A commitment to lean production, staff development and new technology solutions is helping a leading Wolverhampton manufacturer buck the credit crunch.
Watsons Glass, which employs 75 people at its Manders Estate site, revealed its strategy for growth during a visit by Pat McFadden, Labour MP for Wolverhampton South-east, and representatives from the Manufacturing Advisory Service – West Midlands (MAS –WM).
The minister for employment relations and postal affairs received a guided tour of the 65,000 sq ft plant and spoke to bosses about the current trading conditions, the business support received and competition from overseas.
He also received first-hand insight into the glass-processing production line, which has had more than £3million investment over the past five years.
General manager John Storr said: “The market place is tough at the moment, but, rather than bemoan the current conditions, we prefer to do something positive about it.
“Our investment in advanced technology manufacturing has given us greater operational flexibility, which we have used to consolidate our existing position, develop new market opportunities and put plans in place for further expansion.
“Crucial to our success has been a strategy of continuous improvement, coupled with an ongoing investment programme that has seen the installation of two completely new CNC processing lines, enabling us to diversify into a number of commercial glass sectors, as well as large private bespoke installations. This has resulted in around 40 per cent growth over the past five years.”
MAS–WM organised the visit to illustrate the way it works with local manufacturers and the impact its highly skilled advisers can have on helping firms becoming more competitive, win new orders and launch new products.
Its relationship with Watsons Glass spans many years and has involved the implementation of business diagnostic tools, advice on reducing waste and lead times – both areas that have had a major impact on bottom-line performance.
The business support organisation has also signposted the company to funding opportunities, secured its involvement in the SC21 programme and, more recently, put it in touch with Business Link in the West Midlands with a view to being “in the mix” for London 2012.
Cliff Johnson, MAS–WM adviser, said: “Watsons Glass understands the marketplace perfectly and realises that, in order to grow, it needs to continually evolve its product range, the way it works and the way it promotes itself.
“The management team is also very switched on when it comes to tapping into advice and they have made full use of all the business support available to them, including putting 30 of their staff through NVQ training with Train to Gain.
“We have helped over 5,000 manufacturers in the region since 2002 with real practical help that makes a difference to the bottom line. In today’s competitive marketplace, we understand the problems companies face and we can support them through the credit crunch so they can emerge stronger than ever.”
Pat McFadden MP said: “It was a very enjoyable and informative visit.
“By working closely with the government’s Manufacturing Advisory Service, it (Watsons Glass) has become more competitive and now has a blueprint for future growth.”