Anderton Board & Packaging Ltd has embarked upon an exciting journey to transform its culture and operations, tapping into a huge variety of support programmes along the way.
Anderton Board & Packaging is a leading independent agent, merchant and converter of board and packaging, representing some of the world’s leading mills. The family business supplies a wide range of sectors, from furniture manufacturers to food and beverage suppliers.
While operating with a skeleton staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, senior leaders recognised that the quieter period was an opportune moment to take a step back and plan for the future. Since then, Anderton Board has engaged with the full complement of support available through GC Business Growth Hub and its partners, from international trade advice right through to digital masterclasses, leadership training and a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Manchester Metropolitan University.
It all started with a lightbulb moment…
One of Anderton Board’s first actions was to improve its facility in Trafford Park, which was in need of new lighting and heating. The company’s Finance Director got to work searching for possible support schemes for these investments and quickly came across the Hub’s Sustainability team.
After detailed discussions with a specialist environmental business advisor, the business successfully secured a £7,000 Resource Efficiency Grant towards new, energy-efficient LED lighting and heating units – resulting in annual carbon savings of 29 tonnes and over £6,000 per year in energy savings.
“Without that financial support, we would have struggled to get those investments off the ground because of the difficult economic climate,” says Marketing & Communications Manager Susan Hegarty. “Thanks to the grant, we had new heating in time for winter and a much brighter workspace, which improved overall working conditions for everyone whilst also reducing our running costs and carbon footprint. In addition, the Hub helped us find a suitable local supplier for the upgrades. And because of the excellent payback, they updated our outside lighting.
Targeted funding to bounce back from COVID-19
This project was just the start of Anderton Board’s journey with the Hub. Following the heating and lighting upgrade, the business was able to make another key investment during the pandemic by securing a £3,000 Manufacturing Growth Fund grant to upgrade three of its handfed cutting machines.
This single project alone tripled production capacity to 300 impressions per hour, and reduced machine changeover times – putting Anderton Board in an ideal position to fulfil increasing order numbers as markets recover.
The Manufacturing Advisor also supported Anderton Board with a separate Small Business Recovery Grant of £4,800 to purchase new IT equipment for remote working.
“Not everyone had a laptop, which made things difficult as we had to restrict numbers on-site, so we used the grant to purchase laptops that allowed our customer service team to continue operating from home,” Susan explains. “Even now that COVID is largely on its way out, having those laptops means we have the flexibility to support more remote working going forward.”
Preparing for a cleaner, greener future
Meanwhile, work to improve sustainability continued through CEO Robert Ward attended Journey to Net Zero – a series of workshops designed to help businesses understand how to monitor and reduce their carbon footprint.
Despite not knowing what to expect, Robert came out with a much better understanding of the net zero agenda and, crucially, what Anderton Board could do to reduce its impact on the environment.
“I was most pleased that I signed up, as the output provided helpful frameworks to understand what net zero is all about and what processes SMEs like ourselves can introduce to implement solutions,” Robert says of his experience.
“The ethos of sustainability fits well with Anderton Board’s role as a packaging business,” Susan continues. “Like the heating and lighting upgrades, we’re always looking for ways to improve. We’re now exploring solar panels for the roof, we’ve recently replaced inefficient kitchen fridges, and we have installed electric vehicle charging for our car fleet. We are looking to put an EV salary sacrifice scheme in place for staff.”
Susan expects these measures to become a more critical part of the company’s brand in future.
“When we speak to customers, environmental certifications and accreditations always come up as important to them,” she says. “A lot of our customers in the fish packaging industry, for example, are switching from polystyrene to cardboard boxes because they are under pressure from their customers to become more sustainable, so it’s something we’re very conscious of.”
Embedding cultural change
More recently, Anderton Board has benefitted from the Skills for Growth programme to upskill its workforce through individual training plans developed with a dedicated Skills Map Officer.
Susan explains: “All office staff and management are able to access the online skills portal for bite-sized courses on things like Microsoft applications and soft skills training, so it’s a great resource for people to have. We’ve even created a dedicated training room to allow employees to take time out to complete their coursework.
“There are lengthier courses as well. We’ve got three team leaders on a team-leading diploma course and a new customer service advisor completing a customer service diploma. One of our younger warehouse operatives has just enrolled on a manufacturing diploma, and we also have a business administration apprentice on an 18-month apprenticeship programme. “Two of our company values are Agile and Innovative – this training and development are essential in embedding these values and creating a growth mindset throughout the business.”
Bringing in ‘heavyweight’ academic knowledge
Last but by no means least, Anderton Board has embarked upon a substantial two-year Management Knowledge Transfer Partnership (mKTP) with Manchester Metropolitan University, which will facilitate a strategic and cultural transformation of the business and its management capabilities to equip it for continual and future growth.
The business was unaware of the KTP scheme until a Skills for Growth contact sent an invitation to an introductory webinar. Anderton Board’s Finance Director at the time, Mukesh Duggal, explained: “I decided to join the webinar, and it sounded absolutely fantastic.
“We’d recently completed a three-year plan but just felt we could benefit from a fresh pair of eyes to look at how we could keep improving. It was clear that a KTP could offer just that – some heavyweight academic support to look at best practice, explore each aspect of our business and the markets we operate in, and look at the operational side of things.”
Anderton Board engaged with the Hub’s Innovation team and Manchester Metropolitan University to explore the opportunity further. A successful funding bid secured a £120,000 KTP grant from Innovate UK, with the business contributing a further £60,000 over two years.
The mKTP is supported by a team of three academics at the university and a graduate KTP associate who will lead the project within the business.
“From our point of view, if you look at what we get from our investment of £30,000 a year, it’s more than worth it,” Susan says. “It fits perfectly with the renewed strategy for Anderton Board, and the Hub continues to be involved in supporting us on the journey.”
“Sometimes you need to step back and look at new things”
“It’s fantastic that all of this support is available,” Robert concludes. “As an SME with quite a lean team, we can call on the Hub as an extended resource. The financial support is one thing, but having access to specialist experience and such a wide network has really helped.
“We also benefited from being part of the Peer Networks programme, which has already translated into cash benefits for the business on several fronts, from learning about R&D tax credits to finding new customers.”
“It’s important that we leverage the support available to us to assist with our strategic objectives and ensure we continue to scale. Many SMEs are very busy in the day-to-day job of firefighting, but sometimes you need to step back and look at new things. You need to have someone available to help start those projects, and that’s what the Hub and wider Growth Company can do.”
At GC Business Growth Hub, we understand that it’s difficult to get innovative ideas moving because of problems with developing and commercialising them. A lack of finance, human resource, specialist know-how, time, technology, strategy or appropriate facilities can all be barriers.
The Hub’s innovation specialists will help you shape and strengthen your business to overcome these issues, accelerating the time it takes to bring new products or services to market.