WHS Plastics – A Matter of Distribution
WHS Plastics was established in 1933 and is now in its fourth generation as a private, family-owned company.
From its world-class UK facilities in Minworth and Runcorn, as well as its sister company WHS Plastics in Cairo, Egypt, WHS Plastics is a plastic injection moulder, toolmaker, painter and assembler.
“We are a leading tier one supplier to many Automotive motor manufacturers as well as to a variety of industries including Hygiene, Electronics and Industrial, where we operate successfully, in a highly competitive global market,” explains Andrew Kendrick, Group Sales Director for the firm. “We have an annual revenue of £50 million and employ approximately 750 people across our six sites.”
The company has built a name and reputation for itself thanks to its combination of skills and expertise in design, prototyping, toolmaking, injection moulding, painting and automation, all capabilities which WHS Plastics has in-house.
“This enables us to offer a true ‘One Stop Shop’ solution or tailor our offering to the exact requirements of our customer,” says Kendrick. “Some customers utilise our full offering and others some elements of it, but having the ability to provide the full package really differentiates us from our competitors.”
WHS Plastics is not content to rest on its laurels with this offering, it wants to further develop its strategy of being customers “Supplier of Choice” and so is currently looking to offer new, broader opportunities including acting as a distribution hub. To achieve that goal, WHS Plastics has recently opened a new distribution centre at its site in Minworth in the West Midlands. The facility covers an area of 75,000 square feet, boasting a full Warehouse Management System & VNA racking along with a fleet of semi-autonomous lithium battery-powered fork-lift trucks.
“We built the distribution centre because we wanted to develop and improve the business, increase growth and further support our customers. We had multiple on-site stock areas for materials, bought out parts, work in progress and finished goods and we wanted to consolidate that,” explains Kendrick. “Therefore, as well as the additional space that the new distribution centre provides it also gives an opportunity to centralise our storage facilities allowing us to become more efficient with material handling, improving stock accuracy and reducing our inventory levels.”
“The multiple stock areas being vacated will be ideal areas for redevelopment to increase our manufacturing capacity and so support further growth and more,” Kendrick continues.
The Human Element
Of course, it’s not enough to build new capacity and facilities. Increasing capacity brings its own challenges with it. To begin with, the new distribution centre created an increase in the amount of traffic going through the facility as a whole.
“The number of vehicles going to one site increased significantly,” Kendrick recalls. “WHS introduced a vehicle management process to resolve this with improvements including dedicated booking slots and multiple loading bays.”
But at the same time, WHS Plastics also needed to have the qualified and motivated staff necessary to run those facilities. Kendrick considers this one of the major challenges in establishing the new distribution centre.
“Specialist warehouse operatives with VNA training were very difficult to find,” Kendrick admits. “We overcame this by upskilling our own team with in-house training.”
To source and develop the people WHS Plastics needs, the company has a Human Resources team to drive the recruitment process.
“Our HR team engage with senior managers who provide the specific requirements of the role. We then go through the recruitment and interview process to ensure a good match. At operator level, we carry out aptitude tests followed by specific on-the-job training,” Kendrick tells us. “With management roles, we use specialist recruitment agents.”
As well as acquiring top-level talent, WHS Plastics also invests heavily in nurturing the industry’s next generation.
“We run apprenticeships. Just this year we started four new apprentices in various areas of the business and provide a number of undergraduate placement opportunities,” explains Kendrick. “Our up-and-coming managers are supported with leadership training and one-to-one mentoring.”
WHS Plastics has built up a new, state-of-the-art distribution centre and a pipeline for talent that will help sustain the company for generations to come, but this is only the beginning. Talking to Kendrick it is clear that WHS Plastics has a clear vision for the future.
“We have over recent years, by investing in our, site, facilities, machines, and people, developed the business to support sustainable growth. We are now looking to introduce ‘Industry 4.0’ to further improve our efficiencies,” Kendrick explains.
Kendrick points out that WHS Plastics is already considering further site development to support growth and improve productivity.
“The overall vision for the future concentrates on growth, expanding markets and making sustainability a guiding principle in our operation by reducing our impact on natural resources and minimising waste generation. We must continue to use our best assets, our people, our wide-ranging capabilities and capacities,” says Kendrick.
WHS Plastics is not just readying itself for the technological revolution driving “Industry 4.0” however. The UK is about to undergo massive industrial, market and economic changes as the real effects of Brexit finally take hold.
Many businesses looking to succeed in the new environment will be looking to find ways to base their practices within the country to avoid the administration and delays of cross-border business. It’s a role that WHS Plastics considers themselves perfectly placed to play.
“WHS Plastics is ready to support customers who have on-shoring or localisation strategies caused by the Brexit situation,” Kendrick tells us.
With a wealth of tools and talent at their disposal, and the determination to meet the new challenges of the 2020s, it’ll be interesting to see what WHS Plastics does next.