Quedgeley is home to one of Gloucestershire’s leading manufacturers and biggest exporters; Prima Dental Group.
So, what is the key to success behind the world’s largest dental bur (drill) manufacturer? Here we find why the team at Prima have something to smile about.
Prima Dental Group can trace its roots back to more than 150 years ago, and the business first established its presence in Gloucester in 1974. In 2010, the organisation moved to its current location at the Waterwells Business Park, before doubling its capacity with another production facility in 2017.
Today, a team of more than 260, alongside state-of-the-art equipment, makes Prima a reference worldwide, with its burs still proudly manufactured in Gloucester.
As world leaders, the business is committed to maintaining its reputation and continuously improving its performance. But it hasn’t always been plain sailing. Today, the rising costs of energy and the current shortage of skilled labour in the UK adds its challenges, nevertheless Prima has managed to increase its manufacturing output year on year, as well its headcount.
And it is this headcount that supports its success. Prima Dental Group has heavily invested in its team. The company’s mission – the pursuit of better – drives all that it does, and a high-performance culture programme supports this. The focus is around ensuring an engaged, multi-skilled workforce with defined career progression for all. Alongside its continuous improvement (CI) techniques, the senior leadership team are developing internal processes and infrastructures to give the planning and production teams enhanced flexibility.
Quality and control are also key to ensuring the business remains competitive and provides the best possible service for its customers. And, as the dental market is a highly regulated one, keeping up-to-date with changing legislations is vital. Adapting to new requirements to meet changing industry demands.
Investment in the best machinery has always been a priority for Prima. One of its very first bur cutting machine (pictured below) was put into service in 1960 and produced some six million burs over its 40-year life. However, efficiency was not its strength and the requirement of increased output and shorter changeover times led Prima to invest in computerised cutting machines.
This led to a partnership with Rollomatic, a Swiss Company which specialises in the design and manufacture of CNC machines which are used worldwide for the manufacture of high precision parts, including luxury watches. It’s a good collaboration – with Prima’s demand for precision and quality, they are able to use the machines “with more skills and efficiency than anyone else in their sector” as highlighted by Rollomatic.
Over the last decade Prima has invested to ensure it continues to grow and produce top quality medical devices for its customers. In the last four years this has seen circa £20 million of new equipment being installed across its Gloucester site, supporting the manufacture of some 45million burs each year.
With year-on-year growth also comes an increased demand on equipment and processes to deliver that progress. CI is one of Prima’s core values and a fundamental activity to retain the organisation’s competitiveness and world leader status in the market.
The senior leadership team regularly revisits its processes to look at value-added and value-creation activities that will deliver on customer expectations, while also eliminating the activities that don’t perform. In essence it is a working smarter, not harder, way of thinking.
This year, Prima launched its own CI deployment program where everyone in the company has been trained on basic CI principles. This is supported by individual team members undergoing specific in-depth training that will qualify them as CI practitioners. Already the business is bearing fruit from this activity – several CI projects are improving processes, while the CI practitioners are benefiting from personal development programmes that will be accredited via Cardiff University.
As Prima looks ahead to the next chapter of its manufacturing history, it is not difficult to understand the team’s optimism.
With a focus on innovation, dedication to quality, and commitment to its people, it is easy to understand the reason behind Prima’s smile.