Local businesses are discovering that with a little Japanese know-how, they can increase output and productivity from existing equipment without incurring additional capital costs.

Invest Northern Ireland is helping companies implement a Japanese technique called Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), which is a proven company-wide improvement strategy focusing on equipment maintenance.

Belfast company Victor Stationery is one of the businesses to benefit from the technique. The company was introduced to TPM last year through Invest NI’s Business Improvement Service, which arranged for one of the leading TPM training providers in the UK to visit the company and provide training in the factory.

Tracy Meharg, Managing Director of Innovation and Capability Development Services, who recently visited Victor Stationery to see the improved production processes in action, comments: “In Northern Ireland, typical equipment output is below 50% of potential output. Invest NI’s TPM programme aims to help companies drive up their equipment output to world-class standards, typically 85%, and so improve competitiveness and profitability. Even an increase in equipment effectiveness from 40% to 50% represents a 25% increase in throughput.

“Many companies, like Victor Stationery, have found that TPM not only improves the efficiency of equipment but also enhances teamwork among employees and increases the skill levels and enthusiasm of the workforce. By introducing companies to this technique Invest NI is helping them maximise existing equipment and staff, which is increasingly vital in an intensely competitive global marketplace.”

Says Managing Director, Gareth McClay: “TPM has become a key factor in contributing to the continued competitiveness of Victor Stationery. Due to utilisation of TPM techniques the changeover time of a key machine now takes a quarter of the time (i.e. 270 minutes down to 60 minutes) and the resulting increases in efficiency and productivity have had a direct impact on the company’s bottom line. The support and guidance offered by Business Improvement Services has been essential in helping Victor Stationery implement TPM effectively.”