Hendersons Automotive Group

Continuous Improvement in Automotive Manufacturing: Hendersons Automotive Group


Courtesy of Hendersons Automotive Group

Cleaner production measures introduced in 1992 by Hendersons Automotive Group have resulted in annual savings of $270,000. The measures cost a total of $309,000, and paid for themselves in only 18 months after implementation. The biggest investment of $235,000 involved the commissioning of a seat slide pre-treatment system, while the others were good housekeeping measures which have helped raise cleaner production consciousness among the 180 employees at the company’s Melrose Park plant in South Australia.

Staff are involved in continuous improvement programs oriented to cleaner production, that have resulted in employee bonuses of more than $63,000 since 1993. These programs are an integral part of the business strategy, by which Hendersons are meeting the stiff competition from both home and abroad.


Hendersons Automotive Group, with its 100-year history of operations, is one of the success stories of the Australian manufacturing industry. Hendersons is a part of the National Consolidated Group, a publicly listed company. The Melrose Park Plant in South Australia has been manufacturing for nearly 50 years.

The Group is the major supplier of automotive seating components and systems in Australia. It also has significant export sales to North America. Nearly one million lumbar support mechanisms are exported annually from the Melrose Park Plant - approximately 20% of the plant's sales turnover.

Cleaner production initiatives

In 1992, Hendersons commissioned an external consultant to review the environmental and safety practices at the Melrose Park plant. As a result of this review, an Environmental Committee was formed to maximise input from the shop floor on how the myriad of day-to-day practices and procedures of the 180 plant employees could be improved or adjusted. The Committee set out to determine ways to:

  • reduce waste;
  • improve working conditions;
  • reduce the environmental impact of the factory output; and
  • reduce costs.

The Environmental Committee review, and Hendersons Automotive management's commitment to a policy of continuing improvement, led to a variety of measures:

  • a new seat slide pre-treatment system, costing $235,000, which involved the installation of a water re-treatment plant and an upgrade of the electric industrial ovens to gas-fired models;
  • recycling of industrial consumables, ranging from small, relatively insignificant items to quite large pieces of equipment, and including:
  • welding wire containers
  • welding wire spools
  • scrap steel
  • robot weld tips, nozzles and heads
  • gloves
  • wooden skids and pallets
  • packing materials
  • office stationery
  • replacing 60-litre bins with 240-litre recycling bins; costing $1,000, the larger bins did not have to be replaced as often, thus reducing labour cost.
  • replacing oil-based lubricants with water-based lubricants to reduce dermatitis and decrease waste disposal frequencies; this measure has proved to have a triple benefit: improved safety, better quality through a reduction in rust associated problems, and reduced costs.
  • installing a $70,000 error-detection system to reduce waste in the production process. Detection of problems before components and assemblies leave the factory helps to minimise customer returns.

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