A pioneering online business network group has helped M idlands manufacturers clinch new orders worth more than £3 million after revamping its website.
Managers at the West Midlands Collaborative Commerce Marketplace - www.wmccm.co.uk - took on Coleshill-based IT experts Acutec to ensure their site was working as well as it could.
Now almost 2,000 companies from across the region have signed up to the free service and are enjoying national and international interest in the products and services they supply.
Mark Swift, technical manager at WMCCM, said: "The internet is a valuable market-ing tool when used effectively.
"By providing a professional platform for the area's companies to showcase their abilities, we have raised the profile of the region's manufacturing on a large scale - resulting in a huge amount of new business for individual companies.
"The industry is so wide-ranging, from providing components for aircraft to design-ing tailor-made machines to produce specialist parts, it can often be difficult for purchasers to find exactly what they are looking for.
"The WMCCM website allows online access to company catalogues and provides a competence profiling service which sets out the core skills and areas of expertise of our users."
One company to benefit is Edwards Precision Engineering of Tyburn Road, Erdington. Recognised as one of the largest and most experienced special-ist engineering and subcontract toolmakers in the UK, Edwards has won an additional £100,000 worth of business from its presence on the site.
Technical sales director Chris Pitt said: "Through our link to the WMCCM site we have a more prominent presence on the net.
"Over the past two years, since using its services, we have seen a significant increase in new enquiries through our website.
"It is also an excellent market research tool and keeps us up to date on important issues in the industry."
Set up as part of Warwick University's manufacturing group with European regional development funding, WMCCM not only gives companies access to global business opportunities, it assists in forging trusted partnerships and managing projects online.
Alexios Gegios, project manager at WMCCM, said: "We knew this was a complex project that would need fine tuning and brought Acutec on board 12 months ago to maximise its effectiveness.
"We had experienced a few teething problems after going live. The influx of interest had caused it to be quite slow and sometimes unreliable - the system timing out before pages could be retrieved.
"We also listened to feedback from users once the site was being accessed regularly and Acutec have made changes in response to their comments.
"They have altered the layout to make it much easier to navigate, swapped the server to increase reliability and debugged the system, making it quicker and simpler to use.
"The changes have had a huge impact on the site's usability and we have since seen a dramatic growth in its use."
Managing director at Acutec, Chris Roche, added: "It's good to know our time is being invested in a development scheme that will promote our area as a front-runner in industry.
"We're really pleased that our input is making a difference."
Mr Gegios said: "We are really proud of the results from the site so far. WMCCM will continue to evolve as we find new ways to help businesses with issues such as turnover, costs, quality and marketing and Acutec's advice and ongoing support is proving vital throughout this process.
"We will continue to work with them to provide a first-class service to the local engineering and manufacturing community."