Japanese-owned Ryobi Aluminium Casting (UK) of Carrickfergus has increased its competitive position and saved over £100,000 from applying business improvement techniques with support from Invest Northern Ireland.

Ryobi was helped by Invest NI’s Business Improvement Services to increase efficiency in a product manufacturing process by using a US-developed technique known as Six Sigma.

The company, which casts aluminium products such as gearbox and clutch casings for leading European automotive manufacturers, used Six Sigma to measure production processes and pinpoint areas in which efficiency could be improved. This involved setting up employee teams to analyse inefficiencies and to recommend remedial action.

Commenting on Six Sigma successes, Peter McCarron, Invest NI’s Business Improvement Services Executive, said: “Getting the greatest possible efficiency out of all production processes is a priority because all manufacturers today are driven by the need to ensure and sustain competitiveness through downward pressure on all costs.

“Six Sigma is beneficial because it provides a structured and proven technique that helps companies to develop and deliver near-perfect products and thereby helps to ensure their ability to compete successfully and profitably for business.

“The process seeks to achieve this by enabling companies to measure the efficiency of a particular production process and then to decide how they can make improvements. This has obvious benefits in terms of increased productivity, lower costs and better bottom-line performance.

“Invest NI’s support for this business improvement 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.

John Hughes, Ryobi Aluminium’s Managing Director, said: “The automotive industry has become one of the most price sensitive sectors and manufacturers are searching continuously for new ways to control the costs of new vehicles. This has led to intense pressure on all suppliers and the need to ensure that all production processes operate to the highest efficiency levels.

“Our business strategy is focused on building partnerships with manufacturers in the development of next generation components. It is essential, therefore, that we are able to offer them the most efficient and responsive manufacturing services.

“Six Sigma is an excellent technique for collecting essential up-to-the-minute information for the more effective management of production processes. This enables us to make better-informed decisions using up-to-date information about the performance of our machinery.

“By using Invest NI’s Six Sigma programme we were able to achieve even higher levels of efficiency in a key production area, minimise waste levels and thereby enhance our ability to compete for new business from existing and new partners,” he added.