Copeland Corporation, the US-owned manufacturer of air conditioning and refrigeration compressors in Cookstown, Co Tyrone, expects to save over £220,000 this year from an Invest Northern Ireland-backed business improvement programme.

Copeland used the Six Sigma programme, provided by Invest NI’s Business Improvement Services, to identify the reasons behind manufacturing inefficiencies that were adversely affecting the company’s productivity and adding to overall costs.

The company, part of the Emerson Climate Technologies of St Louis, Missouri, tackled the problem by means of four separate Six Sigma projects that involved setting up employee teams to pinpoint and analyse the problems and to recommend remedial action. All the projects were completed within six months.

One of the projects focused on waste levels resulting from manufacture of a key component used in the compressors.

Victor Jordan, Head of Invest NI’s Business Improvement Services, commenting on Copeland’s Six Sigma successes, said: “Six Sigma is a structured and proven improvement technique that helps companies to develop and deliver near-perfect products and services that will result in more business from existing and potential customers.

“It seeks to achieve this by helping companies measure inefficiencies’ in a process and then to decide how they can get as close to ‘zero defects’ as possible. This has obvious benefits in terms of increased productivity, lower scrap costs and better bottom line performance.

“Invest NI’s support for this project is in line with our Principles for Business Support which seek to offer a customised business solution to help companies achieve sustainable growth,” he added.

Declan Billington, Copeland’s Plant Manager at Cookstown, said Six Sigma had provided a structured approach to obtain essential data about aspects of the manufacturing operation.

“We found Six Sigma to be an excellent technique that enables us to make better informed decisions that are based on accurate data from a continuous monitoring of particular machinery. It changes the culture of a business to make decisions based on this real time data.

“By using Invest NI’s Six Sigma programme we were able, for example, to use the data to pinpoint a problem causing waste and to reduce levels in one important process by over 60 per cent with obvious benefits in terms of cost savings, increased productivity and consistently high quality products,” he added.