Melba Swintex is a leading manufacturer of temporary traffic management equipment. Using plastic moulding technology, it produces cones, barriers, signs and ramps for local authorities and the construction industry in the UK and internationally including exports to Australia, Canada and Hong Kong. It currently employs 125 people at its Bury factory and was shortlisted North West Regional Finalists for the Family Business of the Year award at the UK Private Business Awards 2015.
The business was looking to break into international markets with a new export strategy as it was proving increasingly difficult to drive domestic sales. It also had a raft of new product ideas but the management team was unsure how to prioritise them and successfully take them to market. They also wanted to explore the feasibility of expanding their existing site, or possibly move to new local premises.
On her first visit, Hub growth advisor Tracy Eyres completed a full diagnostic of the company and although the business was trading well, with an annual turnover of £13 million, she was able to make a number of recommendations.
She worked with the management team to prioritise specific products which had stalled at the planning stage, but this just proved to be the start of things. Tracy introduced the company’s finance director Paul Harrison to the possibility of teaming up with either Bolton University’s mechanical engineering department or UCLAN’s School of Art Design and Performance in Preston. This has led to a new joint-venture, with University students working on designs for a new street bin to be manufactured by Melba Swintex, while Paul is able to offer them an important link to industry.
Tracy also helped the business apply for a grant from the Greater Manchester Export Fund that, if awarded, will help them to develop a new prototype for a road traffic cylinder for use on the continent. The finance will help to pay for new machinery, R&D and marketing and if successful will double their exports to 20% of overall turnover.
The business is now working with the Hub’s Green Growth team too, who as well as carrying out an energy efficiency audit on the business, are completing a carbon footprint assessment.
As Paul explains: “Quite often, when we look at tenders, one of the questions we need to answer is about our carbon footprint and we don’t have that sort of information. We’d considered sending someone on a course so they could work it out for us but now the Green Growth team is coming in and carrying it out at no cost to us, which means we’ll be able to go for work that was out of reach beforehand.”
The final area where the Hub has supported the business is in the hunt for new premises. “We’re simply running out of space,” says Paul, “but in order to increase production, we need to expand.”
“Tracy has been excellent at helping us get a better idea of what else is available in Bury, but also whether there would be any objection from the council if we expanded our existing site.” A decision on premises is expected by the end of the year, which could lead to the creation of ten new jobs.
Paul has also attended a series of Hub seminars on employment law to ensure the company is complying with new legislation and best practise.
Overall, the work has helped to safeguard all 125 jobs at the company and lay the foundation for further expansion. The company turnover has increased by 16% and profits by 96% in the year to March 2015.
Paul adds: “I must admit I was sceptical at first and unsure about what the Hub could really do for us. But the support they have offered has been superb, particularly the way they can link up businesses and other organisations. Tracy has also been a fantastic sounding board and can offer a different perspective on things.”
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