TDK-Lambda in £11.5m factory revamp

September 18, 2020 //By Nick Flaherty
TDK is to spend £11.5m (€12.5m) on redeveloping its TDK-Lambda power supply manufacturing plant in Ilfracombe, UK.
TDK is to spend £11.5m (€12.5m) on redeveloping its TDK-Lambda power supply manufacturing plant in Ilfracombe, UK.

The investment at TDK-Lambda Ilfracombe will be staged over the next three and a half years and boost production capacity by 50 percent.

The original factory was built over 50 years ago with further expansion in the mid-1980s. The company has invested heavily in new equipment and building upgrades over these
years, including the addition of a £1 million EMC Centre in 2019, but has been restricted by the structure of the building.

"We started working on this two years ago to get the factory ready for the future, and we put the plans up to corporate for approval," said Geoff Wilby, Managing Director of TDK-Lambda UK. "We had the approval in March, regardless of what was going on with Covid-19, that was a big vote of confidence from corporate. The factory is 50 years old and customer comments say the processes are good but it's quite cramped, and that inhibits our ability to automate, for example with AGVs, and with new products in the roadmap we will need more space."

The redevelopment will increase manufacturing space by moving office space outside, expand the R&D facilities and radically overhaulling and automating the end-to-end material flow. Raising the roof will allow 9m high automated storage systems to store material being used in production, and the exmapsion will give more space for a new fleet of automatied guided vehicles (AGVs). The company is evaluating the AGV systems available, which will help both social distancing and efficiency by avoiding the need for staff to push trolleys around the plant.

"The corporate drive is for 'location free' manufacturing so we are designing for common processes rather than cheap labour and that enables the UK to incorporate more lines from corporate," said Clive Davies, the redevelopment programme manager. "The VLS [automated storage] system [from Modula] uses the height of the building and also holds more inventory to stop satellite inventory stores, with FIFO (first in, fiirst out) no matter where the inventory stores. We have differing heights in the facility, but I’m having to build a new roof to get the maximum size."

The expansion will also allow the plant to make more TDK power supply designs as a second source if other parts of the world have to shut down or are hit by tarriffs.

"A lot of our customers are realising they need backup sites as Covid-19 can shut sites down," said Martin Southam, marketing director at TDK-Lambda. "The US-China trade war has led to setting up alternative sites. We have two factories in Malaysia and we are setting up a plant in Thailand by the end of this year and we’ve always had a dual manufacturing strategy in TDK-Lambda and localise more for Europe and even supply the US from here. Exchange rate fluctuations are likely to have more impact on the business day to day."

According to market research company Omdia, the global power supply market is forecast to reach almost $26bn in 2024, driven by the rapidly expanding digitalisation of economies,
increasing healthcare demands and renewable energy trends. The planned expansion will provide further supply chain robustness within the TDK-Lambda manufacturing network, especially for the European market.

The redevelopment programme will be split up into a four-stage process to ensure continuity of production and services. Stage one will be the construction of new offices, including
employees’ facilities and a health and fitness centre, on the North and West faces. The South facing office will then be extended to expand the R&D product verification and test, and manufacturing engineering facilities. Additional heat pumps and solar panels will also be installed along with renewable energy sources. "We use a lot of 

The link area between the two factory buildings will then be infilled, and Smart, Lean storage facilities and AGVs for material handling installed. Finally, the manufacturing areas will be reconfigured with designated Front End (PCB assembly) and Back End (configuration and test) production areas.

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