Manufacturers have received a boost to productivity and turnover thanks to an innovative troubleshooting scheme.
The project, run by North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce and supported by the Manufacturing Advisory Service West Midlands, helped four companies in the north of the county.
Each benefited from a 12-week pilot programme of mentoring and expert advice provided through the Chamber's North Staffordshire Manufacturing Group.
Specialists went "in deep" at each of the four Stoke-on-Trent companies: Podmore (Engineers), Trentham-based Clive Durose Wood Turners, window frame manufacturer Bennett Architectural and Newstead Tradeframes.
They analysed all aspects of the companies, from staff and work scheduling to production line efficiency and waste management, before setting out tailored agendas for improvement.
The businesses have noted a marked increase in productivity and turnover. In all cases, projected turnover had increased by tens of thousands of pounds by the end of the project.
The free consultation was provided by the Chamber's Manufacturing Group partners - Manufacturing Advisory Service West Midlands, Ceramic Industry Forum and Michelin Tyres.
Tony Greenway, specialist manufacturing advisor with MASWM, said: "We decided to work closely with a few companies providing an in-depth coaching and mentoring service rather than superficially with a lot of companies.
"What tends to happen is that company owners and directors can become so immersed in the work that they are doing, they do not see the bigger picture.
"We can come along with the expertise to show them exactly what can be done to improve things and guide them towards that improvement."
Colin Copeland, of the Ceramic Industry Forum, said: "This was mainly about improving productivity through a variety of tools and techniques but because of the very nature of the group the businesses involved have also been able to forge great networking opportunities with one another and share best practise."
Amelia Gough, who co-owns Fenton-Based Podmore Engineers with husband Andrew Gough, was delighted with the results.
She said: "Being actively involved in the chamber and the Manufacturing Group has been an enormous benefit to the company.
"We knew we had issues that needed resolving but because we were so involved with running the company we had no time to stop to analyse the situation and change things.
"This scheme has helped us improve a lot of areas of our business, particularly job costing and production scheduling.
"Unfortunately, a shadow of negativity is often cast over the manufacturing industry in this country; this scheme really shows there are definitely lots of positive things going on."
Rob Bennett, director of Tunstall- based Bennett Architectural, said: "This was a very valuable project to be involved in. It really helped us look at areas of our business such as waste and our production line and make big improvements. It is great to see a scheme like this benefiting manufacturers when the industry is hit by recession."