Queen’s Award Winning Company Achieves Resilient Supply Chain Enabling Further Growth Thanks to Industry-Academia Research Collaboration
Markes International is one of the world-leading developers and manufacturers of scientific instruments for thermal desorption and time-of-flight mass spectrometry. In-house, advanced software development capabilities compliment Markes International’s hardware solutions and occupy a technology niche embedded in a multi-billion dollar industry. Markes International also has a worldwide presence with offices in the UK, USA, Canada, Germany and China, with over 240 employees in total.
The company has been enhancing the analysis of trace organic chemicals since 1997, focussing on R&D and bespoke solutions/applications. Although the manufacturing, supply chain systems and processes in place have served the company well and enabled rapid growth, the company needed to tackle the step-change associated with this growth target.
The 2018 project with ASTUTE 2020helped enhance the resilience of the Markes International’s manufacturing systems and supply chain through the application of novel methodologies such as Robust Agile Lean Flexible (RALF) and dynamic capabilities.
After meeting the ASTUTE 2020 team at a business networking event in 2017, the Markes team started the collaboration by reviewing their business needs via a quick scan audit, and identified three clear project objectives;
- to enhance the resilience of the supply chain,
- optimised production scheduling, and
- to improve inventory control and forecasting.
In many industries and supply chains inventories are necessary for smoothing out any imbalances between supply and demand. Yet, they also represent a major economic burden as significant capital is tied-up in these.
The goal of effective production planning and inventory management in a supply chain is to have the correct inventory at the right place. However, managing production and inventory in complex supply chains is typically difficult, and decisions may have a significant impact on the customer service level and supply chain system-wide cost.
Therefore, this collaborative project took a holistic approach to the challenges by examining supply chains, production scheduling and inventory control.
The project’s goals were to:
- Enhance the resilience of markes international’s supply chain through the application of novel methodologies such as RALF; investigation and identification of critical to quality characteristics; improving information flow linkages; processes for supply chain-oriented product research and development.
- Optimise production scheduling through multi-objective optimisation and simulation of process flow and job scheduling within a multi-skilled workforce environment.
- Improvement of inventory control through the application of advanced inventory control via forecasting systems and policies, including judgemental forecasting.
The project supported the company’s objective of realising output in line with sales growth. Capacity has doubled, maintaining rates of 5 to 10% ahead of sales revenue year on year.
This was established through:
- Identification and eradication of key production constraints.
- Introduction of five new technical staff at the facility in key areas of the fulfilment process.
- Targeted investment of capital spends aimed at supporting the previous two actions.
Markes International embarked on a radical re-development of their supply chain, following a strategy developed out of our 2018 collaboration, aimed at delivering a resilient supply base in the short to medium term. The company went on to review forecasting algorithms developed at Cardiff Business School to help to plan builds for service items of high, low or indeterminate usage.
The company also began a long-term process of cultural change, introducing the concept of continuous improvement and creating the time and opportunities for employees to participate and share knowledge.
The collaboration enabled Markes International and Cardiff University to develop closer ties, which provided opportunities for undergraduates to participate in industrial-based projects. One such example is Markes’ 2022 sponsorship of a Masters studentship at Swansea University’s WCPC Group.
Further business successes for Markes included the receipt of two prestigious Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in 2019, in ‘Innovation’ and ‘International Trade’ categories.