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Liverpool City Region: where manufacturing never stands still

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Phil Anders, Manufacturing Advisor at Liverpool City Region Manufacturing Growth Fund, explores the state of manufacturing in the Liverpool City Region and why companies are taking the initiative to invest, improve and join the next manufacturing revolution.

Much like the rest of the North West, the Liverpool City Region (LCR) is no stranger to manufacturing, with a wide variety of strengths found across the breadth of the city region.

To the west, the Wirral is home to one of the UK’s oldest and largest shipbuilders, Cammell Laird, which acts as a hub for marine engineering and the rapidly growing offshore wind industry in Liverpool Bay. Down the road is Port Sunlight, historic home and R&D facility for consumer goods giant Unilever.

To the south and east, Halton is a magnet for the chemicals industry, while St Helens is the headquarters of world-leading glassmaker Pilkington. In the centre, Knowsley is a hub for automotive leaders like Jaguar Land Rover and Magna, while Liverpool itself has significant strengths in pharmaceuticals with the likes of Astra Zeneca, Novartis and Eli Lilly. All of these manufacturing giants help to anchor a variety of local SMEs and start-ups in their respective industries.

So, what is it about LCR that makes it such a vibrant manufacturing success? I’ve spent years working with countless SMEs across the region, and I’ve always found a willingness to invest, improve and simply ‘crack on’, regardless of the economic uncertainty we face.

A cutting-edge future

Perhaps it’s the physical assets the city region has at its disposal. Liverpool is after all one of the world’s most historic trading ports and is currently undergoing a huge ‘Superport’ infrastructure investment to keep the shipping trade flowing. Success could also be down to the strategic vision to become a global hotspot for advanced manufacturing, supported by landmark developments such as the Materials Innovation Factory, Sci-Tech Daresbury and Sensor City.

Another key element is the unique combination of support being made available to aid the adoption of next-generation digital manufacturing technologies.

The LCR4.0 programme has helped scores of SMEs to explore the potential of Industry 4.0 by connecting them to academic and innovation partners. The closely-linked Made Smarter initiative offers grant funding to implement cutting-edge digital technologies, as well as access to a Leadership Development Programme to help business leaders overcome the challenge of embracing this new manufacturing revolution. Abbey Group, a great engineering company in Liverpool I’ve worked with for several years, has been among the first to benefit.

Not ready for the revolution? No problem

Even if you’re not quite ready for Industry 4.0, support is at hand in LCR through our Manufacturing Growth Fund, which couples expert advice with grant funding to support new ideas and drive growth.

The Seasoned Pioneers office
Matt Webster of Seasoned Pioneers, which used grant funding from the Manufacturing Growth Fund to launch a new subscription service for its spice manufacturing firm.

Take Wirral-based Seasoned Pioneers Ltd, for example. They produce a range of over 300 authentic spices and seasonings for the retail sector but had ambitions to launch their own ‘spice box’ subscription service. I worked closely with founder Matt Webster to devise a sales and marketing strategy and procure a digital agency to deliver the project. The result, Spice Pioneer, has been a resounding success.

Outside Cottom Foods HQ
Phil Anders of the LCR Manufacturing Growth Fund and Will Munro of Cottom Foods, which used a Manufacturing Growth Fund grant to achieve British Retail Consortium accreditation, leading to a lucrative contract with Morrison’s.

Sometimes all you need to reach the next stage in your business is an industry accreditation that remains tantalisingly out of reach. That was the case for Cottom Foods in Widnes, which produces sausages and black pudding.

While the products were performing well in existing supply chains, Cottom Foods wanted to expand into the major supermarkets. For that to happen, it needed British Retail Consortium (BRC) accreditation, which is no small task. We sat down together and scoped out a project to bring in a process improvement expert who could advise on the changes needed to meet the exacting standards of top tier buyers. Backed by a £3,000 grant, Cottom Foods delivered the project and achieved accreditation in 2018 – and then won a lucrative contract with Morrison’s!

At the Genlab factory
Phil Crompton of GenLab, which used the Manufacturing Growth Fund to bring in an ‘Internet of Things’ engineer to enhance its range of industrial ovens.

When you’re ready to move into the wide world of Industry 4.0, we’re there too. Genlab Ltd, a designer and manufacturer of industrial ovens in Halton, is a brilliant example of an SME making the jump. They identified an exciting opportunity to integrate industrial digitalisation technology in their ovens, so I worked with them to procure an ‘Internet of Things’ engineer to design the solution.

Our grant offer

The Manufacturing Growth Fund has now awarded 32 grants to SMEs across LCR. Typical projects are around £15,000, which would attract a grant of £5,400. For more information, visit manufacturingnorthwest.com/lcr or contact phil.anders@growthco.uk.

Phil Anders (@PH_bizgrowthhub) has over 20 year’s experience, supporting business growth for small and medium manufacturing enterprises. Formerly delivering the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), Phil is well versed in working with manufacturers to identify growth opportunities and implementing operational improvement plans. A Six Sigma Green belt, Phil is a lean manufacturing expert with specialisms in continuous improvement, waste minimisation and quality management.

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