14 June 2021
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Think fasteners first

Fastener considerations in new and growing factories, by Wayne Corcoran, group logistics and operations manager at vendor managed inventory (VMI) provider TFC

When John F. Kennedy visited the NASA Space Center in 1962, he introduced himself to the cleaner and asked what he was doing. The cleaner replied "Well, Mr. President, I'm helping put a man on the moon." There is a parallel in manufacturing facilities, where every person, regardless of their function and every component, regardless of its size, contributes to a much larger picture.

As companies gear up for growth post lockdown, many are launching initiatives to expand existing facilities, open new ones or simply optimise their current processes. When building a new facility or expanding an existing one, fasteners — like NASA’s janitor — may seem like a less glamorous component compared with machine tools, robots or connected software solutions. However, there is a lot to be gained by considering C class components at an early stage.

Considering fastener supply early when designing a new facility enables manufacturers to best manage the available space. For example, in a facility without a dedicated fastener storage space, the manufacturer must retrospectively devise an effective way of delivering essential components to the line, to the right work area, at the right time. Luckily, there are ways to work around this — the crucial factors are minimising inventory and locating it in the right place.

If space is tight, it becomes more important to avoid overstocking of components. A third-party supply chain partner can assess the site to determine both the minimum and maximum levels, to make sure there is a sufficient supply of parts to prevent downtime, but not so many that it will take too much space. They will assess your site and interpret historic data to understand the needs of your business and devise a strategy. When choosing a partner to manage your supply base, it is important to know that it offers flexible, tailored solutions, which can maximise the opportunities for your business.

If there is limited space at the point of use, supply chain specialists may suggest a central store solution. While this is an adequate option in many cases, it does mean valuable time is lost as employees walk from their station to the central store to collect the required components. In many cases, it is more efficient for the fasteners to be delivered direct to the point of use. While it is possible to work around space constraints if needed, thinking about fastenings as part of facility design can ensure you have space for all the components you need.


For example, TFC worked with a start-up as it moved into a multi-million purpose-built facility, where fastener supply was not prioritised up front. As a new company, it had usage data on what parts were needed, but it was not specific to the points of use in the new facility. TFC worked closely with the customer to devise tailored VMI solution for its fasteners, consumables and personal protective equipment. After gaining a detailed understanding of the business, TFC suggested a two-phased approach, first installing a central stores VMI solution, before moving to direct to line once satisfactory output volumes were achieved.

In another example, TFC was called in to help a manufacturer who was opening a new site. The customer had historical data on usage from other facilities, so TFC could assess minimum and maximum levels and implement a solution that suited the available space. Close collaboration with the customer was essential to deliver a solution that worked around space and manufacturing requirements.

C-class components may not be the first thing to mind when thinking about growing a business, but a managed solution for C-class components can make a big difference: Just like every employee at NASA directly contributes to a mission’s success.

An experienced VMI provider like TFC can guide you through the process, consult on the options and devise and implement a plan.

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