Yorkshire has reinvented itself as a global manufacturing force explains the Manufacturing Growth Programme’s James Smith

The high-tech manufacturing cluster off the A630 in Rotherham is a fascinating insight into the way Yorkshire has reinvented itself as a significant force in global manufacturing.

Boeing’s new £40m factory, recently opened after appointing a number of local suppliers, gleams as a landmark of modern-day industrial opportunity and is the aerospace giant’s first production facility in Europe.

The impact and, importantly, the message it sends is far wider than the glistening exterior and high value jobs it has created. It is further evidence of the pull of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and the popularity of the entire region, a region that has seen its steel industry slowly decline and endured huge pockets of inactivity and unemployment.

When the chips are down, Yorkshire’s stubbornness comes to the fore and the local manufacturing scene in Leeds, Hull, York, Harrogate and many other towns has responded in the only way it knows – sheer bloody mindedness, innovation and the ability to get the job done.

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by Economic Growth Solutions (EGS), the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP) knows this more than most, offering tailored business support and grants to help SME manufacturers overcome issues and grow.

Over the last two years, its dedicated Manufacturing Growth Managers have supported more than 300 different companies, involved in anything from security and automotive to aerospace, nuclear and food and drink.

This has seen more than £1m of grants directed into supporting local SMEs to tackle business critical challenges, helping them expand and create more than 528 jobs in Yorkshire alone, with another 189 on the way when all the improvement projects are completed. Assistance has been in the form of improving marketing activities, penetrating new sectors, developing business strategy and exploring R&D work.

“Yorkshire is a fantastic example of how regions can reinvent themselves with a new offer when their traditional expertise starts to falter or is taken over by low cost rivals…we’re a fantastic blueprint for the Northern Powerhouse to follow,” explained James Smith, Manufacturing Growth Manager at the Manufacturing Growth Programme.

“We’ve had Siemens move into Hull, Sirius Minerals’ project to build a huge potash mine in North Yorkshire and AMRC help bring in Boeing, McLaren and Airbus, all massive companies that are delivering new opportunities for the large concentration of manufacturing SMEs we have in the area.”

He continued: “These big names have been impressed by the ‘can do’ attitude of our firms, the skills pool we have here and the connected business support network that is the envy of a lot of other places in the UK. Our LEPs are committed to building industry and that is definitely paying off with strategic funding in place to attract new businesses, but also help long-standing firms thrive.”

Whilst there are plenty of success stories doing the rounds in the region, life as a manufacturing boss is never easy. High levels of competition from across the world mean you can never rest on your laurels and the cost of labour, raw materials, transport and energy seem to be a constant threat to increased productivity.

Throw into the mix recruitment issues and Brexit, the biggest white elephant in every boardroom across the country, and you quickly understand why management teams are crying out for support.

“Twenty-one per cent of firms we work with in Yorkshire have asked us for assistance with business strategy and this is closely followed by marketing and systems and processes with 17 per cent respectively,” continued James.

“What MGP does is listen to what manufacturers want and then, following a strategic business review, we come up with a tailored action plan that will help them overcome any issues that may be blocking their growth.

“We have access to some of the best consultants in the UK and accessing our support is straightforward, meaning companies can focus on doing what they do best. Yorkshire has a significant role to play in ensuring the Northern Powerhouse realises its potential and turns into a true global manufacturing force.”

No ‘small change’ for motoring innovation born in East Yorkshire
An East Yorkshire investor has tapped into support from the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP) to launch a new product that will prevent you losing your change, keys and bank cards under your car seats.

John England came up with the ‘car seat gap filler’ at 5am one morning after thinking of all the lost minutes he has spent recovering items following a journey and set about designing a simple device that consists of an inflatable tube connected to a hand pump.

‘Cabung’, as it is now branded, is easy to fit and remove and has been developed so that it can be personalised to improve the look of the interior.

He turned to MGP for support with R&D around the packaging to make sure the product stood out whilst also being instructional, whilst the second element of support was around creative artwork and a Point of Sale unit that was used for the first time at The London Motor Show in May.

The landmark event proved extremely useful for the company, with significant opportunities discussed with a number of leading car manufacturers and an impromptu endorsement from Car SOS stars Tim Shaw and Fuzz Townshend.

“In my previous job, I averaged 40,000 miles on the road every year and often joked about someone inventing something to stop me dropping my phone, credit cards, money and food down the side of my seat,” explained John.

“Then one morning I woke up with an idea to do it myself and went straight into my office and sketched the first ever Cabung, before approaching a company to help shape my idea into something that could be manufactured.”

He continued: “There was no strict brief. I just wanted something that would fit most cars, is easy to fit and remove and would be aesthetically pleasing. It would also improve driver safety as it would prevent motorists taking their eyes off the road whilst trying to locate the dropped items.

“It’s never easy bringing something new to market, so it was great to receive support from the Manufacturing Growth Programme’s James Smith, who identified where the challenges existed and brought in design specialist Lee Taylor to work with us on making the brand packaging stand out and also provide a couple of early-stage samples for presentations.

“I also received external advice on pricing, market share and routes to market, not to mention how we can reduce the manufacturing cost to provide even better value for money for consumers.”

Cabung, which is located at the Hull Microfirm Centre, is on course to sell over 1000 units this year and is looking at how it can ramp up orders in the long-term.

James Smith
James Smith is Manufacturing Growth Manager at the Manufacturing Growth Programme. The Manufacturing Growth Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by Economic Growth Solutions (EGS), and provides manufacturers with access to specialist assistance to help them grow and improve. This is being achieved through a 19-strong network of experienced manufacturing growth managers, access to industry specialists and the opportunity to apply for an improvement grant, minimum value £1000.