Defy EL plant manager a dream machine

Defy’s Jared Bishop is, by his own admission, a dreamer. He dreams of turning Defy’s East London plant into a world beater. His speciality, demonstrated by his previous performance, is making dreams come true.

Jared Bishop and Gladys Ntadu. ‘Gladys was meant to retire a year ago, but wants to stay on to see us hit the 90% error-free production figure.’
LINING THEM UP: Jared Bishop and Gladys Ntadu. ‘Gladys was meant to retire a year ago, but wants to stay on to see us hit the 90% error-free production figure.’

Bishop, the plant manager for manufacturing who was head-hunted to Defy in 2018, said he loved challenges.

His first one was to lift the number of fridges produced. In 2018, it climbed by 22% from the previous year. To date, 2019 is 45% up, which he wants to maintain throughout the year.

“However it is not all about the numbers, the people-oriented issues are equally important. If we can restore this plant to what it was many years ago – effectively a family business – and build job satisfaction, then the rest follows.”

Bishop is a huge fan of the softer skills. Since his arrival, Defy has resurrected its soccer team and started a rugby side.

Bishop took over following a tough time for the factory. Retrenchments had hammered company spirit.

“Shortly before I arrived, the market turned. It was easy to build a culture of ‘can do’ while fridges were flying out the warehouse doors.

“I am lucky to have the teams’ support, which is embodied in Gladys Ntadu, who is our leading line worker. At her work station, she produces at 95% accuracy. We are at 60% now and it is improving fast.

“Gladys was meant to retire a year ago but wants to stay on to see us hit the 90%.

“Without any capital programmes, we have tweaked manufacturing by reducing errors, eliminating waste and increasing throughput. It all builds a winning attitude.”

Bishop’s career started when he joined Unilever in 2003 on a learnership programme.

He said it was great company, and offered many in-house development programmes.

“One of which was the total production management course through which I became an instructor.”

Bishop was approached by Weir Mineral Africa, an international group, where he supervised a lean manufacturing programme. He was poached by Weber St Gobain, with a head office in France.

The Boksburg plant, where Bishop was based, manufactures cement-based grouting and sealers.

“My challenge was turning around a plant. It was plagued with problems, the primary one being dust pollution.”

Not only did he fix the problems, which included health issues from workers breathing in cement dust, inefficient processes and poorly maintained infrastructure, but the plant became Weber’s top producer.

Bishop was again head-hunted, this time by Defy.

He has four immediate goals for the plant: Ensuring that any performance improvements are sustainable; making Defy fridges the unit of choice; integrating the company back into the local community and instilling a culture of environmentally friendly production.

“Long term, my dreams are a lot more ambitious. We need to replicate some of the leading companies in China, producing 80,000 units a day. We do that in a year. I want us hitting 200,000 a month in six years, with a huge export drive.

“Achieving these numbers would require a host of local suppliers, all on a ‘just in time’ parts delivery programme. We only have four now, but as we grow, so will they.

“It won’t be a case of reinventing the wheel. We are part of Arçelik AS, a Turkish global giant. Its huge range of electronic products, small home appliances and kitchen accessories would be available to us. Big dreams, but all possible.”