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MAS supports women in business

MAS supports women in business

Two female entrepreneurs, Sian Bostwick and Lesley Bassett, both from Kent, have been making the most of support and services available to grow their businesses, with successful results.
MAS supports women in business

Sian Bostwick Jewellery, Press-Ice and Lesley Bassett

Award winning jewellery designer Sian, owner and founder of Sian Bostwick Jewellery, has reduced the production time on her standard jewellery range dramatically as a result of purchasing a range of new tools part-funded by the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS).

Sian said: “Following a chance meeting with MAS at a local Kent exhibition I have transformed the way my jewellery is produced. A workshop review enabled MAS to provide 50% of the funding required to buy the necessary tools to take production time of my standard jewellery range from three days to two hours.

“This is truly a significant achievement which has improved productivity levels and shortened lead times whilst providing additional time to concentrate on expanding the business and focus on marketing activities. MAS also introduced me to UKTI which has enabled me to begin early discussions regarding the process of taking my products abroad.”

Sian hand crafts her jewellery out of a workshop in Kent with delicate detail and beautifully contrasting colours, drawing on a love of treasured myths, fairy tales and literature to create her Wonderland, Springtime and Nautilus collections.

Lesley, founder of Icinghouse, has taken one of her cake decorating products to market with the help of MAS funding, combined with their industry contacts and design and manufacturing expertise.

She commented: “As a former wedding cake maker, I have extensive industry knowledge within this area. However, when I started out designing cake decorating products I lacked the necessary funding, links and connections needed to take an initial idea and concept through its many design, production and approval stages required before becoming a reality.  With the help of MAS, I have taken my Press-Ice range of impression tools to market, which is just fantastic. Sales are already in the 10s of 1000s, with more designs due to be launched before the end of the year.

“I am also currently working on another project involving a wedding cake transportation solution, involving specially designed cardboard boxes with polystyrene inserts – once again I will be calling on the services of MAS, as without them I would never have got this far with my business.”

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‘Accubox’ invention set to provide silver lining for the construction sector

‘Accubox’ invention set to provide silver lining for the construction sector

A North East innovator is hoping that a new product for the construction sector will help launch his business into the big time.
‘Accubox’ invention set to provide silver lining for the construction sector

Robert McKeith, Founder of Streamline Tools in Tyne and Wear, has spent three years developing Accubox, an advanced alignment system for dry-liners, plasterers and electricians.

It is designed to eliminate measuring and reduces time spent when cutting out apertures in plasterboards to fit electrical back boxes, such as sockets and alarms. A British Standard finish is guaranteed every time and it also doubles as a cable protection system for all trades.

The product now holds a granted UK, European and US patent and the local entrepreneur and his associates have already lined up a number of electrical wholesalers and builders merchants as stockists.

It is estimated more than 30,000 units could be sold in the next twelve months, which would lead to the creation of 3 jobs and approximate sales of £150,000.

“Accubox has been specifically designed to save time, reduce waste and support sustainable construction,” explained Robert, who is in the process of commercialising a whole host of new inventions.

“It is a simple designed back plate that fits into electrical back boxes.
You then insert an appropriate piercing pin into the back plate; this allows the plasterboard to be pushed on to the pin, which then protrudes through to give the perfect location of the electrical sockets.”

He went on to add: “We then supply a matching template which is slid over the exposed pin…simply draw around it and you’ve got the exact positioning to cut around.

“It sounds simple, but the best things normally are. We’ve trialed this with a number of construction workers and the end result is that ‘Accubox’ is up to 40% quicker than the conventional method.

“Furthermore, we have even designed a single and double pocket template to suit all requirements.”

Streamline Tools has worked with the Manufacturing Advisory Service from the early stages of development to seek advice on material selection.

MAS then supplied part funding for the tooling that ensured the firm could manufacture a completed Accubox, which is guiding its evolution into a mass volume product.

The team has also received support to identify routes to market and in securing a forward order book.

Rob continued: “MAS has been invaluable source of experience and knowledge and this has played an important part in getting us to market in the timescale we wanted.

“We always knew we had a great product, but it’s not always that simple. You can’t underestimate the importance of having external experts validating what you are doing and introducing like-minded partners who can speed it along.”

Lead Manufacturing Advisor Cameron Ross has been involved from the outset: “It’s fantastic to see how far Streamline Tools have come from a very good idea to a product that will be stocked all over the UK.

“Importantly, we’ve been able to find manufacturing partners in the North East so Accubox will remain a truly local product that has the potential to be a global success story.”

“This project demonstrates the benefits of working with MAS to get the appropriate third party advice and critical questioning form manufacturing experts”

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Free help to reduce water use and save money

Free help to reduce water use and save money

Manufacturers can use a free online training tool from WRAP to help them improve their water efficiency and make significant cost savings.
 Free help to reduce water use and save money

The Rippleffect provides comprehensive support including online modules backed up by webcasts, case studies, telephone support and in-depth publications.

For companies that have not tackled water efficiency before, savings of around 30% on annual water and sewerage bills are possible.  With the practical support provided through the Rippleffect, businesses can also reduce the ‘hidden’ costs associated with using energy to heat water.

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Southport manufacturer to mark 50th Anniversary year with expansion

Southport manufacturer to mark 50th Anniversary year with expansion

Southport industrial power controller manufacturer United Automation Ltd (UAL) was formed in 1964 and has expanded continuously for almost 50 years.
Southport manufacturer to mark 50th Anniversary year with expansion

Now, as the firm heads into its golden anniversary year in 2014, the company is set to expand further, increasing its staff of 25 employees, growing sales in its key markets and developing new products, thanks to support from the Manufacturing Advisory Service.

UAL manufactures a wide range of products for businesses including heating, ventilating & air conditioning, catering equipment, outdoor heating and frost protection. They also design, develop and produce bespoke electronic control products.

With a company turnover of £1.2M, UAL relocated to a new purpose built facility on Southport Business Park in 1999 and is aiming to reach its 50th year of growth with record sales numbers.

To underpin this planned growth UAL needed to ensure that their manufacturing processes were as lean and cost effective as possible.

Dean Fashoni, UAL Operations Director, explains: “We recognised that we needed help to improve our manufacturing processes so we contacted MAS for help.

MAS Advisor Mark Sutherberry then came to see us to discuss how MAS could support the business. Following a thorough manufacturing review we were able to identify a number of improvement areas in our business processes that would really help us to work more efficiently and improve our profitability and we then chose consultant Bob Unsworth to work with us to support the work.”

A MAS funded improvement project was then given the go ahead to improve profitability and to ensure the company meets its growth targets. As a result of the support, UAL has been able to achieve significant reductions in lead times, a reduction in the cost of its manufacturing process and two new jobs have also been created.

Dean continues: “We simply couldn’t have made these improvements without the support from MAS. Bob didn’t just tell us what needed doing, he actually rolled up his sleeves and made the changes happen with the support of our employees. We’re very proud to have been trading from Southport for the past 50 years and feel confident that these new improvements will ensure that we can continue to employ more people and help to support the local economy.”

MAS Advisor Mark Sutherberry said, “UAL is a great example of a company with a proud heritage that just needed to take a step back from their business and look at how they could work smarter in order to keep growing the business.

The improved processes we have helped them to implement now mean that UAL is in a much better position to supply extra demand as the company expands.

They have also identified even more areas for improvement and we are currently undertaking a second MAS funded improvement project with them.

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Innovation…it’s all about creating new products isn’t it?

Innovation…it’s all about creating new products isn’t it?

The Manufacturing Advisory Service’s Cameron Ross explains why innovation isn’t just the preserve of the rich and famous manufacturers I’ve lost track of the number of manufacturing events I’ve been to where I’ve overhead the same conversation about innovation. It normally goes something like this…
Innovation…it’s all about creating new products isn’t it?

Manufacturer A: “I keep getting asked if we’re innovative Steve, but we haven’t launched a new product in years.” Manufacture B: “I know Helen, that innovation lark is only for the big boys, who can throw their cash and a few staff at it.”

You’d think after nearly 20 years we would have finally come around to the notion that innovation isn’t purely about bringing the next big thing to market.  Sadly, too many manufacturers have this understanding and it’s preventing them from being competitive and reaching their full potential.

So what is innovation and how we do we know if we are indeed innovative? 

In a nutshell, innovation is about doing things better and that could be developing products/services that will change the world. Equally, it could be moving into new markets, improving our existing processes or products to reduce cost, improve manufacturability or to give the customer something that is cheaper, better or more useful.

We may also seek to improve our own internal processes, developing staff and becoming more efficient or it may be a change to how we interact with our supply chain to improve performance.

It’s all innovation in my eyes and research shows that businesses that grow sustainably and profitably have one thing in common…they constantly innovate.

At the Manufacturing Advisory Service, we are here to help English manufacturing SMEs become globally competitive and to achieve growth and create jobs.

We have a team of five dedicated advisors in the North East who work hand-in-hand with local manufacturers to support them with strategy, innovation, efficiency improvements and supply chain development.

A new part of our offer is MAS Inspire, which is intended to give firms access to an expert Innovation consultant, who will bring knowledge and a fresh perspective to how their businesses can grow.

The part-funded two-day package of support will involve a structured innovation review to identify opportunities/barriers and then the choice of attending one of three specialist workshops; ‘more profits from the same customers’, ‘growing new markets’ and ‘increasing sales through new products and services’.

So my message to North East manufacturers is simple. Innovation is not just about new products and it is not just for the big boys, if anything it is the smaller firms that do it better…often without even realising they’re doing it!

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Raptor puts the Midlands on the electric vehicle map with £1.5m sales

Raptor puts the Midlands on the electric vehicle map with £1.5m sales

A new electric vehicle designed, manufactured and assembled in the Midlands is enjoying a hugely successful first year with £1.5m of orders already in the pipeline and numerous jobs created.

Raptor puts the Midlands on the electric vehicle map with £1.5m sales

Ecospin David & Paul Loomes test out the Raptor

Ecospin, which is the brainchild of Leicestershire brothers Paul and David Loomes, has seen demand for its three-wheeled EPV come from all over the world, with 350 units already destined for distributors in the United States and Australia.

Backed by strategic and product development support from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), the company is now putting the finishing touches to a strategic partnership with ACE Forming to set up a dedicated production line in Dudley.

This move will give the duo the potential to manufacture between 1500 and 2000 vehicles every year and, if sold, will see sales reach £10m.

Paul Loomes, Managing Director, commented: “When we officially unveiled the Raptor last year, we knew there would be interest but we didn’t expect to have such a guaranteed order book so quickly.

“The big break came when we were approached by the global vehicle manufacturer Vectrix, who wanted to take the Raptor and distribute it in North America under the ES3 brand.”
He continued: “They were impressed with our vehicle’s speed, range and ability to be driven over all forms of terrain, including gravel, grass and up steep hills.

“Vectrix has already received sales of over 300 in the US, with the units destined for police forces, federal agencies and private security groups.”

David picked up the story: “This initial interest was quickly followed by discussions with Australia-based LordCo Pty Ltd, who will be responsible for selling the Raptor across the Oceana region. Orders for 50 vehicles are already in the pipeline and this figure will rocket next year.

The development of the Raptor has been three years in the making and MAS has been involved from the outset when it was introduced to the vehicle as a clay model at Paul’s studio at home.

Recognising the potential for a next generation practical road legal personal electric powered vehicle, the business support organisation worked with the brothers to re-shape their target market and push for early testing at MIRA, a move that helped convince it to move to rear-wheel drive.

After more than two years of development, additional manufacturing support from the MAN Group and £1.2m of personal investment, the green vehicle was officially launched to the market amid a fanfare of publicity and interest.
Industry experts were impressed with the combination of the latest automotive design techniques and the bespoke electric powertrain.

A custom-made chassis, electronic differential and bespoke handling software delivers expert control and cornering, with twin rear-wheel drive providing increased traction over loose, slippery and steep surfaces.

An elevated ride platform allows for the rider to see over crowds and increases visibility at events, with different lithium battery options offering speeds of 25 mph and up to 50-mile range subject to duty cycle.

David continued: “MAS has been a huge supporter and source of knowledge, contacts and funding…you could tell from day one that they really believed in what we did.

“Our Advisor – David Nuttall – took a lot of time to understand what we were trying to achieve and he has given us some tremendous advice over the years, including testing at MIRA, sourcing supply partners and access to the New Product Development Programme.

“We didn’t always believe the advice we were being given was right, but history tells us that we were wrong. We’re probably a year ahead of where we could have been.”

MAS’ David Nuttall added his support: “Gaining road legal approval in the UK was a massive plus for Ecospin and separates it from the competition.

“The next challenge is to ramp up production and satisfy orders, whilst building on a growing distribution network. We will also be helping the firm to work towards and secure European Whole Vehicle Type Approval, which will allow it to be legally used on roads in the EU and in Australia.”

Ecospin, which is located at a R&D and assembly facility on Narborough Word Park in Leicester, has already created six jobs and expects to create a further ten next year.