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56 www. bus- ex. com February 10 times. In this way we've streamlined the whole system." Product quality is also dependent on good suppliers and subcontractors. " We have preferred suppliers and subcontractors. We're in a partnership with them- as we are with our customers- so we focus on building long-term relationships, then if we find we have any quality issues we can send our QA team out to identify the problem and help them solve it. Believe me, if anyone ever says they never have a quality issue they're probably not telling the whole truth." The company invests around £ 2 million annually in new equipment to ensure the factory remains at the forefront of a very competitive marketplace. During 2008, $ 2 million ( approximately £ 1.2 million) was spent on a new grinding machine; in 2009 a new gantry milling machine was installed; and a £ 250,000 carburising furnace is just going through the last phases of commissioning. Once up and running in February, it will be the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. The size of some of the David Brown mining products is staggering. " Last year we manufactured our heaviest ever girth gear which weighed 84 tons. We also produced our largest face width gear measuring 1.26 metres." With such cutting gears over 14 metres in diameter and two Maag SH730 machines capable of supporting the market in the less than seven metre range." The company's reputation has been built on the design, quality and reliability of its products, with each of its manufacturing sites investing considerable resources into maintaining these standards. Quality is understandably at the top of the agenda- the Benoni site is ISO 9001 compliant and operates six sigma throughout. " We have two six sigma black belts on site and the majority of staff have gone through green belt training," Gorman says. " We also run lean on the factory floor and aim at continuous improvement." The improvements, even in a factory already operating lean and six sigma, can be stunning. One recent green belt project looked at the repair process being operated for a local utility company. " Originally we were taking 26 weeks to repair their gear boxes from start to finish, and we have reduced that to eight weeks," Gorman says. Previously, each repair was non- standard and performed as the engineer saw fit. " What we've done is standardise the repairs. Standardising the refurbishment has allowed us to carry stock items which generally eat up delivery

David Brown Gear Industries but our time schedule is tight, and it will happen this year." All of this requires highly skilled staff. For the past five years, the company has been tackling the skills shortage by taking two graduate engineers every year directly from university. " We train them and then see if they want to stay with us, or if we want them to stay. Currently, around 50 per cent have remained in the company." At the other end of the spectrum, an apprentice training scheme was launched two years ago, which combines training at a new in- house education centre at the Benoni plant and training at the local college. Through these two initiatives, the company is acquiring and training new staff in the highly specialised area of gear and gear box manufacture. More than that, it is ensuring that the skills and knowledge its existing staff have built up over years of service can be passed on to the next generation of engineers, maintaining the standards of quality and reliability upon which the company's reputation is based. - Editorial research by Robert Hodgson large parts being moved around the factory, good health and safety practices are vital. " We have zero tolerance on health and safety throughout the group," Gorman says. At the customer facing end of the business, relationships are of great importance, according to Gorman. " We always listen to the voice of the customer, and find out what they're looking for." This then directs research and product development as well as new services. DBGI has always strived to be the best of class. Perhaps the most exciting development in recent years, though, has been on the service side of the business, and this is directly in response to customers' needs. With little capital investment currently going into new mining projects, customers are increasingly requiring service and repair for their existing equipment. A new service section has been installed at the Benoni plant and the company is examining the options for investing in similar facilities in the Northern Cape Province and at Witbank, Mpumalanga Province. " We're currently looking at either renting or buying sites, February 10 www. bus- ex. com 57