Productivity boost open to North West’s manufacturing and engineering businesses

Manufacturing businesses across the North West have the chance to learn from industry giants in a programme designed to boost productivity across the sector.

Productivity through People’ (PtP), a 10-month programme designed by Lancaster University Management School academics in partnership with industry experts from BAE Systems, Siemens and Rolls-Royce, aims to boost SME’s outputs and efficiency and help unlock the nation’s productivity puzzle.

Now in its fifth year, the Productivity through People programme at Lancaster University has successfully delivered productivity gains for more than 50 businesses across the region, with 65 owner/managers having participated in the programme to date. As a result, participating businesses have been able to empower and engage their employees through adopting new working practices creating efficiencies and developing continuous improvements – making a big impact to the frontline. Due to the success of the pilot, first launched by Lancaster University in January 2017, the programme has been rolled out in other parts of the UK.

The most recent cohort began in a ‘traditional’ format at the start of 2020 before it was quickly adapted and moved online in light of the pandemic. Now, key decision makers from eligible companies are encouraged to apply for the latest cohort to be delivered online, starting at the end of March.

Dominic Aldridge, a Production Manager from Milexa Group, a Liverpool-based business designing and manufacturing wallpaper and flooring products, was one of the recent participants who felt the pandemic actually increased contact and support from the programme. He said: “The unprecedented situation created by Covid-19 has to some extent benefited our cohort in that it has created unique situations which have tested our abilities to find solutions. We wanted to talk to each other more to support each other and share ideas.”

Dominic was also able to embed what he’d learnt quickly in his working life. “When the pandemic hit, my department was unable to hire two people we were desperate for to cope with the increasing demand,” he explained. “That extra workload and pressure was tiring, and morale was low among the team. I was able to implement change immediately from what I had learned in the early stages of the programme, changing my leadership approach to a blend of styles and soft skills to engage with the team as individuals. This meant being tactile and understanding, communicating all the time, and trying to motivate and empower them. As a result we were able to cope with increased volume and recover to 98% dispatch on time, which was remarkable.”

Sarah Poynter is Engraving Operations Manager at Arden Dies, a leader in the die-making and packaging industry in the UK. She was also a recent participant who found the communication and support from the cohort and programme leadership beneficial when the programme moved online due to Covid-19. She said: “It was amazing that we were able to switch so effectively and not lose momentum. As a business we could easily have paused but to be able to access that support and share practice with other businesses and know we had the support of the programme team going through such an uncertain experience was fantastic.”

Helen Wilkinson, Knowledge Exchange Manager from Lancaster University Management School, runs the PtP programme. She said: “Many businesses have been hit very hard by the pandemic. For some it created a stressful and chaotic environment for leaders and staff as they responded to the changes, accommodating increased production or pivoting their business models. The Productivity through People programme provides businesses with a structured approach to creating a sustainable business, which will offer crucial support that is particularly important during these challenging times.

“Having business leaders of a high calibre working together in a trusted environment, sharing challenges and problem solving together is often one of the most valuable aspects of the PtP programme for participants. Taking the time to step away from the business to work on the business will save time in the future – and this has never been more relevant, as it is now.”

Managers and key decision makers are invited to register to take part in the next phase of the programme, due to start end of March 2021. This programme is designed for owner / managers within manufacturing and engineering SMEs that are based in the North West. For more information about the programme contact Pete Cornwall on 01524 593583, email ptp@lancaster.ac.uk or visit www.lancaster.ac.uk/lums/ptp

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