A pioneering Dudley company which claims to be Europe's leading manufacturer of kinkless bead chain has won a top award for innovation.
Sturge Industries, based on the Blackbrook Business Park, produces the bead which is used in many applications such as window blinds.
The firm had inherited aging labour intensive machinery when it bought out Birmingham Associated Chain in 1976.
Last year it received £10,000 from the Innovation Networks programme which is funded by Advantage West Midlands and the European Regional Development Fund.
By introducing process improvements to the existing machinery, Sturge were able to reduce overheads and remain competitive against low cost overseas rivals.
At the Making Innovation Real event, held at Coventry Technocentre, Sturge scooped the best process improvement award for efforts which helped secure ten jobs which were previously under threat.
Jon Kendrick, Sturge technical manager, said: "The machinery we inherited when we bought Birmingham Associated Chain just wasn't fit for a profitable operation.
"But thanks to the funding from Innovation Networks we have been able to introduce some new systems and processes which have meant we can keep the same machinery but it now becomes much more productive and costeffective. The plan is to roll out the improvements across our chain making facility.
"This has meant we have been able to go from strength to strength without having to invest in costly equipment, and safe guard jobs along the way."
Advantage West Midlands deputy chairman Norman Price said: "Sturge Industries has proven that improving processes is an effective tool in enabling companies to stay competitive.
"Innovation Networks has helped Sturge to make the necessary changes to reduce overheads and keep at the forefront of their market."