Monday, July 6, 2015

News: Support programme exceeds all targets

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A four year programme to help advanced manufacturing companies across Yorkshire and Humber to grow has beaten all the targets it was set.

The Direct Company Support Scheme was launched in 2011 by the National Metals Technology Centre (NAMTEC) after it secured substantial backing from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

NAMTEC was established to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of the metals and related engineering industries throughout the UK. They lead on delivering research and technology development, knowledge transfer, and training to companies in the engineering and manufacturing industries. It became part of the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in 2012 and moved across Rotherham from Swinden House to the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP).

The scheme was aimed at companies needing help with projects intended to have a high impact on their business in a comparatively short time. Projects spanned the development of new and existing products and processes, the introduction of new materials and factory layouts.

Funding typically ranged from £5,000 to £20,000 and was used to finance assistance by specialist consultants and university researchers.

NAMTEC also used ERDF funding to offer SME advanced manufacturers across Yorkshire and the Humber two days of free support from specialist consultants, worth around £850 and designed to improve their capabilities, help them explore new markets and solve technical issues.

Dr James Hughes, director of NAMTEC, said: "Both schemes have been a major success. We exceeded all the targets we had been set – in some cases three or four times over – and we were able to help companies ensure that key projects went ahead which might otherwise never have happened.

"We were also able to help companies from a wide range of sectors - spanning forging and healthcare, precious metals and powder metallurgy, packaging and steel stockholding."

In all, more than 110 SMEs received help - around 10% on the original target. Around 70 of the companies were from South Yorkshire, around 30% up on target. The initiative led to more than 85 jobs being created and nearly 500 safeguarded – around double the original targets.

Moving from Rotherham to a new £5m facility at Ecclesfield in Sheffield, international oil and gas drilling industry supplier, Cutting & Wear decided to seek ways of boosting performance and making the most of opportunities in new markets. The scheme paid for advice from Director Resources and the firm upgraded its Enterprise Resource Planning software and introduced 5S workplace organisation principles and Lean workshops, helping it to significantly increase its engineering efficiency and its record for fulfilling orders and enabling it to achieve worldclass performance standards.

Through the AEM Innovation Network, NAMTEC investigated market access opportunities for Rotherham-based company Roy Hatfield Ltd to reprocess waste containing fine metal particulates. It led to a partnership with AMP-based Fluid Maintenance Solutions, who have developed a proprietary process for separating fine metal particulates from liquid-based wastes which are a by-product of manufacturing processes such as grinding and pickling. This sort of waste is notoriously difficult to process, with the only solution often being expensive and environmentally unfavourable landfill.

The process offers an attractive alternative, generating dry briquettes of metal particulates which can be remelted. NAMTEC helped to identify potential customers and recommend market entry strategies for the recycling firm that won a Queen's Award for Enterprise in 2014.

Mark Hatfield, director at Roy Hatfield Ltd, said: "The project carried out by NAMTEC has allowed us access to essential market knowledge which would otherwise not have been able to obtain. This market knowledge combined with a vast knowledge of the technical aspect of the metal industry has resulted in a highly focused and compendious report which will be instrumental in progressing that aspect of our business."

NAMTEC website

Images: NAMTEC

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