Joining as a Technical Graduate: Emma Trainor

Category: Training

Canyon Corporation was established in 1963 by Tetsuya Tada, the inventor of the world’s first trigger sprayer. Since then, Canyon has developed pump dispensers and trigger sprayers and has supplied them to the worldwide marketplace. Canyon offers its customers, in 160 countries, premium quality products that incorporate a high level of technology. This means that products are designed for maximum convenience and minimum impact on the global environment. Canyon Europe Ltd in Northern Ireland is a subsidiary of Canyon Corporation, and was established in 1988 as a European base to manufacture and distribute into the European market.

Aims of the Project

The two Associate Knowledge Transfer Partnerships with the Polymer Processing Research Centre at Queen’s University Belfast commenced in 2003 with the recruitment of the first Associate, Neil Ryan. The overall objective was to review and define key processes within the company with a view to waste reduction, process development and the introduction of smarter materials and new technologies to feed into the company’s continuous improvement plan and ensure its competitive edge.

One of the first tasks completed by the Associate was to reduce the cost per unit of the T75 trigger sprayer. An alternative grade of polymer, which was 16% cheaper than the current material being used, was identified, analysed and approved. Based on 2004 production figures, this equates to a saving of £40,000 per annum. A major part of Neil’s project involved the use of 3D CAD systems to create virtual models of all Canyon’s components and products. Following a rigorous selection process, a CAD system was introduced to the company and new component designs and animations were produced. This new facility has generated significant benefits as the new product designs and animations have been used to obtain several key new business, including Canyon’s first multi-national customer; an order of 65 million trigger sprayers for their European business for a guaranteed three years (more than doubling their total annual output in the process). This order alone is worth around £4.7 million per year, with the potential of providing access to the lucrative United States market.

The second Associate, Emma Trainor, began her project in September 2005. The aims of her project were to reduce overhead costs and cost per unit of manufacture and to introduce new materials and technologies to ensure Canyon’s competitive edge. At the same time, Canyon Europe had secured a £10 Million investment and implemented six new assembly machines and sixteen new injection moulding machines.

Emma’s work has proved vital to Canyon’s continued success. The tasks she completed as part of the Partnership have resulted in significant cost savings for the company. For example, by replacing the silicone used in the machines with an alternative grade and reducing the quantity used, Emma has saved Canyon around £150k per year (a reduction of over 75%). In addition, her efforts to reduce costs in other areas and the introduction of a new foam nozzle for the industrial trigger sprayer have resulted in further financial benefits and increased sales.

The successes and importance of the design and development work conducted by Neil has resulted in a ‘Centre of Excellence’ for Research and Development being established in the company and Emma’s work ensures that Canyon remains a world player in the global market. A culture of continuous improvement and a focus on genuine product and process improvement is now firmly embedded in the company.

Results of the Project

From an academic perspective, the Partnership has provided the supervisors, Gerry McNally and Alan Clarke, with material for six research papers, numerous projects for undergraduate students and invaluable opportunities for factory visits and work placements for MSc and MEng students. Neil and Emma have delivered lectures to the university’s undergraduate students, and both Associates have been employed by the company on a permanent basis; Neil as the Product Development Manager and Emma as a Product and Process Development Engineer.

In addition to their significant achievements in delivering their projects, Neil and Emma have had their success formally recognized. Neil received an award from the Chartered Management Institute for his achievements in his personal development and Emma was named as a KTP “Business Leader of Tomorrow” at the KTP National Awards in March 2007. This work has contributed to the successful growth of a dynamic and innovative company which in addition received The Queen's Award for International Export in 2008.

In summary, in 2005, Canyon’s turnover was £5.2 million, increasing to £8.5 million in 2006. The predicted turnover for 2007 is £10 million with the production target of 120 million trigger sprayers. The work carried out by the company, academics and Associates on this Knowledge Transfer Partnership has played a large part in this success story and Canyon has recently had another Knowledge Transfer Partnership approved with the NI Technology Centre at Queen’s University to develop the mechanical design capability and processes and implement leading technology for the development of high functionality/low cost next generation trigger sprayers.