Thinking Outside The Box

Thinking Outside The Box

The Manufacturing Advisory Service can help your business to improve and become more efficient in many different ways. Our team of expert MAS Advisors have spent thousands of hours with real manufacturers across the country. They like to think outside the box.
Thinking Outside The Box

Here are some of their thoughts on current issues in manufacturing:


  • “It’s a good idea for those companies who don’t class themselves as a company who lean applies to. Go and understand what lean is and how it applies to you.”
  • “It is something that shouldn’t be feared but also something that shouldn’t be taken lightly as it often involves a culture change.”


  • “A good idea for companies who believe their processes cannot be automated is to go and get an understanding.”
  • “Small amounts of autonomy can make huge impacts to business whether it is standardised machine setup or material flows – these things can often be implemented with relative ease.”


  • “Design is worth investment as poor design will cost companies dearly later on.”

New Products/Markets

  • “Make sure the production element of any new product is considered at the concept stage – the earlier you think about how the product is going to be made the easier, quicker and cheaper it will be to manufacture.”
  • “If you are going to be outsourcing the production then get your suppliers involved as soon as possible.”
  • “It is essential that you understand the real value of your product and its various potential markets. Is there a market out there you haven’t thought about that could be far greater in size than your current market?”
  • “Progress should be planned, measured and monitored against a set of pre-defined stages in terms of cost, time and design maturity.”


  • “Capacity covers two areas – labour (hours) and physical (floor utilisation).”
  • “It is important when looking for new products/markets that you are not running at max capacity otherwise you are going to let down either your new clients or your existing ones.”
  • “If you’re struggling with capacity, have a good look around the business. Are your processes as efficient as they could be? Are your employees wasting valuable time looking for tools and equipment, waiting for a part or waiting for information? How good is your scheduling and do you have lots of ‘queue jumping’? Adoption of Lean can often free up much needed capacity and postpone the need to expand or move premises.”


  • “Rapid prototyping has been around for many years now and for many it would be an unjustifiable sub-contracted expense. However, advances in rapid prototyping mean that parts can be produced that have much more functional strength and be used in ways other than just a visualisation tool.”
  • “The level of detail that can be achieved has improved in recent years. The good news is that in the right circumstances, MAS can help to fund prototype parts which would include rapid prototyping.”


  • “It is often viewed as difficult to assess direct impact in terms of financials from sales/marketing.”
  • “Companies are often loathed to look at marketing strategies and often work from a word of mouth basis and quality of reputation. If this is working for companies who are at maximum capacity and turning work down then fine…for the moment…however there will come a time when if you don’t look at marketing of your business (particularly online) then your competitors will and could take your market share in the future.”
  • “Sales and marketing are the front facing aspect of your business and it is important to develop your brand and protect it. It is essential to bring in new customers!”


  • “Most official certifications – ISO 9001/14001; AS9100; TS16949 – are not as onerous as you think they are.”
  • “Certification can help to improve processes and make them more consistent and almost always save money and improve morale if all employees are properly engaged.”


  • “You cannot patent a product if it has hit the public domain. Often people advertise their product on youtube nowadays to showcase the product to start selling. By this time it is too late.”
  • “IP must be researched and decided upon at the very beginning of the product life cycle and advice is essential – this is a legal world where disputes can cost a business everything.”
  • “It is advisable to seek professional consultation before embarking down any IP route to gain a full understanding of your options. There are various protection routes through different times of the life cycle of the product and for different aspects of the product that can have huge effect or consequences depending on the outcome.”
  • “Define the IP that needs protecting, for instance: the first hydraulic brakes on cars and then hydraulics per say were protected for the angle of the seal that kept the oil in and took the load, there was nothing else that was needed. This cost Ford millions in the 1920’s to buy a licence.”
  • “Clearly understand what your IP is and what can be defended in court without fear of losing, also understand what you want to defend. iPhone defended rounded corners on full phone screens, Samsung lost millions on trying to get around it and took a legal hit with their rounded corner model. The screen was not protected, only the corners.”

New Equipment

  • “Always, always, always complete a ‘URS’ (User Requirement Specification) if you are looking for a non-off the shelf purchase.”


  • “An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a long term commitment.”
  • “An EMS is a successful way of working.”
  • “Longer term an organisation should try to integrate environmental factors into its actions and decisions and not consider only as an after thought.”

Final Thoughts

  • “Have you developed a process/product that you use in your business that you could sell to other businesses? If you have applied innovative thinking to help solve a problem in your own business it’s possible there are other businesses out there that could benefit. Often companies develop ‘in-house’ solutions because they can’t find anything that meet their requirements externally. Software is often a good area to look and perhaps more obviously training and consultancy. If you have process or design expertise this can sometimes be more valuable than the goods you manufacture.”
  • “Be passionate about shop floor generated improvements, put in rigorous systems to facilitate and recognise input from those that know.”
  • “Spend some time with your customer, following how your product/service is used and talking to the people who physically interact with it (e.g. assembly operators).”
  • “Spend time with your suppliers – see how they deal with one of your orders. Is the way you do things creating unnecessary problems for them? What can you learn from each other?”
  • “Swap roles for a week (or month) – get the Ops director to take on the sales director’s role and vice versa.”
  • “Benchmark yourself against another business not in your sector. For example if you are an engineering company with stock management/obsolescence issues, go and see how a food manufacturer or retailer manages this.”
  • “Get someone independent from your business to act as a sounding board and to challenge existing assumptions.  Your MAS advisor can help, we are independent, impartial and trusted by many MDs of manufacturing businesses.

Our experts are available to you now!

If you’d like more advice on growing your business you can speak to one of our MAS Advisors on 0845 658 9600 or e-mail


Marshfield Bakery Rises to the Occasion

Marshfield Bakery Rises to the Occasion

Wiltshire manufacturer increases turnover by 155 per cent. A Wiltshire company which manufactures quality handmade cakes, snack bars, biscuits and seasonal goods has increased its turnover by 155 per cent and launched 13 new products after developing an innovation strategy to capitalise on opportunities to enter new markets.

Marshfield Bakery Rises to the Occasion

Andrew Phillips MAS Advisor with Chris Smith, Director, Marshfield Bakery

Marshfield Bakery, which is based in Dyrham and distributes its products throughout the UK and Europe, has worked closely with the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) to develop a long term project plan in order to meet future customer demand.


“The support from MAS has been fundamental in taking us from a business that turned over £700k to £2m in under three years. We have launched 13 new products and created 22 new full time posts, providing much needed jobs for the surrounding community.”

Chris Smith, Director, Marshfield Bakery, said: “We needed support in looking at things from a different angle in terms of the development of the business, how to prioritise our ideas and accommodate anticipated growth.

“MAS helped us map out areas we could look to focus on including addressing capacity and process planning, such as making better use of floor space and identifying key process bottlenecks.

Andrew Phillips, MAS Advisor for Wiltshire, said: “Marshfield Bakery is an innovative company with a team committed to growing the business and continually looking for ways of improving operations. With our support in identifying and developing ways to fulfil the company’s potential to access new markets, a strong platform is in place for further growth.”

Marshfield Bakery manufactures a range of products for both niche retailers and major supermarkets. It now has 45 members of staff and a turnover of £2m.


Aviation breakthrough flying high for Telford manufacturer

Aviation breakthrough flying high for Telford manufacturer

A Telford-based manufacturer, whose first order was to supply its revolutionary products for Middle Eastern VIPs, is setting its sights on changing the way people board aeroplanes all over the world.
Aviation breakthrough flying high for Telford manufacturer

Formed in 2009, Ra’alloy has seen major interest from airlines, airports and ground handling companies for its ‘Aviramp’ boarding ramps that provide essential access to aircraft for all passengers, wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility.

Orders have already been won with Qantas, Qatar Airways, Swissport and Dallas Fortworth Airport, with five new people already taken on to cope with the increase in work.

Backed by support from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), the company has also developed three different boarding ramps – ‘lite’, ‘regional’ and ‘continental’ – to ensure all international requirements are met.

Graham Corfield, Managing Director, picked up the story: “We were first contacted in 2010 by Oslo International Airport about the possibility of designing and manufacturing a disabled access ramp for passengers disembarking aircraft on remote stands.

“The concept was driven by the need to move it quickly and for the slopes to conform with EU regulations, allowing wheelchair users to move themselves up and down the walkway.”

He continued: “This is where ‘Aviramp’ came into the equation. It was exactly what they were looking for and even incorporated unique slip resistant flooring.

“The results have been impressive. People with reduced mobility can disembark with dignity and, on average, general passenger flow times are 30% quicker meaning less delays and possible cancellation of flights.”

The Manufacturing Advisory Service worked with Ra’alloy from the initial concept, providing strategic guidance, mentoring and new product support along the way.

It played an instrumental role in the company winning the attention of budget airline easyJet, who has been working with Graham and the team on the development and modification of ‘Aviramp’.

The trials were essential in testing the product in everyday industry situations and provided valuable insight into how it could be adapted to suit different sizes of aircraft and airport layouts.

This included a host of endorsements, including reductions on capital equipment costs, savings on moving people with reduced mobility and improved on target performance when it came to getting passengers on board and the flight safely underway.

“We’ve done about £300,000 worth or orders, but I’d expect this to triple over the next twelve months when you look at what we have in the pipeline,” continued Graham.

“80% of this growth will come from abroad and we are already looking at ways where we may set-up international manufacturing operations to support the delivery of ‘Aviramp’ all over the world. America is possibly our first target.”

MAS Advisor David Nuttall believes the next year will be huge for the business.

“In the aviation sector, the gestation period for new products is extensive with most airlines wanting to see others making the initial investment.

“This is now beginning to happen and our role is changing to support Ra’alloy in understanding the systems and process that it needs in place to be able to cope with the anticipated order intake so it is not swamped.

“The company has a world beating product and MAS will help it make the right decisions with regards to investment to ensure a natural migration from high end bespoke manufacture to high end serial production.”

Ra’alloy employs 16 people and is on course to turnover £1.1m this year. In addition to ‘Aviramp’, the company designs and manufactures aluminium access solutions, including the ramps and stairs that were used at London 2012.




Government and business have today published a long-term strategy that will strengthen the UK’s position in the offshore wind industry. The multi-million pound investment has the potential to unlock £7 billion in the economy by 2020.

Investments by the Government will include £20 million from the Regional Growth Fund to improve the UK wind industry’s supply chain, and £46 million to join up innovation between industry, Government and academia and help companies to bring new products to market.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Energy Secretary Ed Davey launched the strategy today during a visit to officially open Centrica’s Lincs wind farm off the coast of Lincolnshire.

The UK currently has more offshore wind power than the rest of the world combined. The offshore wind industrial strategy aims to grow UK supply chain manufacturing so that more of the work and jobs can be done here.

The industry has the potential to create 30,000 jobs here and contribute £7 billion to the economy by 2020. Exports have the potential to add even more to these economic benefits.

Key announcements include:

  • £20 million from the Regional Growth Fund for GROW: Offshore Wind, a new Manufacturing Advisory Service programme to support the UK supply chain to become more competitive by offering tailored support from specialists
  • £46 million funding over five years for the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult Centre to join up innovation between industry, government and academia and help companies to bring new products to market
  • A new Offshore Wind Investment Organisation, established by UKTI, to attract inward investment to the UK
  • Industry-led initiatives to share information with the supply chain about their procurement timelines and contracting decision points
  • A proposal that would require developers of offshore wind farms above a certain size to produce a supply chain plan before they can apply for a Contract for Difference – long-term contracts to provide stable revenues for investors in low carbon energy projects – setting out how the project and procurement approaches will encourage a wider, more diverse supply chain and support innovation and skills
  • Expansion of the scope of the DECC offshore wind manufacturing funding scheme to support port and coastal infrastructure development in assisted areas of England. Any grants offered will be conditional on sites securing manufacturing investment
  • The Green Investment Bank has an ambition to invest a significant proportion of its £3.8 billion capital in offshore wind, co-investing in projects with commercial parties

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:

“The race is now on to lead the world in clean, green energy. As an island nation, and with our weather, the UK is ideally placed to make the most of offshore wind energy – you could say it was a technology designed for us.

“This strategy will help keep Britain as the world leader in one of the most important industries of the 21st Century. If we make the most of offshore wind’s potential in the UK, it can provide a big proportion of the energy that lights our homes and powers our economy.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

“We have more offshore wind power than the rest of the world combined and, if we get it right and strike now, we will also see this new technology creating thousands of jobs here as well.

“The key achievement of the strategy is to develop a strong commitment by the industry to develop a UK supply chain together with ambitious plans to deliver it. I would hope to see something approaching the 70 per cent that we already see in the oil and gas sector of supply chain made in Britain.

“The commitment and partnership that this strategy represents is an important step in giving the industry more confidence to invest here in Britain; build factories, increase capacity at ports, develop skills and carry out high-end research to tackle the problems posed by the unforgiving offshore environment.”

Keith Anderson, CCO of ScottishPower, and co-chair of the Offshore Wind industry council said:

“The strategy is a clear signal of what can be achieved in job creation, manufacturing investment and skills development from offshore wind when industry and government work in partnership. 

“Industry and government now need to work closer than ever before to ensure that the strategy is delivered and the potential for the UK is realised.”

Secretary of State for Energy Edward Davey said:

“The Offshore Wind Industrial Strategy will attract investment into the UK, support thousands of skilled green jobs whilst providing homes with clean energy.

“Offshore wind is already an important contributor to our energy mix, with the amount of electricity we generate from it increasing by 46 per cent last year.

“Yet the future opportunity is much greater, so we have provided more certainty to offshore wind investors, setting out the support available under the Renewables Obligation and publishing draft strike prices earlier than expected.

“There is now real momentum with offshore wind.  Recently, we opened the London Array – the largest operating wind farm in the world and I have just given planning permission to build an even bigger offshore wind farm, Triton Knoll, off the Lincolnshire and Norfolk coast.  With this strategy Britain can become the world leader in supplying this growing industry too.”

Business and Energy Minister Michael Fallon said:

“Step by step we are working with industry to maximise the potential of this important industry. We are determined to make sure that more of the contracts, jobs and economic benefit come to our shores and that we export more to overseas markets.”

This strategy is the next step in the Government’s industrial strategy programme. So far eleven key sector strategies have been published to secure sustainable future growth in the economy. By working together to create a long term view of the economy, government and business are building confidence to invest, grow and create jobs.

Notes to Editors:

1. The Offshore Wind Industrial Sector Strategy can be viewed here;

2. Grant Thornton and programme partners the Manufacturing Advisory Service, RenewableUK and the University of Sheffield are supporting the UK supply chain with GROW:OffshoreWind – a £50m programme, supported by £20m from the Regional Growth Fund.  Working in close collaboration with industry leaders and government, the service provides market intelligence, expertise and funding support to English companies looking to move into the offshore wind market.

3. The Government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’ (PDF 1.7MB), published at Budget 2011:

  • To create the most competitive tax system in the G20
  • To make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
  • To encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economyTo create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.

4. Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an industrial strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the Government wants the economy to travel

5. The operations centre for Centrica’s Lincs Windfarm is in the Humber Centre for Offshore Renewable Engineering (CORE). CORE is a partnership between government and six key locations for offshore wind in England to support business growth and showcase opportunities for foreign direct investment for the offshore wind sector. For more information please see:

6. 30,000 jobs and £7 billion GVA source – BVG Associates estimate. This is based on a scenario of 16GW installed by end March 2020, with 50 per cent UK content in capital expenditure and 85 per cent content in operational expenditure. Derived from Offshore wind cost reduction pathways, technology work stream (The Crown Estate, June 2012), value breakdown for the offshore wind sector (report commissioned by the Renewables Advisory Board, RAB (2010) 0365), and Macroeconomics benefits of investment in offshore wind (Cebr report, June 2012).

7. BIS’s online newsroom contains the latest press notices and speeches, as well as video and images for download. It also features an up to date list of BIS press office contacts. See for more information.


Let MAS help you get back to business

Let MAS help you get back to business

As the summer hits the UK we all like to spend time away from the office. However, your company is your focus and the summer will end soon. When you get back to business, MAS can help you with your strategic plans to make sure that the next 12 months are your most productive ever.
Let MAS help you get back to business

The economy traditionally sees a slight downturn in the summer months as workers across the country spend time with their families away from the office. This impact is seen in retail, service and manufacturing sectors. A large number of businesses maintain their order levels year-round. However, there is always a psychological impact that summer brings; with thoughts wandering to the beach.

When your company and workforce get back into the work mindset in the next month, you have an opportunity to launch into the next 12 months with purpose. MAS can work with you to put strategic plans in place to ensure you meet your growth ambitions. MAS Advisors have years of experience working with businesses, planning their futures. Get in touch with MAS today to arrange a free-of-charge review and begin your next year of business right.

If you’d like to speak to one of our MAS Advisors about your future plans, contact us on 0845 658 9600 or e-mail

Match funding of up to £3000 is available for manufacturing SME’s to help implement improvement projects to drive business growth. Speak to MAS to find out more


Devon and Somerset – Rural Enterprise Grant

Devon and Somerset – Rural Enterprise Grant

Funding is still available from the HotSW Rural Enterprise Grant (REG) in rural Devon and Somerset. The grant (min £10K) supports micro-businesses to develop, expand and stimulate growth. Target sectors include manufacturing, ICT, energy, business services and creative industries.

Expenditure can include capital equipment – please see link below for a full list.  Businesses can apply for 40% of eligible costs and will need to find the remaining 60% of costs.

The REG Programme is run by Devon County Council on behalf of the HotSW Local Economic Partnership and supported by the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), managed by Defra and part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas.


New initiative backs city’s manufacturers to drive growth

New initiative backs city’s manufacturers to drive growth

A new initiative designed to help the city’s manufacturing sector drive growth in the Leeds economy is to be launched tomorrow (Tuesday 16 July), backed by Leeds City Council, the Manufacturing Advisory Service and Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.
New initiative backs city’s manufacturers to drive growth

The initiative aims to encourage greater take up of business support available to the city’s manufacturers and to develop sector-wide programmes that will benefit the manufacturing sector as a whole.

Launching the initiative, Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for development and the economy said:

“Manufacturing continues to make a major contribution to the Leeds economy both in terms of output and employment, with over 1,700 firms employing a workforce of around 30,000. Together they generate over 11% of GVA.

“Increasing the take up of support that’s currently available through organisations such as MAS and the Chamber, together with programmes such as the Leeds City Region’s business growth programme, is one of the ways we can support individual manufacturers.

“But there’s much more that we can do by working together – collaborating with training and education providers in the city, leveraging our influence and relationships and drawing on the expertise of the private sector – to develop initiatives that benefit the sector as a whole.”

Skills, access to finance and investment for growth, supply chain development, the need for closer collaboration with the region’s universities and attracting younger people into the industry are some of the major challenges facing the sector, set out in a report published to coincide with the launch of the initiative.

The report outlines what partners in the public and private sectors can and will do to support growth in the manufacturing sector.

It also highlights the latest findings from the Chamber Quarterly Economic Survey (June 2013), which shows encouraging returns for the manufacturing sector across the Leeds City Region:

• over a third of manufacturers reporting increasing sales and forward orders for domestic sales and 40% reported increased sales in overseas markets

• one in four firms has increased their workforce, with a similar number looking to recruit in the next three months

• one in three also report increased capital investment

Mark Goldstone, head of business representation at Leeds, York and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce said:

“In the current economic climate, the survey findings are very encouraging but manufacturers clearly face challenges in accessing finance for growth and in recruitment, particularly skilled manual and technical staff.”

Longer term, manufacturing output is forecast to increase and the government has made the sector central to its strategy for ‘rebalancing the UK economy, moving it away from over-reliance on services and the public sector.

However, the sector faces major challenges in driving up productivity, investing for growth and in attracting young people leaving schools to careers in manufacturing and engineering.

Steve Gregory, team leader for MAS in Yorkshire and Humber said:

“There’s an urgent need to replace the higher level technical skills and experience of an ageing manufacturing workforce. But it’s equally clear that by increasing efficiency and productivity that UK manufacturers can compete on a global stage.”

He points to the success of manufacturing companies such as Yeadon-based engineering firm Produmax, which has secured new aerospace and defence contracts as a result of programmes undertaken with support from MAS, demonstrating how the region’s manufacturers can take on and win business against international competition.

Steve adds: “Experience shows that it’s essential to work with manufacturers to identify opportunities for growth and develop business support programmes that meet the specific requirements of manufacturer rather than adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

Case studies:

1. Laxtons

Guiesely-based Laxtons, which recently reversed the ‘off-shoring’ trend by bringing its textile manufacturing operations back to the UK, after ten years overseas, recently received an £18,000 grant towards a total investment by the company of £150,000 in equipment for new finishing department.

Laxtons is one of 46 firms to receive financial support through the Leeds City Region’s business growth programme. So far, grants totalling £4 million have been allocated to companies across the city region through the programme, which is designed to support capital investment and create private sector jobs.

The business growth programme is funded through the government’s Regional Growth Fund and offers grants starting at £10,000 and rising to £1 million for larger projects, to support capital investment and help businesses expand.Support is available to companies in a range of sectors, including manufacturers, and covers up to 20 per cent of the cost of an individual investment in premises fit outs, capital costs associated with relocation, purchase of new machinery and equipment.

2. Produmax

Precision engineering specialist Produmax has seen turnover grow to a record £4.75 million, after a 12 month period in which it has secured new aerospace and defence contracts. Working with MAS, the company has implemented a range of lean manufacturing and process improvements to reduce cycles times and bring down costs by up to 60%.

Achieving the SC21 World Class Supply Chain standard has also resulted in significant improvements in customer confidence, with the result that Produmax is now a supplier of choice to some of the world’s biggest aerospace primes.

Managing director Jeremy Ridyard said: “Wining these high profile orders has secured the long term future of our business and MAS has played a major role in this by ensuring we operate at world class manufacturing levels.”

To see the report on the new initiative, go to


For media enquiries contact:
David Baggaley,
Leeds City Council economic development,
Tel (0113) 247 7851

– See more at:


Kent MP Supports MAS Business Improvement Programme

Kent MP Supports MAS Business Improvement Programme

Keen to show support for the manufacturing sector, Laura Sandys MP for South Thanet attended the latest MAS Kent Best Practice Club run by the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) and talked openly with business leaders about the challenges and opportunities facing the sector.

Kent MP Supports MAS Business Improvement Programme

MAS Kent Best Practice Club with MP Laura Sandys

The MAS Kent Best Practice Club, a collaborative network of local leading manufacturers, has been meeting up since 2006 on a quarterly basis, sharing best practice tips in lean manufacturing and advice for continuous improvement.

Laura said: “I am absolutely passionate about supporting our local businesses and we are extremely lucky to have so many key manufacturers located in the heart of Thanet.

“It was fantastic to be able to share what the Government is doing to help support and boost manufacturing which is of huge value to the UK’s economy. It was also great to hear about the brilliant innovations and new approaches that these businesses are taking.”

It was highlighted that with the official opening this week of the world’s largest offshore wind farm, London Array, just a few miles off the Kent coast, the renewables energy sector and wind energy supply chain are areas where local businesses could access big opportunities, both on the service side and through tier 2 and 3 supply chain connections.

Laura also heard presentations from two local manufacturers that had recently worked together on a ‘Lean Exchange’ as part of their continuous improvement journeys. Representatives from Silent Gliss Ltd and FUJIFILM Speciality Ink Systems (SIS) Ltd, based in Broadstairs, spent two days at each other’s company to exchange ideas for implementation based on their own lean continuous improvement journeys.

A key opportunity identified for Silent Gliss, a blinds manufacturer,  involved establishing an in-house lean induction course tailored to introduce and re-introduce staff and operators to the value of lean, ensuring it remains a focus throughout the site at all times – essential when trying to achieve complete buy-in to change and improvement from all employees.

FUJIFILM SIS, a digital ink manufacturer, identified the need to place emphasis on core company values by introducing and reminding all staff members about those values with very visual reminders within each manufacturing cell area. The introduction of six weekly review meetings involving production, sales and IT ensures that all three departments are now in tune with one another, providing a level playing field in the pursuit of ongoing improvement.

The MAS Kent Best Practice Club is facilitated by MAS Advisor Mark Knowlton, who is passionate about collaborative working in order to achieve results. Mark said: “In addition to meeting four times a year as a group, members are also encouraged to stay in contact between meetings, working together to discuss issues and the challenges that are faced on a daily basis as part of running a busy manufacturing plant.

“The Lean Exchange programme offers a similar approach to working but more in-depth across a set time period and on a smaller, intimate level – it is an inexpensive way to achieving long term lean growth, offering good direction indicators whilst reenergising lean initiatives and lifting team member spirits. Both companies that choose to take part however, must be at similar level of lean development in order for both to benefit from the exchange.”

To find out more about a MAS Best Practice Club in your area and about Lean Exchange, please contact us on 0845 658 9600 or email


BRC accreditation provides retail therapy for North East packaging specialist

BRC accreditation provides retail therapy for North East packaging specialist

Helping food companies meet their green targets is proving the catalyst behind a North East manufacturer’s major expansion. Re Pet, which employs 20 people at its Houghton-le-Spring factory, is experiencing 40% year-on-year growth after demand for its food grade PET film rocketed.
BRC accreditation provides retail therapy for North East packaging specialist

The company currently offers full recyclable plastic sheeting for the packaging sector, which is usually used in the manufacture of food cartons for supermarkets across the world.

Backed by strategic support from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), the firm has been able to adapt its systems so that it meets the standards set by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

Securing this accreditation has opened new doors for Re Pet and boosted annual sales to the £5m mark…just two years after the business was officially launched.

John Forrest, Managing Director, explained:

“The company name is derived from the PET material we produce and this material is a lot easier to recycle than other types of plastics used by many retailers today.

“However, sentiment is changing and there is a need for supermarkets to hit new sustainable targets and they are beginning to put pressure on the packaging companies that supply them. This is a major opportunity for us.”

He continued: “Currently the UK imports two-thirds of the PET material used and we intend to change that by offering great products competitively.

“We are also continually launching new products, including non-metalised coloured sheet and ongoing industry trials for non-metalised gold.”

Investment is a big part of the Re Pet approach and the company has already spent £2.7m on new extrusion equipment and a dedicated training programme for all staff.

Future plans include a further £2.4m acquisition of state-of-the-art machinery and the recruitment of a senior manufacturing manager as part of its commitment to upskill all of its staff.

The other thing it has done well is tap into expert support from the Manufacturing Advisory Service.

From the moment John started the business in 2011, he has been supported by Advisor Alan Hewett to overcome initial start-up issues, implement efficiency improvements and, more recently, in working towards the BRC accreditation.

“MAS has been a tremendous source of information, signposting, mentoring and in helping deliver bottom line benefits to the business.

“The British Retail Consortium standard is essential for our business. We needed help in fine-tuning some of our systems, in order to meet the exacting standards expected.

“This would have taken a lot longer without his input and the funding we received in bringing in a specialist to oversee the process.”

MAS’ Alan Hewett went on to add: “Starting a business and growing it to £5m in two years is no small feat and John and the team have a clear focus of where they are looking to go.

“From the outset, the firm wanted to do things differently and continues to invest in the best equipment for producing the PET material. The accreditation could have been a big stumbling block, but instead it will be the catalyst for even greater success going forward.”

Re Pet’s main turnover is currently focused around the domestic market, with a small amount going to Iceland.

Future plans will involve a greater export push and the targeting of customers in Africa, Australia, the EU and South America.


Competition Launched – New £20 million Green Bridge Supply Chain programme (GBSCP)

Competition Launched – New £20 million Green Bridge Supply Chain programme (GBSCP)

COMPETITION FUNDING IS NOW AVAILABLE. Following hot on the heels of Lord Heseltine’s “No Stone Unturned” review, which seeks to improve the UK’s ability to create wealth, Birmingham City Council has secured funding to unleash the potential of local businesses and deliver economic growth.
Competition Launched - New £20 million Green Bridge Supply Chain programme (GBSCP)

The Green Bridge Supply Chain Programme is a new competition funded with £20m from the Regional Growth Fund, which is now available. Existing SME supply chain companies are invited to apply for funding to develop, grow and diversify their businesses within the green sector across the West Midlands.

Birmingham City Council (BCC) and 6 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are working together to deliver this important initiative, which covers Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire & Stoke-on-Trent and The Marches.
Grant support of between £20k and £100k is available to develop new markets, new products, skills development and purchase of capital equipment.

However, applications for funding of over £100k may be considered, where the applicant demonstrates significant economic benefits to the West Midlands both in terms of the level of investment and new job creation.
The competition is now open and the deadline for the submission of applications is 9th August 2013. Late applications will not be considered.

All projects will need to be completed by March 2015.

Application Process

You will need to complete the GBSCP Application Form and provide the related Financial Information. The following documents will enable you to complete your application:

Form A GBSCP Competition Brief
Form B GBSCP Guidance Notes for Applicants
Form C GBSCP Full Application Form
Form D Appendix A – Financials & SIC Codes

Help and support available:

  • 1-2-1 Briefing Sessions

A series of 1-2-1 briefing sessions have been scheduled to take place in Birmingham, where your business will be able to pre-book a 30 minute slot to discuss individual applications in confidence.

The sessions will be held at Birmingham City Council offices, Baskerville House, Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2 ND.

These will take place between 9.30am and 5.00pm on the following dates:

24, 25, 26, 27 & 28 June 2013
1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 July 2013

Demand for appointments is expected to be high, and we would strongly recommend that you book early to avoid disappointment. Appointments will be allocated on a first come/first served basis, and you can reserve a 30 minute slot by emailing

Please note that we are limiting attendees to no more than 2 representatives per appointment.