on lead times
  • Lack of structure in inventory management - resulting in excess material or shortages
  • Limited handle on the number of suppliers and not strategically managing the supply base

This Supply Chain Self Assessment looks at the questions you should ask yourself.

To find out more call Invest NI on 0800 181 4422 or fill in the online enquiry form on