Wednesday, May 24, 2023

News: Growing Rotherham engineering specialist boosts productivity


A longstanding design engineering company has ignited its ambitious growth plans after securing funds from the South Yorkshire Business Productivity grant scheme, by helping them to save a staggering half a day per employee, per week in lost working time.

Rotherham-based Philford Design Engineering, which is headquartered at Aldwarke Business Park designs, manufactures and installs the vital equipment relied upon by the quarrying, mining, recycling and energy sectors, including conveyor belts, crushers and automated metal detection equipment.

Over the past twelve months the company has seen its workforce increase by 25% and with a growing order book, Philford’s senior management team began exploring ways of improving the way in which the business operated.

A key challenge the business faced was that it was reliant upon a dedicated welding bays, which often meant moving large structures around the factory during the manufacturing process. Realising they were in a unique position to overcome the challenges the company was facing, Daniel Beckett decided to reach out to RiDO for advice.

Help came in the form of key account manager John Fox, who advised the company that it may be eligible to receive support through the South Yorkshire Business Productivity grant scheme: a match-funded ERDF grant scheme, specifically developed to help businesses overcome growth barriers.

The successful grant application enabled Philford Design Engineering to invest in new mobile welding and ventilation equipment, allowing crucial fabrication work to be undertaken without the need to move the large structures around the factory.

The funding secured proved to be transformational and as a result of the changes the company has implemented it is hoping to add another five new recruits to its workforce, as well as helping to pass on the skills and knowledge within the business to the next generation through its apprenticeship programme.

With the costs of the project match-funded through the grant, the company was also able to set aside additional funds to commission a new argon gas line, reducing the reliance on individual bottles, which needed to be replaced regularly throughout the working week. Since implementing the changes, the company has not only reduced lost working time, but the new welding equipment purchased has helped it to reduce spatter – formed when droplets of molten materials land on surfaces near to the area being welded.

Daniel Beckett, Management Accountant, Philford Design Engineering, said: “We’ve seen demand for our services increase significantly over the past 18 months, resulting in a 25% growth in our workforce. As a relatively small business, we knew that the key to creating sustainable growth wasn’t simply about recruiting new members of staff, but also overcoming the barriers that were impacting upon our capacity. This meant re-thinking the way in which we operated as a business.

"We knew that the limitations of our welding bay were holding the business back. I explained the problems we were facing to John Fox, and he recommended that we should apply to the Business Productivity Programme for help. The match-funded grant we received has helped us to purchase new portable welding equipment, which means that rather than spending time moving large steel structures around the factory, the welding equipment can be moved to where it’s needed.

"The match-funded grant also meant that funds which would have been set aside to invest in the welding equipment could also be reinvested back into the business and as a result we were able to bring forward our plans to commission a new argon gas line, which eliminated overnight the time spent changing individual gas bottles.

"The measures we have introduced have proved to be transformational for our business. Not only have they reduced the need to move the large structures we’re working on around the factory, but the new equipment has helped us to create a better quality of weld; the reduction in spatter being created also means less time grinding and cleaning too. It all adds up to quite a large time saving.

"Until the work was completed, we didn’t quite appreciate just how much time was being lost. We didn’t realise how transformative to our business the funds would prove to be, resulting not only in increased productivity, reduced lost working time, but also contributing towards the creation of five additional new jobs in the business this year.”

John Fox, Key Account Manager, RiDO, added: “SME businesses like Philford Design Engineering are the lifeblood of the local and regional economy, but in many cases the challenges they face can stifle their growth. The South Yorkshire Business Productivity Grant scheme was launched specifically to help businesses across the region unlock the barriers to growth they face.

"Philford Design Engineering recognised that simply recruiting new members of staff would not solve the problems they were facing; instead, they needed to re-think the way a key element of their production process was undertaken – something that required significant investment - and I feel confident that the Business Productivity Grant funding the company has received will help them to lay the foundations to create new skilled jobs and enjoy a period of growth and expansion.”

Philford Design Engineering was founded in 1979 by two ex-coal mining Design Engineers to provide specialist services to support the coal industry. Today, the company is one of just a small number of UK businesses that is responsible for designing, manufacturing, installing and maintaining heavy industry equipment.

The Business Productivity Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and provides businesses with 50% grant funding up to a maximum of £12,499, and the other 50% must be provided by the business. The maximum project application is £24,999 and can include investment in new equipment or machinery and consultancy services to help them overcome barriers to growth. The scheme is delivered by Enterprising Barnsley, Business Sheffield, Business Doncaster and the Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO).

Philford Design Engineering website
RiDO website

Images: RiDO


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