Productivity Through People

Productivity Through People

A ten-month programme in partnership with three world class manufacturers; BAE Systems, Siemens and Rolls-Royce, designed to support and invest in the key decision-makers of tomorrow. Gain access to the latest techniques, thinking and research to transform your productivity and working practices.

About the Programme

This is a historic programme that was subsidised by BAE Systems, Siemens and Rols Royce between 2016 and 2020. For further information about other business development opportunities please get in touch with us.

You'll begin with a Programme Induction, which is a two-day event made up of leadership exercises, focused discussions and peer-to-peer learning. Taking the time away from your workplace, you'll be encouraged to think about your business differently and reflect on your current practices. This experience is designed to develop trust amongst the participants, breaking down the barriers to learning and providing opportunities to connect your new knowledge to real-life situations.

Following this, you'll participate in a series of elements to develop your knowledge and skills as well as an unparalleled opportunity to meet key people from leading UK organisations where excellence in productivity lies at the heart of business. You will have access to gold standard manufacturing organisations including BAE Systems, Siemens and Rolls-Royce. These companies will demonstrate how they have transformed their workplace by putting employee engagement at the very centre of their improvement processes.

Productivity through People workshops will initially be delivered online with a view to move to face-to-face workshops when this is safe to implement.

Discover our testimonials

PTP Partner Logos: Be the Business, BAE Systems, Siemens, Rolls Royce

Programme Elements

Productivity through People includes two non-consecutive days each month, after the initial Programme Induction, to develop your leadership & management capabilities to empower your workforce. You'll participate in a range of online workshops including a variety of challenges and tasks to develop the tools and techniques to transform your productivity and working practices. The focus on practical learning means there are no formal assessments. You may need to do some pre-reading, and you'll be expected to contribute via the online forum.

The Benefits

This programme will help you to empower and engage front line staff leading to better usage of skills and abilities, transforming management practices and developing leadership skills. You will develop a support network of other SME owner/managers to build a more productive future together, and the exposure to world-class manufacturing environments will enable you to formulate high-performance workplace strategies.

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.”

Sarah Poynter, Arden Dies

Milexa Group - Designs on a digital future

Milexa Group is a Liverpool-based business designing and manufacturing wallpaper and flooring products. After initial set up 10 years ago it has seen year-on-year revenue growth of more than 40% annually and doubled its staff to 40 since 2017.

Dominic Aldridge, 27 joined the business three years ago from university and within 18 months progressed to become the production manager. With new management responsibility and a department central to the company’s digital strategy, Dominic’s manager, who had completed the Made Smarter Leadership Programme with Lancaster University Management School, felt the Productivity through People (PtP) programme offered him a well-rounded introduction to manufacturing and leadership.

“Milexa is an exciting company to work for,” Dominic said. “It is a place where manufacturing and creativity merge, innovation is encouraged, and where people are empowered to have their say in how the business runs. But the business has grown quickly and there are challenges with infrastructure and standardisation.

“As a young manager in charge of a team of a similar age it has proved the perfect place to learn vital skills to help myself and the business.

Dominic was somewhat apprehensive about how he would be perceived by more experienced delegates but was swiftly put at ease during the residential element of PtP. “From the very start there were no preconceptions or egos, everyone wanted to be there and learn from each other,” he said. “I found there was a genuine interest in our business, me, and how we do things.

“For instance, we have a good culture at Milexa: a strong identity and a collective way of thinking that’s in line with our company values. Culture doesn’t change overnight and it’s certainly not perfect but we challenge ourselves on it constantly. We’re a young SME and this is something we’ve had from the start, so it’s embedded.

“The majority of my peers on the programme come from much older, established companies. Of course, they are absolutely invested in improving culture but find it more difficult due to their size or rooted way of thinking. Therefore, this particular topic is one which I felt I could confidently help my peers with, whereas on the flip side I learned a lot from these larger companies in other areas.

“The openness and support set the tone and created a fantastic peer network, which I am sure will continue long after we graduate.”

Dominic found greatest value from the PtP when the cohort were encouraged to apply what they had learned from resources, lectures and seminars to practical experience in their businesses. “When we talked through what we learned and gained other people’s perspectives, it really brought the theory to life,” he said.

Similarly, action learning sessions, where delegates work through real problems in their companies, were a highlight for Dominic. “The process stimulates rich conversation and insight into potential solutions and then encourages you to take action before the next session,” he added.

But the leadership module was the most pivotal for Dominic. It transformed his approach to his team which proved vital to navigate the impact of Covid-19.

“When the pandemic hit, my department was unable to hire two people we were desperate for to cope with the increasing demand,” Dominic said. “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.”

As the PtP switched to online delivery, Dominic saw an increase in contact with his cohort and the LUMS leadership team. “The unprecedented situation created by Covid has to some extent benefited our cohort in that it has created unique situations which have tested our abilities to find solutions,” he said. “We wanted to talk to each other more to support each other and share ideas.”

Dominic is now brimming with ideas for change at Milexa, including a fresh approach to project management which was suggested by his mentor, an experienced director from BAE – a PtP industrial partner from the programme.

“The impact of Covid-19 has meant that my priority is to focus on the job at hand and make sure my team is happy, productive and that morale is high. But PtP has helped to equip me with tools to plan for the future.

“The programme is really well balanced between real world business and academia. We were always kept on our toes which is a testament to the way it was delivered and the enthusiasm from module leaders. I’ve never learned so much so quickly.

“I couldn’t recommend PtP more. There’s so much to learn. Regardless of your experience you will come away with something transformative for your business. I certainly have.”

Dominic Aldridge, Milexa Group

HMG Paints - Painting a bright future

HMG Paints is the UK’s largest independent paint manufacturer, producing more than 3m litres each year.

During its 90-year history it has developed an expertise in wet paint, powder coatings and aerosols, and created pioneering coatings for a myriad of industries.

Rebecca Falder, a Senior Quality Analyst, is the fourth generation of her family to join the Manchester business established by her great-grandfather.

She is leading the company’s digital strategy and a colleague, who is studying a PhD at Lancaster University, believed Rebecca would benefit from the Productivity through People (PtP) programme.

“As a company we are at a crossroads when it comes to adopting technologies which could help the business,” Rebecca. “We want to improve productivity, but approach change in the right way. Our people and our culture are our biggest assets and we need to put our workforce at the heart of all decisions.

“The PtP programme tied in perfectly with that ethos and has made me think differently about managing, motivating and engaging with our people.”

The two-day residential which kicked off the programme furnished Rebecca with one of her most impactful lessons about the value of good communication.“I’m definitely one for throwing myself into opportunities, so I got a lot out of the exercises and it made me hungry to learn more,” Rebecca said. “The residential really achieved what it set out to do: bringing together complete strangers from different backgrounds and industries and creating the basis of a trusting and supportive environment.”The workshop on Culture, Employee Engagement and Communications run by Dr Robyn Remke had the biggest impact on Rebecca.“Learning how to measure culture and manage it and spot the red flags was really useful,” she said. “The workshop gave me the tools and strategies to set about preserving the best bits of our current culture, and the tacit knowledge of the workforce, as we develop our digital strategy. There is a great passion in our business. It makes us stand out from competition and we want to keep that.”Covid-19 had a significant impact on HMG Paints supply chain and order book, and the business took the decision to furlough half of its workforce. Agile and flexible production meant it was able to switch its factory around to make hand sanitisers which were sold and donated to local police, hospitals and hospices, and ramp up output of its decorative portfolio to meet increasing demand.“With a 90-year history HMG Paints has survived some tough economic situations,” Rebecca said. “What the experience reaffirmed was the strength and resilience we have in our employees. We have repaid that by focussing on the individual to understand their situations through what has been a horrible experience.”Rebecca found support through the programme team and her cohort when PtP switched to online delivery. “Help was always available, and we actually had more regular contact during an unprecedented situation,” Rebecca said. “Moving online was challenging for everyone but highlighted the flexibility of the programme. It was clear that our feedback was valued by the Lancaster University Management School and the programme was cohort-driven. If something didn’t quite work in our new circumstances it was adapted to ensure we were all comfortable. While the academic syllabus is set, the application of what we learned is refreshingly flexible and personalised to our business - more than any course or training I have experienced.”While Rebecca is yet to apply what she has learnt on PtP, she is confident that she has a firm basis to use her new insight on leadership, strategy and communication to drive her family’s business forward. “As a young female leader in manufacturing I see my position as an opportunity to inspire other women, to blaze a trail,” Rebecca said. “While it is a family business, I am expected to earn my place.

“The programme has given me more confidence to take the next step in my career and drive forward our digital strategy.“In some ways I have too many valuable things to put into practice, which is a great problem to have. “But I am certain that I can now reach for the right tools at the right time.”

Rebecca Falder, HMG Paints

Forsberg Service’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 Master's 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

Driving Growth in NW SMEs by Solving the Productivity Puzzle

Understanding what drives productivity growth is vital to tackle the UK’s “productivity puzzle” and to exploit the opportunities presented by Industry 4.0. Lancaster University’s expertise in the productivity agenda is making Lancashire the place for people based productivity solutions – and its key deicison-makers of North West SMEs that are feeling the benefits.

Read article

"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 PtP 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.” 

Helen Wilkinson, Knowledge Exchange Manager


Business people

Costs & Apply

This programme has received significant investment from the industrial partners, both in its design and finance. As a result the subsidised cost of this programme is £2,500 per delegate.

Find out more about how and why Lancaster University hold your information.