As we reached the end of 2019, I wonder how many people have said to me something along the lines of “where did that year go”? And yet, once again, as I look back over the year, I am astonished by how much has been achieved.
Here are some of my highlights from “a year in torque”.
The quarter started with something to celebrate: we learnt that December 2019 had been our best month of factory output ever and the fact that this happened in December when we lose a week due to the Christmas holidays makes this all the more remarkable.
In this first quarter, discussion of BREXIT dominated. Will we leave on 29th March? Exactly how will we leave? What preparations can we make to ensure that we have continuity of supply? A lot of work then went into this but as it turned out to be for nothing – nothing in March at any rate – but the upskilling of the department in terms of export processes will stand us in good stead for times to come.
February saw our annual Careers Open Evening. This is targeted at children in the later years of school, trying to make career choices. One of our objectives from the evening, although far from the only one, is to fill our apprentice vacancies. The event was a great success, as indicated by the feedback that we received from our guests on the evening.
ISO 6789:2017 is something that we have been closely involved with, this being the standard covering the design and testing of torque wrenches. In February our Singapore company ran a successful seminar covering the purpose of the standard and how it differs from previous versions and finally, how our TWC Auto torque wrench loader makes it easy to perform a calibration to the standard. This resulted in a good number of enquiries for us to follow up.
Fun fact for the quarter: aerosol air fresheners can set off fire alarms as all those employees forced to stand outside on a cold March day can now testify!
We started April by running 4 RCI (rapid continuous improvement) projects and again we were honoured to receive visitors joining our projects from around the wider company in addition to our leaders and mentors in lean manufacture from Shingijutsu Consulting in Japan.
It is always nice to get visitors and nicer still when they give us glowing comments, as reported in our April team briefing. Some of the comments from visitors in the period included “special atmosphere”, “blown away”, “amazing”, “great vibe”, “so helpful” and “focused on doing great work”.
Our Easter raffle raised £446 which was donated to Banbury Young Homeless Project (BYHP).
May saw us at the OTC exhibition in Houston. This has been a regular event for us but this time it was different because we exhibited with our colleagues from Snap-on and Fastorq. This enabled us to demonstrate the astonishing range and capability that the combined company has.
In June we had a change of leadership: Andy Lobo became our new Managing Director and we are thrilled to have him join us. One of his first tasks was to chair a meeting of Norbar Directors from our Norbar companies around the globe which we held in June, discussing strategy and giving an insight into our product plans.
One of our recruitment philosophies is to “catch ‘em young”. We believe that in trying to tempt children into engineering careers, secondary school is often too late. To that end, we were pleased to host 5 groups of year six students from Dashwood Primary School for tours and practical demonstration. A great time was had by all (yes, including us)!
In June our UKAS accredited laboratory achieved accreditation to ISO 17025:2017 “requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories”. This meant that all six of our labs had either achieved accreditation or were in the advanced stages of achieving the transition to the latest version of the standard.
July saw the first phase launch of our TruCheck™ 2 torque tester, the second generation of our popular torque tester family. This brings new features like colour display, USB data output and robust aluminium housing but retains the things that people loved about the original – ease of use, highly accurate and reliable.
In an important period for product launches, we are now shipping our new cordless torque tool, the EBT. Cordless was very much the missing piece in our range of powered torque tools so this was the most eagerly awaited product from Norbar for many years. Undoubtedly this is the start of our cordless tool journey rather than the end and it is truly exciting to be on this journey.
In September we were back to the Offshore Europe exhibition in Aberdeen, for the first time in several years. A new exhibition centre in Aberdeen was a huge improvement over the previous location and this contributed to it being a good show for us. We showed a couple of ideas to get pistol grip, powered multipliers onto bolt flanges where they would not traditionally fit, creating much interest. However, the cordless EBT was the highlight of the Norbar exhibit.
In November we were at the ADIPEC exhibition in Abu Dhabi, joining a strong British presence, many of those companies, like us, exhibiting on the EIC “British Pavilion”. Always a lovely show with lots of enthusiastic visitors from the region and beyond – and so it proved to be again. We are already booked for 2020.
Our final product launch of the year and it is an absolute cracker – the T-Box™ 2. The original T-Box™ was still exceeding our expectations but, regrettably, electronic components become obsolete and despite trawling the world for additional supplies of the required parts, we could no longer make the product. However, turning this into an opportunity and learning many lessons from our earlier TWC Auto torque wrench loader product, we designed the new T-Box™ with its beautiful 10-inch, high resolution screen, lighting fast processor and its ability to simultaneously read two transducers.
And so Christmas comes around again with lunches to be served to all of the various shifts by our restaurant, children’s Christmas party to be run, Christmas jumper day and our famous raffle which, this year, raised nearly £800 for the Katharine House Hospice.
Happy New Year
Here we are at the beginning of 2020 and it promises to be a momentous one, for the world at large and for Norbar. BREXIT will happen, whatever we think about that, but we are prepared for it. It just remains for me to wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.