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A day of swings & roundabouts


Well it’s another production meeting here at Sutcliffe Play’s Yorkshire factory, and we’re short of a parrot and two adult flats. That’s a parrot springie and two adult swing seats, in black.

No one thinks this is a little strange but when I recite the meeting later in response to the “how was work today?” question, jaws fall open and a look of horror flashes across my children’s faces.

That isn’t the half of it, I didn’t go into the ongoing inspection for “snotters” (that’s trade talk for the blemishes on galvanised product) or crutch supports (part of a cradle swing). It’s just the everyday language of the factory producing (according to me) Britain’s best play equipment.

Eventually the parrot was tracked down, someone had misidentified it as a crocodile and all was well in the world of making things.

Later that same day a customer called to say they’d ordered the wrong length posts and could we make them longer. The delivery was due to leave the next day, so plenty of time then. A quick call to the team leader and the offending posts were sent back into the metal shop and duly extended as required and repacked for delivery to site.

In the afternoon I did my normal tour of the factory, I don’t need to do this really as the control systems are very good, but we’re an employee owned business and I like to talk with the guys in the factory to see how things are going generally. There’s always a lot of information available on such walks round, everyone’s eager to make things better, quicker and more accurate. These are the people doing the job everyday and there’s lots of good input. We implement as many of the suggestions as we can – though I’ve yet to install sky sports in the canteen, something I’m sure to be reminded of on the next walk round.

It’s nice to make things. Great Britain was one of the world’s greatest manufacturers once upon a time and although this has been largely moved to places like China, the manufacturing ethos survives and I wonder how the Chinese factories manage without a dedicated and knowledgeable workforce constantly pushing for improvements in our products and processes.

I had a long chat with one of our welders on the subject of global warming, this was as a result of one of our regular environmental audits. We discussed the pollution and carbon emissions generated by China verses the miniscule amount that we in the UK produce. The up thrust of the conversation was that given how much effort we put into reducing emissions in the UK, how come we spend so much on low cost goods from china, where pollution isn’t controlled. It’s hard to argue with logic like that…

Back to my desk and there’s an email from our Middle Eastern Distributor, who’s looking for some data on corrosion resistance. Seems a little odd as they are in the middle of the desert but I send details of our “Super durable” paint system which is proven to outperform galvanised finishes in hostile environments. It turns out that the sand in Abu Dhabi is actually 10% salt and so corrosion is a real problem there – you learn something new every day.

As my day draws to a close and the last emails go out it’s time to lock up the factory for another day and squeeze in one more cup of coffee. I’m desperately trying to keep to the clear desk policy but struggling as it’s not my natural habitat. There’s a swing anchor on my desk that we made for a resident close to the factory, we did it as a favour to help them out and they haven’t been back to collect it. Another couple of weeks and it’ll have to go in the metal recycling skip. Ah well, you win some you lose some, or as we say, just another case of swings and roundabouts….

Andrew Lane, Operations Director

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