Paul Gabbutt, a 40-year veteran of the automotive manufacturing sector and Director of Throughput UK Limited. He began his career at Vauxhall in 1975 as a machine tool apprentice. After completing his apprenticeship and achieving high grades in some further education, Vauxhall asked Gabbutt to leave his role on the plant floor and take an office job instead. Within months he managed major purchasing projects, notably being responsible for sourcing a £60 million tri-axis press for the Merseyside plant. As his role in the company grew, he travelled regularly to Germany, building a network and ensuring that Vauxhall was optimizing its CAPEX spend.
When superior Japanese manufacturing techniques arrived in Europe, Gabbutt was amongst the first at Vauxhall to work directly with some of the ex-Toyota executives who joined the firm. He learnt first-hand how to optimize workflows, processes, and manage the cultural change that was required to move to a lean manufacturing model.
“Efficiency soared as every part of the business began to be seen as a mini project,” Gabbutt explained. “Whether it was cleaning, maintenance, building, or budgeting, everything could become more productive, everything could become more efficient.”
Over the course of his long career Gabbutt rose to the position of Senior Operations Executive and saw productivity soar, efficiencies in the industry rise, robots emerge as replacements to workers, and the headcount of workers drop.
“When I joined a typical plant had something like 11,000 employees and, by the time I left, there were maybe only 2,100,” he explained. “Yet thanks to lean manufacturing, gains in productivity, and optimized production processes, we could produce more cars per hour than we could when I first started.”
Within the automotive plants Gabbutt explains that there is software that helps plant managers to direct production and meet productivity targets. The problem, though, is that while this software offers a clear vision of where the plant is right now, it doesn’t help in predicting the impact of the choices made today on the future state of that plant.
“What plants don’t have right now is a tool that allows them to look forward, to think about next year and the next model,” he said. “Without a tool like Cosmo Tech the plant manager relies only on experience, intuition, preparation efforts, pre-runs and different things like that. But with Cosmo Tech? You have an accurate forecast and you know what will happen on launch day and beyond.”
Gabbutt sees particular value in using Cosmo Tech Simulation Digital Twin technology when it comes time to re-tool the plant in preparation for a new model launch. When there is so much revenue on the line and so many things that could go wrong, having the predictive and prescriptive analytics that Cosmo Tech provides plant managers is a crucial competitive advantage.
“The Cosmo Tech software enables you to model a plant, ask ‘what-if’ questions, run different scenarios, identify bottlenecks, and make plans in advance,” he explains. “When it comes to a new model launch, this is a tool that every plant needs.”
Faced with complex operating environments and supply chains, Gabbutt believes that Cosmo Tech’s Simulation Digital Twin technology can help plant managers and senior executives to plan for a path through the present and into a future that is more robust and more resilient to unexpected crises.
The COVID-19 coronavirus crisis, for example, that has today led to the shutdown of automotive plants in Europe, the US, and Asia is an example of one of these unexpected impacts and it has hit the automotive manufacturing sector hard. Indeed, as Gabbutt explains, with the port city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, being one of the main export gates for Chinese automotive parts to ship to the world, it is a crisis that hit the automotive sector earlier than most.
Yet it is also one that Gabbutt believes will see the industry bounce back with strategically optimized plans and a drive to achieve new high standards for productivity and operational efficiency.
“The coronavirus is a massive issue, but if there is any upside at all it is that it gives people time to think about other things,” explains Gabbutt. “Senior management will be looking strategically at what they can do coming out of this. They shouldn’t just stand still and think we’ll just start again. Instead, they’ll want to come back in a stronger position than they were when things stopped.”