The University’s Technology Innovation Centre based Business Solutions team carried out approaching 200 five-day support-schemes with small and medium sized West Midlands automotive products and components suppliers. These SMEs sought to adopt new technologies and skills to strengthen their production processes and techniques. Many were further capitalising on benefits already gained through the University’s previous Accelerate-managed programme.
The recently completed £1m technology-transfer programme enabled SMEs to take advantage of TIC’s knowledge of world-class manufacturing techniques and technologies across multiple market sectors. Well over 3000 Midlands companies have now benefited from the University’s technology-transfer expertise through its lead-role in a wide range of both technology and skills transfer schemes into SMEs.
Companies, who had requested a consultation with TIC’s Business Solutions specialists, received proposals to help integrate design with process technology and innovation throughout their businesses. These Accelerate proposals, together with valuable postgraduate student projects, often lead to significant business advances. These include implementation of modern design and manufacturing techniques, encompassing TS16949, ISO9000 and 14001 standards accreditation, as well as improving energy efficiencies and reducing all aspects of waste.
Typical Accelerate programme participant, Barkley Plastics, particularly benefited from assistance in implementing the automotive quality standard, TS16949. The TIC team used a three-phase approach. A ‘gap analysis’ identified business practices in need of strengthening. This led to the development of relevant procedures and processes which were then formalised in a manual to ensure they became a permanent part of Barkley’s daily work routines.
With TIC help, the company has introduced this and other innovative programmes with such vigour and effectiveness it became a natural nominee for this year’s Accelerate Supplier Awards. Barkley Plastics’ managing director Graham Robinson comments: “We were very appreciative of TIC’s expertise in helping establish the quality-conscious culture needed to make TS 16949 work well. My team has taken to the procedures with their usual enthusiasm which helped us to come through and actually win two awards in the process.”
The University’s TIC-based programme manager, Mark Paul, says: “Accelerate focuses on SMEs adopting relevant technologies, together with the systems and procedures, to become leaner, more efficient, cost-effective, responsive and flexible. Up-skilling has helped companies apply new technological solutions to root out wasteful activities and re-design production processes. Reduced costs, improved quality and delivery have all resulted and, crucially, helped secure many manufacturing jobs in the West Midlands”