The West Midlands Manufacturing Club at the University of Wolverhampton's Centre of Engineering Excellence is celebrating the continued success of its Business Assistance Programme.

Over 28 manufacturing companies from across the West Midlands have seen a dramatic increase in their productivity as a result of the support of the club in the last year, with projects concentrating on aspects such as new product introduction, business process re-engineering and lean manufacturing.

The cumulative total for sales safeguarded, as a result of such assistance, was £6.5 million during 2006 with a further £14 million worth of additional sales forecast for 2007/2008.

Companies receiving help from the club, which was previously known as Wolverhampton/Black Country Engineering Forum, also reported 211 jobs safeguarded, with 27 new jobs forecast for 2007 because of improvements.

Alec Gillham, Manufacturing Club operations manager, said: "I am delighted with the results achieved by companies participating in our business assistance programme.

"The results speak for themselves and demonstrate our continued commitment to support the manufacturing SME community in improving performance and competitiveness."

The Manufacturing Club, which operates from the recently upgraded Centre of Engineering Excellence based at Wolverhampton Science Park, has over 420 members and will continue offering the business assist programme throughout 2007/2008 with special interest presentations, technology toolbox talks and best practice visits.

In addition, the Manufacturing Club will also begin a programme of in-company support to help companies introduce environmental management systems, lean manufacturing and waste minimisation along with a newly introduced agenda for corporate social responsibility.

Meanwhile a series of best practice manufacturing visits and workshop visits will give manufacturers the opportunity to look and learn by taking a close-up and in-depth view of some of the region's top companies.

The scheme has been organised by the Manufacturing Advisory Service West Midlands (MAS-WM) and delivered by the Inside Manufacturing Enterprise programme from Coventry University Enterprises.

Now in their fourth year, but funded for the first time by MAS-WM, the best practice visits start in September and will take visitors into companies that exemplify best practice from across the region.

Hosts range from small to medium enterprises to global market leaders, each with best practice to share in a number of areas relevant to other manufacturers.

The season's first visit, on Tuesday, is to Remploy Automotive in Kitts Green, Birmingham, when the key areas of discussion will be improving process capability and being positive about disabled people.

In October the venue is measurement specialists Renishaw at Wootton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire and in November the programme moves on to electrical assemblies manufacturer Power Panels Electrical Systems in Walsall.

After a break in December, the visits resume at engineers Brandauer in Birmingham in January.

Co-ordinator Michelle Connors said: "There are so many benefits for the attendees. Not only are they going to see best practice, but they are going to be able to ask questions they would never normally be able to ask."