Lancaster Castle

Manufacturing Sector

We work with business, for business. Our programmes are helping various businesses across the North West and beyond to seize opportunities to extend their markets, embrace new technologies and improve their performance.

  • Made Smarter Leadership Programme

    Working with the government backed Made Smarter initiative this 8-month programme will equip North West SME leaders with a clear vision and a systematic approach to pursue smarter manufacturing, maximising productivity through Industrial Digital Technologies.

    Designed For: Leaders in North West manufacturing SMEs

    Next Programme Start: Contact us for more information.

  • Productivity Through People

    A ten-month programme in partnership with BAE Systems, Siemens and Rolls-Royce providing the latest techniques, thinking and research to transform productivity and working practices.

    Designed For: Small and medium enterprises in manufacturing and engineering in the North West

    Next Programme Start: Contact us for more information.

  • EnginE Internships

    The EnginE project can offer manufacturing businesses a fully-funded intern to work on a variety of projects. Employed and paid by Lancaster University, working remotely for the benefit of your business.

    Designed For: Manufacturing and Advanced Engineering SMEs based in Lancashire

    Next Programme Start: Contact us for more information.

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Arden Dies - Finding the right tools for the future

Arden Dies has been a leader in the die-making and packaging industry in the UK for more than half a century.

Former secondary school art and design teacher Sarah Poynter is the third generation of the family to join the business which was started by her grandfather.

She has been on a steep learning curve since her switch in 2019 and is now Operations Manager for the Engraving division at the Stockport firm.

“There were reservations on both sides as to where and how I would fit into with no manufacturing experience,” Sarah explained. “But as I rotated around the business, assessing the people and production methods, I gained a unique and valuable insight into the company’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Sarah’s fresh perspective identified that while the business is at the forefront of innovation and technology adoption, there is a need to invest in its people and skills.

Sarah saw the Productivity through People (PtP) programme as an opportunity to learn from global manufacturers like BAE Systems, Siemens and Rolls-Royce, and connect with a network of SME manufacturers.

“With little business experience, I was understandably nervous,” Sarah said. “But the residential element was a tremendous icebreaker and established a real openness and trust among the cohort. Everyone had their own strengths, experiences and ideas, and we were encouraged to share at every opportunity.”

Workshops about Lean manufacturing gave Sarah a more technical understanding of modern manufacturing approaches, while mentoring from one of the PtP industrial partners, a highly experienced manager at Rolls-Royce helped her absorb the latest techniques, thinking and research which she is using to make changes at her company.

“Having a dedicated mentor from such a leading organisation as Rolls-Royce and access to such expertise was inspiring,” she said. “A key lesson I took from my mentor early on was that rather than trying to do everything, one change, in a sustainable and measured way, can have a great impact.

“This insight gave me great confidence and the foundation for years of change, not just the immediate future.”

Action Learning sessions, where delegates are challenged to work through real problems in their companies, identified that communication was a weakness at Arden Dies.

By using new tools and leadership behaviours taught through the programme, Sarah was able to introduce two simple changes, to great effect.

The first was to introduce daily meetings for the department heads, something that had never been attempted before. It enabled key staff to share insights and information, celebrate successes and air grievances.

The second change was to introduce visual boards to the factory floor to give all staff visibility of what was happening across the company.

“While they are simple changes, they transformed communication at the company and we saw a definite increase in productivity and engagement,” Sarah said.

Sarah’s new communication strategy was also at the heart of how Arden Dies navigated the impact of Covid-19.

“There was a lot of fear and anxiety over our plans to remain open as an essential business to the food and pharma sectors so we needed to change our management approach from a more formal, authoritative approach to informal, nurturing and transparent,” she said. “So far the feedback from staff has been positive. So that is a change that is here to stay.”

Sarah also found communication and support from the cohort and programme leadership increased when workshop sessions moved online due to Covid-19.

“It was amazing that we were able to switch so effectively and not lose momentum,” she said. “As a business we could have easily gone into a bubble 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.”

As a family business Arden Dies faces a unique set of challenges, such as culture, structure, and succession planning. Sarah believes people and skills are key to surviving and thriving.

“The biggest strength of our business is the experience and knowledge of our staff. But the concern is what happens when these people leave. We need to grow, recruit well and not lose the skills.

Arden Dies also shares an industry-wide problem with the gender balance at all levels of the business.

“I’m outnumbered, that’s for certain, but there are signs of change,” Sarah said. “We have some ambitious young women on the shop floor eager to develop. We have to modernise and change the perception to show women belong in manufacturing and can thrive.”

PtP was such a positive experience for Sarah that she has now signed up to the Made Smarter Leadership Programme, which helps leaders in manufacturing SMEs improve productivity through the adoption of new industrial digital technologies (IDTs).

“Every session at PtP I walked away with something I could apply to the business,” she said. “The programme has given me so much confidence in my own abilities. I would recommend anyone, male or female, to explore the programme. If you approach it as I did, with an open mind, the possibilities for you and your business are endless.”

The next Made Smarter Leadership Programme starts in October 2020.

To find out about the Made Smarter Leadership and other Lancaster University Management School Manfacturing programmes can benefit your business visit lancaster.ac.uk/lums/manufacturing, call Pete Cornwall on 01524 510728 or email madesmarter@lancaster.ac.uk.

Sarah Poynter, Arden Dies

Forsberg’s Growth Journey with Lancaster University

Chris Mayne is the Managing Director of Forsberg Services, the Heysham-based providers of precision Positioning, Navigation and Timing solutions and products, established in 1987. Throughout his 16 years with Forsberg, he says that Lancaster University has helped to guide both his own development and that of the company.

“I achieved a BSc in Telecommunications and then a Masters in Mobile Game Design and M-Commerce at Lancaster University, working two summers at Forsberg as an Engineering Assistant.” Having completed his studies he was offered the position of Software Project Manager, working his way up to General Manager of Engineering, Operations Director, and now, Managing Director.

“With it being a small business, I’ve been fortunate to be exposed to everything from engineering, production, marketing, sales and technical sales to Human Resources (HR).” That meant lots of opportunities, but also a steep learning curve.

Navigating change

“In 2017 I heard about the Productivity through People (PtP) programme offered through Lancaster University Management School (LUMS). It hit at an interesting moment, as I’d been working on employee engagement with our HR team. I joined Cohort 1 and learned a lot about developing workplace strategy.”

“Now, when there’s a challenge we have to overcome as a business, I have a structured approach to do it. As an executive management team we recognised the importance of ensuring that our employees are engaged and empowered to deliver our strategic goals. The drivers for change can be strong but there’s more support for it because we are solving problems as a team.”

A standout feature of PtP was visiting the participating partners, BAE Systems, Siemens and Rolls-Royce. “You’d have a workshop around Transformational Leadership, then go to a best practice company like Siemens to see it in action – it provided real clarity as to how these ideas could be practically implemented.”

Following that, Chris wanted to make the next steps in his Personal Development. “I’d picked up a lot on the academic side from the PtP programme, so I went on to do an MA in Professional Practice (Management and Leadership) at LUMS, which recognised some of the work I’d done through the programme and introduced additional modules I was interested in. Via the MA, I worked on implementing a structured and scalable approach for reporting metrics and KPI execution throughout the business.”

However, the connections were not to end there. LUMS got back in touch to tell him about their 8-month Made Smarter Leadership Programme (MSLP). “I looked into it and went: you know what? Digitalisation is exactly what my next step is going to be, so it makes perfect sense.”

The leadership programme is designed to help SME business leaders drive change within their organisations and transition to being smart manufacturers. “It was a natural progression from the MA,” Chris says. “It enabled me to look at where the value in the business is and develop a strategy for maximising that value through the digitalisation of our processes. In turn, by moving our processes to a digital platform, we would generate more data reported - supporting decision-making across all levels of the business.”

MSLP incorporates a Sprint project that was especially useful to Forsberg. “They gave us the tools and methodology and then we had to implement change within the business, which puts all the learning into practice. In our case it was moving our procurement from a manual process to one that’s automated and integrated with our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. Our team implemented the change and this cut our process time from 30 minutes for a purchase order down to about 4 minutes and is freeing up people to do what they do best.”

Chris explains that the ERP system itself marks a further connection with the University. “In 2019 we began working with the EnginE project on higher level skills workforce development, which gave us a ‘Skills Champion Intern’, Joe Dodd, for two months. Joe brought new skills to tackle the integration of our ERP system, working with different departments to roll it out across the business, which he did brilliantly.”

He is clearly impressed with how each of his interactions with the University has worked to complement the others. “They’re all linked. The integration of the ERP system was accelerated through the EnginE involvement. That integration gave us the foundation – which our Made Smarter Sprints are now building on. Our whole digital strategy has come from that platform.”

Forsberg’s Future Development

The future for Forsberg looks bright. During 2019 they increased from 30 to 40 staff and in September moved to larger premises.

“We have a very adoptive and innovative team and we all relish the opportunity to improve,” Chris says. “The programmes I’ve been involved with have helped to build the culture and engagement in the business. It’s all part of the same journey – and it has all come about from talking to the University.”

Chris himself has recently become one of LUMS’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Now, having taken the lead on the EnginE project, Forsberg’s Operations Manager Dr Raphael Treffny is beginning his own journey with the University on the Lancashire Forum.

Chris Mayne, Forsberg Services

Lancaster University interns can help Lancashire manufacturers respond to Covid-19 challenge

Lancashire’s manufacturing and engineering businesses can secure a funded intern this summer to provide new skills, bright ideas and fresh talent to help navigate Covid-19 challenges.

As lockdown restrictions slowly lift and the economy begins to open up, some businesses are grappling with how to overcome the serious challenges faced during, and post, the Covid-19 pandemic. To offer support to the manufacturing industry that has been particularly affected, businesses can now access fully-funded student interns from Lancaster University, through the EnginE programme, who can offer expertise and support remotely.

EnginE’s successful internship programme provides Lancashire-based manufacturing and advanced engineering SMEs with dedicated and fully-funded online support in areas including but not limited to finance, data marketing, project management, HR and engineering.

Annette Suddes, EnginE Project Manager at Lancaster University Management School, said: “We have had a lot of success in offering our flexible internships remotely, and we know that the new skills interns bring can make a real difference to manufacturers in these challenging times.

“SMEs have the opportunity to approach us with specific problems and outline exactly what expertise they need. We can then match them to an intern who has specialist skills and can help them for a fixed period of time. This provides the intern with valuable experience while the business gets unique expertise and talent – without incurring costs.

“Remote working has rapidly become accepted practice during the Covid-19 pandemic, and I would encourage people to take advantage of the opportunity – those who have used our interns previously cannot speak highly enough of their contribution to their business.”

Lancashire-based Fleming & Howland Limited, a specialist in design and manufacture of luxury British furniture, worked remotely with EnginE intern, Matt Mottaghian, over two months. The business was seeking new skills in marketing and e-commerce to give them an additional edge in their international sales. 28 year old Matt, who lives in Lancaster, completed an MSc in e-Business and Innovation last year and was able to help.

Managing Director Paul Fleming said: “Matt brought a fresh perspective, taking control of our social media and e-commerce, and increasing confidence in our brand. Most of his work - pre COVID-19 - was conducted remotely, and we met frequently online and collaborated remotely -which we continue to do. We have been so impressed we have offered him an ongoing role.”

The EnginE project is designed to improve productivity for SMEs, helping them tackle common workforce development and skills challenges, such as recruiting and retaining great staff, delivering cost-effective training, upskilling and development for existing employees, and making apprenticeships work for their business.

Lancaster University Management School has a range of opportunities available to manufacturing businesses across the North West. Lancashire SMEs can find out how they can secure a remote-working intern this summer or about all of the manufacturing opportunities available by contacting Business Liaison Officer, Pete Cornwall on EnginE@lancaster.ac.uk, calling 01524 510728 or visiting lancaster.ac.uk/EnginEintern.

EnginE is part-funded by the European Social Fund, and is delivered in partnership with Blackburn College, Blackpool & Fylde College, the Northern Automotive Alliance, and in collaboration with Boost; Lancashire’s business growth hub, which means the support and advice businesses receive is fully-funded, and the programmes, masterclasses and resources available are often heavily subsidised.

EnginE internships are available to Lancashire-based SMEs subject to specific eligibility criteria.

Manufacturing Sector

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