Smiley Monroe creates a highly successful and unique business in Northern Ireland
The HUB visits N.Ireland...
The HUB-4 team recently visited Smiley Monroe in Lisburn to learn more about their operation and the company’s story. Following major growth during the past number of years, Smiley Monroe now employs 135 staff globally, and exports to a total of 42 countries worldwide, with 95 per cent of their manufactured products exported directly or indirectly outside of Northern Ireland.
This continued growth serves as an inspiration for Marketing Director, Tim Monroe, who shows us a graphical visualisation of the company’s journey since it was co-founded by his father in 1979. Named in a recent London Stock Exchange Group report as one of Britain’s most inspiring SMEs, Smiley Monroe is clearly on the right track.
From humble beginnings in a garden shed, family-run Smiley Monroe has grown to become a global leader in its field, now operating across two sites in Lisburn, and producing around 20,000 ‘Endless’ conveyor belts annually for global OEMs in the mobile crushing, screening, recycling, washing, road construction and environmental sectors, including many of Northern Ireland’s County Tyrone-based engineering companies.
Complementing their core ‘Endless’ belt product, Smiley Monroe markets an impressive range of quality products - from custom rubber parts, synthetic screening media and heavy duty wear liners to CoverClean™ conveyor belt cleaners and the popular polymer King Roller™ - for customers in three distinct categories - Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), end users and service companies.
Smiley Monroe’s end user customers include Ireland’s CRH Group and the UK’s Aggregate Industries, Hanson Aggregates and British Sugar, while the Irish Salt Mines in Carrickfergus is Smiley Monroe’s oldest customer, their relationship dating back to 1979 and still going strong today.
There was a palpable air of excitement and optimism when we were given a factory tour by Tim Monroe and Keith Stevenson. Keith, part of Smiley Monroe’s newly established technical team began by saying: “We’re producing over 400km of ‘Endless’ conveyor belts annually, which I’ve been reliably informed, if placed end to end, would reach further than from London to Paris – or from LA to Las Vegas!”
Tim added: “We’re a value-driven company that’s passionate about ‘Lean Manufacturing’ methods and tools, which we use to reduce waste and increase value added activity across the entire business spectrum to keep us competitive globally.”
We were then shown into Factory two, where Keith told us: “In here we have our custom parts cutting operation. Every part is automatically pen marked with customer name and part number for easy identification and re-ordering and when you consider that we’re currently producing around 3,000 ready-to-fit rubber parts per week, it’s crucial these parts are right first time. We also produce ‘Special’ belts here, one of our fastest growing products, which are customised conveyor belts with hot moulded cleats, side rails and side walls. Our new high pressure presses allow us to manufacture heavy duty rubber wear liners for hoppers, which are exceeding customer expectations. This Factory is also home to our In-house Belt Testing Lab, where our dedicated quality team is able to test the physical characteristics of both our raw materials and the finished product to DIN standards.”
The company’s success over the years has been in part down to this focus on efficiency, along with a drive for constant innovation - a strategy which is currently being fuelled by the new HUB Centre of Excellence.
Driving a short distance to the ‘Hub’, next on our tour we met Lorraine Sloan, Supply Chain Manager at Smiley Monroe: “We work closely with our long-standing suppliers in China and Taiwan, who manufacture the raw materials for us” Lorraine explained. “Visiting these partners in Asia on a regular basis to carry out quality audits is key and it works extremely well - we put a high value on face to face meetings. Ultimately, continued supplier development helps us to ensure that we are part of a sustainable supply chain, which delivers consistently high quality products for our global customer base.”
Lorraine continued: “We import high volumes of rolls of conveyor belting, typically 250 metres long, so one of the many innovations here is improved logistics – investing in a new loading dock has removed our reliance on third parties to load and unload shipping containers. This also helps with exporting to our global customer base, as it’s made us faster, leaner and more competitive.”
The head office and purpose-built production facility is impressive and it is clear that the new innovation HUB has been completely re-designed around the employees, offering them effective workspaces with a creative vibe.
Over a coffee, Tim shared his passion for the importance of employee engagement: “We’ve been strengthening our team during the upturn, and in addition to our sites in Northern Ireland, we have a team of 10 in India, plus additional field sales in GB and Europe. Our people are central to our success, so we’ve a big focus on health and wellbeing. I believe our quest for for excellence should start with making this a great place to work – from making our canteens more like cafés to providing shower areas and changing rooms to cater for staff who cycle to work or make use of local gyms during lunch break. This investment in people and infrastructure will continue, as we grow our business in line with our ambitious 2021 vision.”
Talking with Tim about the future, he told us, “We are anticipating a very exciting year in 2017, with one of our industry’s key trade fairs, CONEXPO-CON/AGG, taking place in Las Vegas next March, where we’ll be independently exhibiting for the first time. I recently attended an exhibitor meeting in Chicago and I was really impressed with the organiser’s plans, all built around the theme of ‘Imagine What’s Next’. So much so that our own two storey outdoor booth in the Bronze Lot will see us break new ground in our own use of technology to give visitors a truly immersive product experience.”
It is clear that Smiley Monroe likes to do things differently and stand out from the crowd, as they strive to set the standard for quality, service and innovation within their industry.
To learn more about Smiley Monroe and their full range of products, visit the company’s new mobile responsive website www.smileymonroe.com