The GPT experience

The GPT experience“Ours is a totally customer-oriented approach. If they wanted something painted yellow we will do it for them.” GPT knows its customers. Svetlana Josifovska reports
Each customer is different, everybody agrees with that. And the variety that may exist in a customer base can bring the most individual requirements to any one supplier. But when the supplying company is the size of GPT, are the customers’ needs easily met or are they more likely to be given a formulaic solution?
“Ours is a totally customer-oriented approach. If they wanted something painted yellow we will do it for them,” said Tony Fogg, a manufacturing quality manger at GPT Public Networks.
In order to deliver top quality products to its customers and keep at the market forefront, in a true GPT fashion GPT Public Networks is evaluating its design and manufacturing processes continuously. This has sieved down to the shopfloor and GPT’s staff are encouraged to come up with new ideas about improvement in all domains of the business.
“We get a lot of response from our employees. At the end of the day they know better than anybody of where the problems lie and how to improve the processes. In order to let them know of the company strategy, each month we brief every member of the force of what’s going on. They can understand the business and see where we are going next,” said Fogg.
GPT ‘s Public Networks division is the dominant part of GPT. It counts around 6,500 employees and it has an annual turnover of around ?770m. Its export sales increased tenfold to ?300m since the company started. Here, GPT designs, produces and tests system X, access and SDH equipment for companies such as Energis, Cable Tel, BT and other similar telecommunications and cable operators. Its product portfolio consists of switching, transmission, mobile, intelligent networks products and services.
Public Networks has sites in Liverpool and Coventry, complemented by other GPT sites in Poole, Nottingham and London. But GPT created a Virtual Factory which consists of two closely linked parts: New Horizon Park in Coventry that was inherited through GEC and Edge Lane in Liverpool inherited from the Plessey.
“We’ve established a mirror image of the Coventry facility in Liverpool to get us total flexibility,” said Fogg.
New Horizon Park can produce up to 400m units and assemble one million PCBs per annum, whilst Edge Lane 180m units and 0.5m PCBs.
They have been known to deliver products at extremely tight deadlines. Examples include a product, which typically takes three weeks to make, has been delivered to a customer in two days.
The company has a complete SDH portfolio complemented by technologies from its German parent Siemens. In addition, the two companies have been highly successful in jointly marketing the SDH products around the world. The result is that GPT can now claim over 30 per cent of the world market in SDH system deliveries.
Major succeses include China and Saudi Arabia, and amongst the examples of the deals GPT secured through Siemens’ support are Australia, with the Telstra contract, and Italy through Italtel. The Italian order of ?90m from Telecom Italia is the largest single SDH order to date for GPT.
The future of this SDH collaboration could be affected by ownership discussions currently taking place between GPT’s, parents GEC and Siemens. It is important to the SDH business that the strong links with Siemens are retained, whoever takes control of the company, as international sales director, Peter Warn, points out: “The sales we have through Siemens are around 20 per cent. It’s a very small part, but an important one though.”
GPT is regularly investing in its facilities. Last year it spent around ?9m in the upgrade of the facility in Coventry including new equipment and ?1.6m on training its staff. Next year, which for GPT starts in April, a similar budget is expected to be spend on such activities. Smartcards and the card technology division at GPT
GPT’s Card Technology division is situated on a quaint site that exists since the early 1900. Residential houses are amongst the first buildings to greet a visitor at this site. These houses were used once upon a time to accommodate the original workers. Today there are residents still living there.
One of the main buildings on the site still fronts the original facade that dates from 1909. In 1929, the car maker Rover, used the site as an assembly facility for its early vehicles. During the second world war the site was heavily bombed, as was the rest of Coventry, and parts of it destroyed. In 1946 the site was bought by GEC and has stayed in the ‘family’ since.
One of the buildings here belongs to GPT’s Card Technology division which manufactures smartcard chip modules, embeds them into smartcards and encodes them. Here, wafers received from Siemens and Philips are cut into devices and embedded into smartcards and phonecards which go to over 44 countries in the world. Amongst these is the Boots Advantage loyalty bonus card which has been the pivot for one of the largest retail-based smartcard schemes in Europe.
GPT is very active in pursuing links with other companies to expand its activities worldwide. It is currently involved in two joint ventures abroad and a few innovative smartcard trials with well-known companies that for commercial reasons for the short term would like to keep confidential.
“The aim is to transplant what we have here. We will set up local clones of what we do here in places like Asia, the US and so on,” said Paul Seward, general manager at the GPT Card Technology division.
Smartcard R&D also takes place on this site. Currently, GPT is developing a contact/contactless smartcard which it believes will be a truly revolutionary product.
There are 140 employees in this division at present, but plans are to bring this number to 200 by the end of the year. Over ?6m has been invested over the 1996/97 period in this division and about the same amount is expected to be invested over the next financial year that begins in April.

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