Facing the challenge

We asked Nigel Stansfield to give us his insight into the challenges faced by the manufacturing sector.

Starting at Interface in 1997, Nigel has progressed through various roles in operations, research & development and product, design and innovation to his current position of President (EMEA), therefore we felt he was well placed to share us his thoughts.

“As our planet will not provide a continuous supply of raw materials, manufacturers need to turn to more radical innovations in a bid to pioneer resource efficient ways of working. This is the challenge facing our generation generally, and manufacturing has a key role to play in tackling this. At Interface, for example, we are committed to our Climate Take Back mission. This means we don’t only want to stop global warming, but we also want to reverse it. As manufacturers, it’s essential that we constantly challenge and review every element of our manufacturing process to ensure it’s as efficient as possible.

“The manufacturing industry also faces the challenge that markets are becoming unpredictable. Periods of fast growth can be followed by decline, which has the potential to affect the bottom line if not managed correctly. Again, focusing on making manufacturing as efficient as possible is key to providing as much stability against a constantly changing market.

“One of the most exciting aspects of working in the manufacturing industry currently is the opportunity to work with other industries to source more sustainable raw materials and really challenge what is possible. “

“With such challenges facing the industry, a key part of this journey towards more sustainable and efficient manufacturing is knowledge sharing. The manufacturing industry will really flourish and succeed when we find ways to collaborate and share best practice, not only within our industry, but also across sectors. My role as EMEA president means I’m heavily involved in the UK and European manufacturing plants at Interface. As part of a global organisation, we also have the advantage of being able to share ideas and best practice across all of our manufacturing plants – which is essential to keep improving and finding new and more efficient ways of manufacturing.

“One of the most exciting aspects of working in the manufacturing industry currently is the opportunity to work with other industries to source more sustainable raw materials and really challenge what is possible. For example, we recently developed a new way to fix yarn to the backing of our carpet tiles using polyvinylbutyral (PVB) recycled from the laminate used in car windscreens. It was thought, prior to this development, that it wasn’t possible to recycle this content in this way. Working with the automotive industry to challenge this perception and make use of a previously wasted resource really sums up the innovation which can make manufacturing such an interesting area to work in. The new material has a carbon footprint that is 80 per cent smaller than that of the traditional latex precoat it has replaced.

“Focusing on developing skills within manufacturing is also essential for facilitating this drive for efficiency. Our Craigavon manufacturing plant in Northern Ireland is a key part of our global manufacturing operation, producing around five million sqm of bespoke, made-to-order modular carpet annually. We have around 190 staff within the operation and they are encouraged to constantly challenge the way we do things to find efficiencies in every element of our supply chain and manufacturing process. Our team is part of ambassador training programmes and we encourage young talent into the industry through our apprenticeship schemes. The Craigavon site also pioneered a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) network group to discuss sustainability and equality issues and we’ve doubled the female workforce in logistics and quality engineering roles. This focus on developing the skills of our workforce goes hand in hand with investing in research and development. At Craigavon, we’ve invested approximately £1.5million annually over the past five years to improve our facilities. We’ve delivered zero waste to landfill for a decade with 100% of our waste recycled on site. Over 60% of our incoming yarn is recycled and we hope this continuous investment in NI will allow the factory to have 100% renewable manufacturing processes in the next few years.”