Multi-million pound Birmingham timber manufacturer accomplishes rapid growth success using MGP grant funding | Manufacturing Growth Programme

Over the past 5 years, E. & S. W. Knowles & Co. Ltd have built up a rewarding relationship with the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP). The business is experiencing rapid growth and high demand for their products in the marketplace.

E. & S. W. Knowles & Co. Ltd, was founded more than 98 years ago, with a firm position in the British timber manufacturing industry as a major supplier of high-performance internal fire doors, frames, acoustic doors and bespoke door set solutions.

The entrepreneurial spirit of the early days continued with Bill Knowles’ stepson, Horace ‘Dusty’ Wright at the helm with his sons, Martin and Richard. Now in charge, Managing Director Steve Horner sees no reason to change the winning formula.

To support their rapid growth, the business first sought help from MGP in 2016. Since then, Manufacturing Growth Manager Sharn Haywood Higgs has provided them with fully funded advice and grant funding for multiple business improvement projects. The business has been focussed on keeping pace and developing systems to deal with future growth.

Sharn conducted a GROWTHmapper® analysis of the business to find out what was working well in the business and to identify their key improvement areas. After the analysis, it was decided to focus on; product value stream mapping, business improvement techniques and creating a strategic 12-month plan.

The information gathered during the analysis was used to develop innovative and more efficient processes to eliminate common errors and smooth the flow of products. This included the development of unique computer-based scheduling and data capture, as well as manual systems through the mill production area of the factory to facilitate more efficient production. This allows the business to deliver the required level of products to the end customer at a sustainable margin.

To deliver this work Adrian Martin from Strategic Business Development & Support Ltd. was employed and his expertise was part funded by the Manufacturing Growth Programme and E. & S. W. Knowles & Co Ltd.

Part of the strategy was to mentor the management team on the use of the production systems that were developed and embed them fully to allow better control and ultimately improved productivity of the overall process. This included working on a mindset of continual improvement.

Sharn commented; “I have worked with Steve and Adrian for the last 5 years and it has been a pleasure to watch them grow. Steve has always been open to change to meet company demands and Adrian has been a valuable asset to help assist with changes that have been required. Steve also has a great team who value him and the company. When I first engaged with the company the company employed 46 employees and had a turnover of £4m. They are now a high-growth company that is going from strength to strength.”

The company’s recent success is due to increased demand in the marketplace for their products. There has been new legislation due to the Grenfell Tower incident, which has proved that their products are much needed to meet safety requirements.

The business is on track to turnover £10 million in 2021, from a current position of £6 million. The changes being implemented by the business will allow it to become a more dynamic leaner business that can scale up without increasing costs dramatically and therefore improve profitability.

Steve Horner stated: “The Manufacturing Growth Programme has been instrumental with us progressing and entering the unknown. 34 jobs have been created since March 2020.

“I have no doubt to recommend the Manufacturing Growth Programme to any Manufacturing SME. It has been a no-brainer for us to use the programme and it’s a win, win when you engage.”

Future plans for the business are to keep reviewing their systems and processes to meet their expansion plans. The business is outgrowing their current space and hopes to find a new factory to accommodate their growth and expand their product range to include door sets.

More details on E. & S. W. Knowles & Co. Ltd will be available

West Midlands Combined Authority