Mike Stenson has been in an operations role at Kingspan for over 10 years, prior to that he developed experience in the fast-paced electronics industry. It is immediately obvious that he embodies Kingspan’s clear sense of purpose to lead the field in high performance insulation globally by bringing innovative, solutions-led, proprietary technologies to the market. What is also apparent is Mike’s complete belief in his people and their ability to act as the catalysts for turning company goals into real solutions for customers. We asked Mike to share some of his thoughts.
It’s perhaps slightly unusual to begin an article focused on manufacturing with such emotive words at opposite ends of the scale. Isn’t it all about systems, processes, methods and measure? Talk to Mike Stenson, Operations Director for Central and Eastern Europe and Russia (CEER), and you quickly find that’s just one important part of the story at Kingspan. Behind its laser-focus on delivering solutions for customers, is a team of individuals unified in bringing their imagination, their passion and drive to the pursuit of perfection. Become reveals the manufacturing story with a mighty human factor.
K-Magazine: Starting with the background – tell us a bit about your approach to manufacturing generally?
MS: First, I should qualify what manufacturing covers across our ten sites at Kingspan CEER as I suspect it differs slightly from what people might expect. We encompass production, quality control and R&D/new product development, which put us in the best possible position to deliver standard products and tailored solutions based on those to our existing customers. It also means we can easily bring together resources from dedicated disciplines to collaborate on innovations for the future. We take an extremely disciplined approach to all that we do, which is underpinned by programmes such as Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma, and registration to a number of important global standards. All employees at every level are encouraged to share our goal of pursuing perfection. They form the glue that enables us to consistently achieve so much. Our systems and processes are regularly audited by external agencies and we’re very proud that all our facilities are accredited to ISO9001, ISO14001 and OHSAS 18001 standards with all products being FM approved and carrying the CE mark.
As an operations person, who do you see as your customer?
I think of customers in two parts – external and internal. Without our external customers, there would be no solutions to find and no business to run, so we are absolutely laser-focused on understanding them, their businesses and their needs. We like to work in the most direct way possible with those customers who specify our products into their design schemes - engineering offices or architects, designers, specifiers, and also contractors. That way we get to understand their challenges first-hand, and have the best possible chance of getting them the right solutions. Looking internally, collaboration is absolutely key and working seamlessly with our internal customers is critical for us to be able to maximize our contribution; delivering the right products, at the right price, safely on time and in full helps to create a healthy, sustainable business that can continue to thrive as a customer and industry partner.
Kingspan has a reputation for excellence in manufacturing globally – can you tell us a bit about how this has come about? Kingspan is not a company that looks for plaudits; however, across our facilities we have a team of very genuinely committed people working hard on the day-to-day operations while also focused on improving all that we do to stay fit for the future. It’s this mindset and passion for finding even the smallest ways for us to get better that keeps us ahead.
How does all of this benefit your customers?
We have to ensure that our internal operations are totally geared to satisfying our customers. So first, our passion for manufacturing must translate into delivering perfect quality solutions for the projects that they are working on. If there’s ever a case where we do not live up to a promise we deal with in a way that the customer feels it is taken seriously and we handle it quickly and professionally. Our focus on efficient manufacturing also means we deliver predictability; meeting expectations on timing is critically important, which means talking to the customer and understanding their programme of work so that we act accordingly. Lastly, if our operations are running optimally, it means we can flex and adapt when things change. Projects sometimes take a different turn, new challenges arise but our customers know we are their partner and solutions provider in the truest sense. They have confidence in our word and in our ability to deliver to their exact needs.
How does your R&D team ensure it is working on the right value adding solutions for customers and the wider industry?
Again, I split this into two parts: first, our commercial teams spend the majority of their time with customers and on understanding the market and its challenges, and all of this rich knowledge feeds directly into our R&D team. Second, the internal operations team watches the market and our competitors to complete the 360-degree view. Being obsessed about product performance, of course means we are always considering ways in which we can stretch and enhance what we already have. Working across countries and geographic borders often requires minor developments to ensure they meet local regulations. Our recent launch of QuadCore is a good example of the way in which we bring together internal and external perspectives to develop a differentiated offer that brings a genuinely new set of benefits to the construction sector. (QuadCore profile appears on page 36 of this issue).
What factors are impacting the way manufacturing at Kingspan is evolving? How do you see things changing over the next 2-5 years?
There are many things we use to benchmark ourselves and constantly evaluate our operations. We have to be highly conscious of these as part of our mission to continuously improve, which is particularly important as we focus on being ever more responsive and flexible in the way we satisfy customers’ demands. If I had to pick out one factor that’s driving the pace of change, it is technology. Robotics manufacturing and 3D printing technologies and the use of big data, for example, have real potential to help transform how we work, not only in terms of our manufacturing processes, but also in the way we approach innovation, new product development and existing product enhancement. Looking further ahead, the use of online process controls during manufacturing, greater capabilities to collect and analyze data to pinpoint customers’ needs and wishes, the ability to offer auto order-tracking and other tailored digital services will give us an even better chance of enhancing our customers’ experience of working with us.