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But how does FSL ensure the smooth running of its supply chain with all the complexities and challenges of purchasing, warehousing, transportation, customer service, supply and demand planning? Nicola Woodley, purchasing manager at FSL, explains: “Managing our supply chain involves dealing with lots of variables: people, activities, information and resources, but that’s where our 30 years’ expertise comes in. We’ve got excellent IT systems, industry-savvy employees and a strict checking and processing system which help us ensure we run a tight ship. This means we can supply a consistently high- quality product, that’s competitively priced, delivered on-time and with fantastic customer service.” As an aerospace industry supplier, quality is at the heart of FSL’s business and it has an impressive 99.3% right first time accuracy rate and 98% rate for on time in full. FSL’s quality systems comply with both the specialised aerospace industry standard AS9120 and the more generic BS EN ISO 9001:2008. Products can be supplied to meet most aerospace company standards, including GE Aviation, MBDA, Meggitt Avionics and Eaton Aerospace. RIGHT: FSL’s Darren Holloway and Nicola Woodley holding their SC21 awards Joined up thinking FSL walks the walk when it comes to continuous improvement and has successfully gained four consecutive 21st Century Supply Chains (SC21) bronze awards. As part of its supply chain management, the company works with suppliers that support the concept of SC21 - one of the most important aerospace industry standards, requiring companies to develop and implement a ‘Continuous Sustainable Improvement Plan’ and sustain consistently high on the delivery and quality performance. “One of the ways FSL avoids any supply chain issues, is by monitoring the performance of our key suppliers in terms of quality, delivery, enquiries quoted and progressing response time,” states Woodley. “We then rate them into gold, silver or bronze categories. We even get suppliers competing to win the gold certificate we issue each quarter. We’re always asking the question: ‘What would happen if this supplier couldn’t deliver a product?’ We carry out supplier risk assessments and development plans annually. By adopting this approach we avoid any hiccups in our supply chain and we get the best result for our clients.” And client satisfaction certainly seems to be high amongst FSL customers. Michelle Kinney, senior customer LEFT: FSL avoids supply chain issues by monitoring the performance of its key suppliers BELOW: FSL Aerospace supplies fasteners and fixings to the aerospace and defence industry services officer at MBDA, a world- leader in the manufacture of missiles and missiles systems, and one of FSL’s biggest clients, says: “The service response times that FSL continue to provide to urgent customer requirements is excellent.’’ But what do FSL suppliers think of its supply chain management? Sally Matthews, managing director of West Midlands-based Performance Fasteners, comments: “FSL has very tight supply chain management. They have strict criteria, checking and processing system. FSL has got to be this tough as in the aerospace and defence sectors accuracy is everything. In the case of Performance Fasteners, we supply parts that have tolerances less than the width of a single strand of hair – so precision is our watchword.” As you’d expect, IT systems play a key role in the 21st century supply chain. Again FSL demonstrates this well. FSL’s fully integrated contact management and enquiry system tracks the supply of product direct to the point of use on the client’s premises, and its OCR Scanning system provides document storage and instant retrieval, be it a part number, purchase order or product drawing. Darren Holloway, FSL’s sales executive, says: “IT is a key area of investment for us. Good IT systems make us more efficient and help us provide a better service to our clients. But we also truly value the skills and resources we have in our people.” It pays to plan ahead FSL’s employees play a massive part in the smooth running of its supply chain. The company has a strong track record of delivering added value by helping strategic buyers save time and money through process improvements. And the wealth of technical product knowledge amongst its employees sets FSL apart from its competitors by enabling it to offer much valued technical guidance to its clients. Another important element is contingency planning. It seems that even flood, fire and famine couldn’t throw a spanner into the smooth running of FSL’s supply chain management, thanks to its real time data back-up at its remote hosting site in Milton Keynes. Holloway added: “In an emergency, we would relocate to our dedicated disaster fireproof recovery suite in Milton Keynes, where we’d have instant access to all crucial data and information. Disruption to clients would be minimised. Thankfully we’ve never had cause to use this!” And let’s hope FSL never have to, but the very existence of such a room underlines the company’s attention to detail, commitment to its clients and ability to forward think and plan for any eventuality - a crucial skill when man- aging the complexities and challenges of today’s supply chain. Benjamin Franklin would be proud! Aerospace Manufacturing November 2015 19