Mayor opens Ramfoam’s new headquarters as company embraces digital thanks to WMG, University of Warwick
One of the first companies to sign up to a programme to improve the digital capabilities of smaller businesses has officially opened its new company headquarters and factory in Sandwell.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) cut the ribbon at Ramfoam’s new site on Haigne Road, Tividale which will see the business increase in size by 50 per cent.
Ramfoam, which makes foam products for the military and other organisations, was one of the first businesses to sign up to the West Midlands Made Smarter programme which is aimed at increasing the number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) adopting digital technology in manufacturing. Last year Ramfoam adapted its manufacturing practices to produce two million face visors a week at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Made Smarter, which was officially launched in June, is headed up by the WMCA and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands said: “The West Midlands is a shining light for UK innovation, and that has become even more apparent throughout the pandemic.
“That’s why, in partnership with BEIS, we set up the Made Smarter programme to help SMEs really make the most of our region’s digital capabilities.
“It is therefore brilliant to see companies like Ramfoam not only taking part in the programme, but also the transformative effective it has had with their new expansion. The more companies that prosper like Ramfoam, the more jobs we’ll be able to create for local people.”
So far 85 companies have asked to join Made Smarter West Midlands and 58 have started the first stages of the programme. The year-long £1.9 million programme will see digital experts provide advice to businesses - like Ramfoam - on how to switch to advanced and automated technologies as well as working to improve employees’ overall digital skills.
Tim Mulqueen, Ramfoam’s sales director, said: “The Made Smarter programme is greatly assisting SMEs with their invaluable experience. Ramfoam is now actively working with Made Smarter to apply digital technologies to our business that will enable us to manufacture smarter and improve our efficiency, and in turn generate growth.
“I believe all West Midlands SME businesses could greatly benefit from support through Made Smarter; we all as SMEs need to challenge the way we do things in order to continuously improve and innovate.”
Ramfoam was helped by WMG at the University of Warwick to scale up production from 100,000 to two million face visors a week for the Government at the height of the pandemic.
By creating a digital twin (a virtual model) Ramfoam was able to make 54 million visors over the last year. The company also signed up for WMG’s help to creating digital visualisation of its new factory, and now, as one of the first participants in Made Smarter West Midlands, will benefit from further assistance in adopting digital technology further.
Dr Mark Swift, head of SME programmes at WMG, University of Warwick commented:
“The pandemic was a tough time for any business, and being able to flourish during it is certainly an achievement that Ramfoam has been able to do. We thoroughly enjoyed helping them drive up productivity and look forward to helping to transform Ramfoam further.
“It is incredibly exciting to see a West Midlands manufacturer doing so well, and we hope that more businesses will sign up to Made Smarter and continue to make the West Midlands a thriving manufacturing hub.”
The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is leading the one-year Made Smarter scheme with the region’s other Growth Hubs in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Worcestershire, The Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire on behalf of the WMCA and BEIS. The Growth Hubs are working closely with the WMCA and their strategic partners WMG, at the University of Warwick, and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry.
Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said Ramfoam is a great example of a company best placed to take advantage of the Made Smarter scheme.
He said: “It’s fantastic that Ramfoam is one of the first firms to become part of the Made Smarter programme here in the West Midlands. It will help firms like Ramfoam develop innovative technology for the benefit of the region, as well as adopting new technology themselves to improve efficiency.
“Made Smarter will enable SMEs across the West Midlands receive the specialist support they need to embrace digital technology, and we are looking forward to more companies applying to Made Smarter and following in Ramfoam’s footsteps.”
Cllr Ian Brookfield, WMCA portfolio lead for economy and leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “SMEs have felt the effects of the pandemic and have had to adapt to different ways of working as demonstrated by Ramfoam.
“Improved digital expertise gained through Made Smarter can help the region’s SMEs future-proof their practices, contributing to the economic prosperity of the region.”
To find out more about Made Smarter visit https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/made-smarter-west-midlands
Digital experts will provide advice to businesses on how to switch to advanced and automated technologies as well as working to improve employees’ overall digital skills.
The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is leading the one-year Made Smarter scheme with its fellow Growth Hubs in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Worcestershire Business Central, The Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire on behalf of the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
The West Midlands Growth Hubs are working closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority and their strategic partners WMG, at the University of Warwick and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry to tap into the expertise of their digital manufacturing specialists.
Professor David Greenwood, CEO of WMG HVM Catapult centre, comments:
“Digitalisation for smaller companies needs a different approach than for larger companies. It isn’t about purchasing multi-million pound software systems – it’s about improvements in design tools, manufacturing, digitalising legacy plant and equipment and integration to supply chain systems.
“We are delighted to bring the expertise of WMG and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult to help transform the productivity of SMEs who are so critical to the West Midlands regional economy.”
Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said there are potentially 14,500 SME manufacturers in the region who could benefit from the National Made Smarter Movement. He said:
“All the Growth Hubs in the West Midlands are working together to contact SMEs in our areas who will benefit from this practical help.
“Digital technology can appear daunting and with the day-to-day efforts of owners and senior management teams to keep their businesses going during the pandemic, this kind of activity needs to be pushed to the upper end of their priorities.
“But we believe it is key to help SMEs in the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector to run more efficiently for their long-term future success.
“The Growth Hubs will be assessing each business that applies to make sure we provide them with the kind of specialist support they need, which in Coventry and Warwickshire could be in the fields of robotics and automation, and artificial intelligence since we are working with WMG and the MTC.
“We will then help SMEs to develop an action plan for adopting digital technology in their own detailed roadmap, which could involve participating in a leadership training programme, being offered a student placement, or receiving a match funded grant.
“The National Made Smarter Movement aims to entice SMEs that are not often reached through the usual business programmes and services, by transforming the digital tools within their companies, which in addition to upskilling their staff and creating jobs, will benefit the regional economy.”
Charlotte Horobin, Make UK Region Director – Midlands & East of England, said:
“The roll out of the Made Smarter Adoption programme across the West Midlands is great news for manufacturers, which we and our members welcome.
“Our 2020 Innovation Monitor highlighted that 18% of manufacturers in the West Midlands were not adopting industrial digital technologies, which we hope the programme will help address. Digital take-up will be key to boosting productivity as we come out of the current COVID crisis, creating more highly paid jobs and underpinning the region’s competitiveness.”
Neill Smith, Head of Manufacturing Support Services at the Manufacturing Technology Centre, said that the Made Smarter scheme perfectly complements its ongoing work to support manufacturing SMEs increase productivity, develop resilience, increase competitiveness and, ultimately, grow their business.
He said: “We help introduce digital systems to SMEs, that capture the right information at the right time, to enable them to make the right decisions and manage their companies more efficiently.
“From supporting the adoption of process control automation, robotics, and digitalisation tools, to helping SMEs with data or system integration and the adoption of augmented and virtual reality tools, we’re supporting companies to use digital data to drive digitally controlled equipment in the latest methods of manufacture.”
To register and find out more information, please visit http://bit.ly/MadeSmarterWestMidlands
22 JUNE 2021
NOTES TO EDITORS
To find out more about MadeSmarter visit http://bit.ly/MadeSmarterWestMidlands
Made Smarter is a national movement to drive growth amongst UK makers and advance the UK economy. Backed by world renowned businesses and the UK government, it will improve the development and adoption of emerging technologies. Making a real, everyday difference to people from the boardroom to the factory floor.
Made Smarter was formed following a nationwide review into UK manufacturing that recommended three key changes: More ambitious leadership. More innovation in developing new technologies. And faster implementation and adoption of those technologies. We’ll be boosting the digital skills of industry leaders, bringing businesses and research development together to develop new technology, and helping makers embrace new digital tools. In doing so, we’ll inspire the next industrial revolution and make the UK a leader in digital technologies.
For further information please contact:
Media Relations Manager - Science
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 7920 531 221
The Programme is designed to allow companies and students to work together to overcome a business challenge or investigate ways of improving business performance. Interns, placed at companies, are supervised by an expert member of the WMG team to ensure objectives are met and to provide access to world-renown facilities. This means participating companies get the benefit of both the resources and industry-leading knowledge.
Tom Lockhart, WMG SME Project Officer, explains: “Over the past 10 years, we have supported more than 300 internship projects. We work with businesses to identify their challenges, scope out a project and set clear objectives for a short, but focused piece of work.”
One particular highlight of this year’s programme was an internship placement at Alucast, an aluminium casting foundry that supply the automotive industry.
Through a collaborative approach, the student intern, Farhan, was, within just 12 weeks, able to help boost productivity by an impressive 30% and has now been offered a full time position. This is a particularly positive outcome in such challenging times and a real testament to Farhan’s hard work.
John Swift, Managing Director at Alucast, commented: “We have long been an advocate of promoting engineering as a career choice and, with this in mind, it was great to work with Farhan. It reinforced our belief that young students and graduates make excellent employees, combining a great work ethic with technical knowledge and insight. The project really exceeded expectations and we’re pleased to be able to offer Farhan a full-time role with us.”
Read more about the SME Team’s project with Alucast, an aluminium casting company based in the Black Country and more success stories here: warwick.ac.uk/smesuccessstories
To find out more about working with the WMG SME Internship Team email email@example.com
Three of the major industry partners in the region are to work closer together for the good of the local economy as part of a new 12-month pilot.
WMG, at the University of Warwick, The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub, and The Manufacturing Technology Centre have signed a new agreement which will make it easier for manufacturers to access equipment and expertise they need to develop new and existing products and processes.
The three organisations will form a working party meeting weekly to co-ordinate areas of common working, ensure that initiatives are shared across the three organisations, and look at joint campaigns.
The partners will focus on manufacturing and engineering companies across the CWLEP area, and the new alliance will work closely with other partners such as the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses.
Mark Swift, Head of SME Programmes at WMG, University of Warwick said: “The agreement will help manufacturing unlock the opportunities presented by green manufacturing, digitalisation and the journey to Net Zero transport. Coventry and Warwickshire already has very strong partnerships and we believe the work of WMG and the MTC combined with the extensive network and market intelligent of the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP will form a powerful offer to local companies.”
Craig Humphrey, Managing Director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said: “The three organisations had worked with each other in the past but the pilot would make the collaboration far more effective.
“The three organisations know each other well and collaborate when the need arises, but we have a tremendous amount of common ground and market intelligence which we all felt would be more powerful and useful to local companies if it was harnessed effectively and the formation of the working party is the first stage in that.”
The working party will be overseen by a senior management team which will review its effectiveness on a monthly basis.
Clive Hickman, the founder and Chief Executive of the MTC, said: “We work right across the UK, but are based in Coventry and Warwickshire which is internationally recognised as a centre of excellence for manufacturing and engineering, and believe that we always have more to offer in terms of support to local companies.
“The three organisations are ideally placed in slightly different areas of the market to bring unique advantages to what could be a very powerful alliance.”
21 JANUARY 2021
NOTES TO EDITORS
About WMG, University of Warwick
WMG is an academic department at the University of Warwick and is the leading international role model for successful collaboration between academia and the public and private sectors, driving innovation in science, technology and engineering. They are a founding partner of the HVM Catapult, and are one of seven centres within this government initiative.
About the CWLEP Growth Hub
The CWLEP Growth Hub was founded to help companies across the region access support and help in a range of areas and has now helped create more than 5,000 jobs across Coventry and Warwickshire.
About the MTC
The MTC was established in 2010 with the objective of bridging the gap between academia and industry and employs more than 700 staff across three centres – two of which are at Ansty Park, near Coventry.
For further information please contact:
Media Relations Manager – Science
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 7920 531 221
WMG partners with Pashley Cycles and a team of UK SMEs to bring a novel e-assisted cargo trike to market
WMG is collaborating with Pashley Cycles and three other SMEs across the Midlands to develop an electrically assisted, last mile delivery trike. The trike features an innovative tilting suspension system which will provide greater stability on corners (and therefore speed and manoeuvrability) than a conventional tricycle configuration of the same size.
Supported and part-funded by the Niche Vehicle Network, through a “Production Readiness” funding call, the Articulating Lightweight Electrically-assisted Cargo Solution (ALECS) project, will form the platform for a new generation of configurable products to meet the rapidly growing market for zero-emission last mile cargo vehicles.
Project Manager, Dr Alex Attridge, explained: “This project provides a fantastic opportunity for WMG to apply its knowledge and expertise in vehicle electrification, and in product testing and evaluation, to a real-world product development process, helping a consortium of UK SMEs bring a new, zero-emission delivery vehicle to a rapidly growing market.”
ALECS is designed to carry cargo on a versatile and customer configurable, multi-functional rear platform. It is particularly suited to parcel and package deliveries in an urban environment where fast and efficient multiple deliveries are the key to success.
The consortium brings together the engineering and simulation capabilities of Simpact Engineering, with the high strength, lightweight tubing expertise of Reynolds Technologies, and the composite panelling and cargo structures expertise of Foresight Innovations. Coupled with Pashley’s heritage and capability in the personal mobility, mobility as a service, and cargo cycles markets, and WMG’s knowledge and experience in progressing innovation through the TRL levels into finish products, the project is set to be completed in April 2021.
One of the seven High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres, WMG brings a number of key technical capabilities to the project. These specifically include the development of photorealistic visualisations (in the form of still renders and interactive digital models) of the concept, and the delivery of digital design review content for both desktop and virtual reality environments. WMG is also responsible for the modelling and optimisation of the production facilities in an immersive, digital environment, utilising large scale laser scanning technology and the latest game engine software. Finally, as the consortium begins the physical testing stage, we will be responsible for the instrumentation of prototype and pre-production vehicles, and the subsequent data acquisition and analysis.
Managing Director at Pashley Cycles, Adrian Williams added: “Working with WMG has given Pashley the opportunity to take advantage of skills, expertise and facilities which we would never otherwise have had access to. This is really helping us create a robust and reliable, yet lightweight product which we’re confident will give us a competitive advantage in the market.”
· The SME Group at WMG, University of Warwick, has secured a £6m extension to their programme to help small manufacturing companies in the East and West Midlands
· Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult at WMG, to create a much-needed support for Midlands manufacturers
· The programme will work collaboratively with a further 250 manufacturing companies across the Midlands to solve manufacturing challenges, to improve productivity and boost competitiveness
· Support is provided from a dedicated and highly industry experienced team with expertise in materials and manufacturing, sustainability, digital manufacturing and business transformation
The programme delivered by the SME Group at WMG, University of Warwick has been a major success in the West Midlands over the last 2 years, helping over 100 companies, develop 71 new products and processes, from automation and productivity plans through to the zero emission technologies of tomorrow.
Companies, including Genius Facades, a construction company in Wolverhampton, who gained a 15% increase in productivity, thanks to the team helping them by digitising their factory floor.
Another example includes the team helping Power Panels Electrical, in Walsall, win £3m of contracts in the Niche Vehicles sector.
Given the success of the programme, the team have been awarded a further £6m from to take them through to March 2023, meaning the team has gone from a 2 year £5m programme, to an £11m 5 ½ year programme. This extension will enable the team to operate from Wolverhampton and Worcestershire in the West, to Loughborough and Luton in the East Midlands.
Over the next 2 ½ years they will help more than 350 SMEs benefit from the latest in digital manufacturing technologies and thinking, helping them become more productive, competitive and sustainable. Fully funded support from 2 to 15 days is available for eligible small manufacturers.
Dr Mark Swift, head small business programmes at WMG, University of Warwick comments:
“We are thrilled to have the manufacturing competitiveness programme extended, and look forward to being able to help hundreds of small businesses across the midlands to transform their business and become more sustainable.
“The support we offer will be especially helpful in light of Covid-19, as after months of lockdown businesses can be helped to get back on their feet and thrive.”
“We are here, ready to help our region’s manufacturing companies; to make manufacturing technology and thinking work for you, to help our businesses to grow become more productive and sustainable and ultimately make more in the UK.”
If you are a local manufacturing company please get in touch, the team would love to hear from you. E-mail them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
9 SEPTEMBER 2020
NOTES TO EDITORS
High-res images available at:
Caption: The WMG SME team improve the shop floor productivity at Genius Facades
Credit: WMG, University of Warwick
For further information please contact:
Media Relations Manager – Science
University of Warwick
Tel: +44 (0) 7920 531 221
Alison, and her colleague Richard Hill, Head of Automotive and Manufacturing at NatWest, joined CEO of WMG Centre High Value Manufacturing Catapult, Archie MacPherson to meet with a series of SMEs that NatWest and WMG are currently supporting on the ‘Create Test Launch’ (CTL) Programme.
The CTL Programme was launched in 2017, with WMG experts providing hands on advice and support with new product development.
The potential of the Programme was recognised by NatWest, who then partnered with WMG to subsidise ten clients through CTL.
At the event Alison, described as ‘the most influential woman in investment banking’, spoke with passion about the need to prioritise innovation in the boardroom and sparked a lively discussion. Key topics included the challenges of balancing operational pressures against the desire to innovate, the crucial role of good leadership, understanding the innovation process, and support for SMEs in an uncertain political and economic climate.
With 50,000 manufacturing clients nationally, NatWest is keen to promote innovation and leadership in industry. Following the visit, WMG will continue to work closely with NatWest to strengthen the UK manufacturing sector.
Tipton-based darkroom specialists Paterson Photographic Ltd have added daylight to darkness in their leading studio and theatre lighting equipment, thanks to LED technology support from WMG at the University of Warwick.
Having developed a global reputation for the quality of their darkroom equipment, they wanted to add to their product offering and re-enter the studio lighting market with a comprehensive range of Continuous Lighting units manufactured in their own UK factory.
Creating a studio lighting range that used LEDs with a colour temperature of 6000K (daylight) rather than the most common methods using fluorescent lighting would provide Paterson Photographic with a technological leap in their products.
The SME (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) support team at WMG at the University of Warwick provided technical and research support allowing the company to launch the first batch of LED-based daylight products with bespoke coloured filters at the 2018 Photography Show at Birmingham’s NEC. The new products are expected to generate sales in six figures for Paterson over the next year.
Lampposts could be the answer to electric vehicle charging, thanks to help from researchers at WMG, University of Warwick in bringing a new brand of charging points to market – some of which are powering electric vehicles on the University campus.
Startup company char.gy created a new electric vehicle charging point product – which can be easily installed onto existing lampposts, resulting in no requirement to add another power supply or dig up the road or pathway – but it required a bespoke electronic circuit board in order for it to meet to EU standards for public charge points.
The SME support team at WMG helped char.gy rapidly design, build and test a prototype of the new electronics board in order to achieve the certification deadlines.
Because of this, char.gy was able to complete the product to time, and send it for testing – eventually making the charge points ready for public use.
The University of Warwick not only supported the development of char.gy, but has also purchased “char.gys” to charge electric vehicles across the campus – including the University Estates Team’s new fleet of battery-powered Nissan vans.
Purity Brewing Ltd is a small brewer based on a farm between Studley and Great Alne not far from Stratford upon Avon. Sales continue to boom, which means constantly balancing the production of their beers with growing customer demand. The company turned to the SME team in WMG at the University of Warwick to help develop data systems to manage this complex operation while they get on with brewing the beer.
Andrew Thurston, Finance Director at Purity Brewing said:
“The WMG SME Group quickly identified our technical and business challenges. The new production tool will save us money and support Purity with its rapid growth.”
Purity Brewing benefitted from collaborative project support through the WMG SME Group’s Product Innovation Accelerator Project, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund. This helps manufacturing SMEs within Coventry and Warwickshire and the Black Country are to create, test and develop new products, improve processes and access innovation support.