New factory boosting productivity for Stewart Golf

With the company recently moving into a new £1m factory, Andy Brown caught up with Mark Stewart, chief executive officer of Stewart Golf, to find out how it has affected their manufacturing processes and why they are now a better supplier to the trade.

When a company invests £1 million into their business there is obviously an element of risk involved. It’s good for game of golf for those companies associated with it to succeed, so it is great to hear that this investment for Stewart Golf is really paying off. The investment was made into a new factory and office space, something which chief executive officer Mark Stewart says was vital for the firm’s future.

“We probably ran out of space two years ago and so in order for us to be able to grow sensibly it was essential. Last year we had a really big output month and we ended up having to employ almost double our workforce in temporary workers just to get bodies in the factory to get the products out of the door,” says Stewart. “So although we had a record month in sales we didn’t make as much money as we should have because we had spent it on being inefficient. We knew if we were serious about growing the business then we had to be more efficient and move. When the opportunity came to purchase the space it cost us a million pounds but it was a no-brainer; it was
the easiest decision I have ever made.”

The company had been aware for some time that a move needed to be made and they found the building they wanted, on the Waterwells Business Park in Gloucester, in the middle of 2016. The move itself happened over Easter weekend this year and everything possible was done to minimise disruption and ensure that all the boring but essential things – like phone numbers, email accounts and computer systems – transferred over correctly. The 10,500 square foot space is currently housing portacabins for their offices but phase two will be building a new office space which will take up approximately a quarter of the floor space.

The second phase will also include other additions, as Stewart explains. “Everything that we have done has been designed specifically for us. The office space will have some storage in the roof, a big communal area with a kitchen for the staff and good offices with meeting rooms. We wanted to make sure that we built something which was a nice environment for everyone to work in. As part of phase two we will also be building a dedicated service area – it will be like when you get your car serviced. There will be the showroom with all the new products and then 20 yards further down a separate service room and reception.”

The new factory will also have a dedicated space for R&D which will be very welcome but by far the biggest benefit with the new factory has been the increase in efficiency. In short, the company are producing more trolleys per hour than they were before without increasing staffing numbers – it’s a cliché but true; they are working smarter, not harder. “The biggest thing that we have found so far is that our manufacturing has become so much more efficient by having the room to organise ourselves properly. The power trolley lines are around 40 per cent more efficient – we are producing 35-40 per cent more power trolleys in our factory than we did before with the same number of people,” confirms Stewart. “That is just reducing dead time, and to the credit of all of the manufacturing team who have worked hard to ensure the set-up is the best it can be and who have tried numerous different combinations. We went from building 12-13 units a day to 21, 22, 23 a day, so it is a fantastic increase in efficiency by working smarter.”

Even without the new factory the firm have enjoyed a very strong year – their financial year runs from the end of July and when it finished in July 2017 they were a staggering 34 per cent up in terms of like for like sales. With no new products being launched this growth is a real achievement and, while push trolley sales have increased, the real driver for the business is the X9 Follow. Stewart says that at any one time the firm are ‘working on several ideas for new products’ but that as it stands there is nothing definite yet announced for 2018 regarding a new product.

While Stewart admits that the company will struggle to match the growth of 34 per cent he is confident that they will see another increase – partly due to the new factory. “In the three months that we have been here we have had three record months in terms of output. We have started to find that we have become a better supplier – in our old place there was normally a lead time of a couple of weeks for one of our electric trolleys,” he says. “When we moved in here our initial projection was that within three weeks – because of the new efficiencies – we would be in a position to house more stock. However, we have found that as we have had more product we have sold more so we still haven’t caught up yet even though we have been producing
the products at a much higher rate.”

As well as becoming a better supplier, the team at the British trolley company are also working to become a better employer. Stewart says that they have consulted with the whole team to ask what they could do to make everyone’s work-life balance better and they have already instigated a policy where the working week has been reduced by one and half hours so they can leave at 3.00 on Friday and have a longer weekend. There are plenty of different ways to run a business but, from top to bottom, the team at Stewart Golf are certainly showcasing one very successful model.