Manufacturing is getting its act together in the East of England and not least through a somewhat unsung service paid for by you and me. Jenny Chapman went to PA Consulting to find out about it.
This is one of those stories where, at first glance, you might be inclined to say “they would say that, wouldn’t they”, but the figures speak for themselves. Every month between 40 and 45 East of England manufacturing companies – new ones each time – make contact with something called the Manufacturing Advisory Service, which in this region is run by PA Consulting at Melbourn. MAS was created by the previous government and is one of the few set ups being kept on by the Coalition, which is putting £50m into it nationally over the next three years.
What’s on offer is quite simple, a free day at the taxpayers’ expense for manufacturers to receive a visit from a consultant who will look at a particular issue or problem and come up with a solution. It may be that what’s needed is a few more days, and in the vast majority of cases the manufacturers sign up for further support, which is heavily subsidised.
Martin Smith, who is head of technology & innovation at PA, says it is all to do with the government spotting a very straightforward way of working with industry to support UK manufacturing, and figures show that for every £1 spent the return in £30. Cambridge has been cited as a prime example of how well MAS works and at the same time contradicts the widely-held belief that the success of the city as a technology hub is down to being in the same space as a place of academic excellence and sources of funding.
“This has quite a small impact,” Martin Smith says. “It’s more to do with consultancies like PA supporting entrepreneurs, and this is not just our view.” The consultancy MAS offers covers efficiency and effectiveness, innovation and design. PA also runs MAS in the North East and is preparing a bid to run the service nationally as it de regionalises. “It could be argued that the government should be putting billions into it rather than millions, given the return,” Martin says.
There’s a MAS hotline (0845 300 4443) for anyone who would like to give the service a go, and the value of the free day is estimated to be between £500 and £1,000. PA doesn’t keep all the work to itself, passing projects on to other consultants with specific expertise. Local companies which have already experienced MAS include Visual Planet, purveyor of touch screen technology that works through glass. They wanted to speed up the time between taking an order and delivery; through MAS they achieved a 20% improvement.
JDR Umbilical Systems at Littleport makes sub-sea cables which feed vital supplies to offshore oil, gas and wind energy platforms. The company needed a big increase in production to meet a surge in demand, and has achieved a 25% productivity improvement, 40% reduction in scrap and defects, and 25% increase in value add per person.
Michell Instruments at Ely is a world leader in moisture and humidity measurement and approached MAS to, again, increase productivity to meet growing demand. They have achieved an increase in on time delivery from 78% to 90%, increased productivity by 31%, reduced lead time by half, and say they have now created a culture of continuous improvement.
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