Q&A with Dean Barnes, Regional Director, Manufacturing Growth Programme

We recently spoke with Dean Barnes, Regional Director at the Manufacturing Growth Programme, delivered by Economic Growth Solutions (part of Oxford Innovation), to talk about the support they offer SME manufactures and overcoming growth barriers.

How does the Manufacturing Growth Programme help SME manufacturers grow?
The Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP) helps support SME manufacturers to grow by identifying, understanding and then removing their barriers to growth. We do this by engaging businesses through a comprehensive business diagnostic tool specifically designed for manufacturers, called GROWTHmapper. This contains a set of business assessment questions designed to underpin coaching and advice to high growth and innovative businesses. The diagnostic tool can be completed by up to 6 members of a senior management team, of which the results will indicate the overall range of agreement or displacement within the team in relation to the key business growth concerns.
Once the market leading business diagnostic tool, GROWTHmapper has been completed, an in-depth action plan will be completed by the businesses local Manufacturing Growth Manger (MGM) on behalf of the company. This will include a range of actions that both the MGM and SME manufacturing business will undertake to support the businesses growth ambitions.

In discussion of these actions the business owner will set their priorities, from this the programme can provide the business with a grant to reimburse part of the cost of an improvement project supported by an external coach/consultant.

What are some of the biggest barriers to growth?
Senior managers of small businesses find themselves working in the business day-to-day instead of working on the business from a strategic point of view. We give senior officers the chance to review their business and engage with the rest of their team through GROWTHmapper, opening up the opportunity to find out what their biggest barrier to growth truly is.

Between October 2016 and April 2019, 15% of MGPs 3,611 improvement projects identified that ‘continuous improvement’ was the biggest barriers identified. This would include a range of barriers from managing risk and problem solving to encouraging ideas and creativity to developing an innovation culture.

Feedback received from manufacturing businesses also shows that some of the biggest barriers for growth for SME manufacturers often revolves around cash flow, time and resources. We often receive feedback from our clients saying that if it wasn’t for the grant, they would struggle to complete such an improvement project on a such a high-quality level, admitting that without the grant, their attempts at growth would lack quality, effecting negatively the impact their growth effort would actually have on their business.
Time is something that no business with ambition can get enough of; even manufacturers. Unfortunately, we can’t simply just ‘make time’, which is why we work in a way which allows companies to continue their day to day operations, while we help to furnace the appropriate action plans for the growth of their business. Resource can also be difficult to find and afford, the growth projects we create are designed to take this factor into account and aim to grow the business in a way that can then sustain the need for extra employees.

Joining the Programme is advantageous for SMEs. Can you talk us through some of these benefits?
Not only will the business gain insight into any business displacement through the GROWTHmapper report, all SME manufacturers will receive tailored support via a dedicated, experienced local MGM, the majority of which were previously business owners and therefore fully understand business needs and wants.

Our local MGMs not only have experience in the business support industry, but they have key manufacturing insight. They’ve worked with or in the manufacturing industry and developed multiple specialisms such as lean, leadership, management and strategy amongst others.

By joining the programme, we’ve helped organisations increase their turnover, become more productive, create new jobs, increase competitiveness, safeguard jobs and create new to firm products/services.

To date we’ve created more than 3,260 new jobs across the country – this has not only been beneficial to the SMEs but to local economic development. A further 890 jobs are set to be created over the next quarter.

From Summer 2019 we will also be providing free to attend, Manufacturing Productivity workshops to SME manufacturing businesses and their employees. This will further develop their skills and create a more effective workplace.

Can you tell us more about why you secured an additional £11.8m to support manufacturers?
In October 2016, we were given the task of setting up a programme capable of delivering over £10.3 million of dedicated business support to SME manufacturers and I’m delighted to say that, thanks to the hard work of the staff and the MGMs, we have achieved that.
Over the course of the last two and a half years we have helped more than 2,000 SMEs to identify and overcome barriers to their growth and this has added millions of pounds to the local economy and created in excess of 3,000 jobs, safeguarding thousands more in the process.

Supporting manufacturers is not easy and you need a tailored approach, delivered by experts who understand what it is like working in industry.

The Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and local Growth Hubs have seen first-hand the value we add to firms in their respective areas and this has resulted in their commitment to support us for another two and a half years.

To make the most of this, we have joined forces with Oxford Innovation to deliver the extension of the programme and this will make us the country’s largest business support organisation, primarily focusing on manufacturing

What does the future hold for the Manufacturing Growth Programme?
The £11.8 million extension will provide enhanced support to more SME manufacturing businesses, as well as having the opportunity to add further value to those companies we have already supported, this programme will be delivered across 16 LEP areas.

Our MGMs are trusted experts that understand the language MDs are talking and through a new manufacturing diagnostic tool can guide them on making the right decisions, before bringing in specialists on specific issues they are facing or opportunities they’re looking to explore.

Accessing MGP has never been easier. The process is slick, the scope of support is tailored to each company’s needs, the diagnostic provides an in-depth look into their business and the results, as already proven, are making a real difference in terms of increased turnover, jobs and new products/processes.

We strive to have an even greater growth impact with the additional funding; whilst building on and developing more long-lasting relationships within the manufacturing industry.

To find out more, visit www.manufacturinggrowthprogramme.co.uk, enquiries@egs.live, or call 01664 501301.