Bridgewater Laminates 'primed for growth' after work with Growth Hub
Worsley-based joinery manufacturing business has unlocked several time efficiencies and improved its financial position by working with GC Business Growth Hub.
Worsley-headquartered Bridgewater Laminates is a joinery manufacturing business providing washroom systems, clinical and bespoke furniture for settings such as healthcare, education and office environments.
Following on from an acquisition that moved it away from being a family-run firm, the company was looking at opportunities to modernise, access new markets and embrace cutting edge efficiency tools.
New owners, new ways of working
Aiden Berry, managing director of the company, says: "Bridgewater Laminates is 19 years old now and had been a family-run business up until our acquisition in 2019. The company had historically been run very well but was behind the times in a lot of ways, from machinery to the processes, it was quite old-school.
"Myself and my business partners were still working out what we wanted the business to look like when we first made contact with the Growth Hub. It snowballed from there and the Hub has been extremely useful. Our manufacturing advisor, Rachel Baldry and the whole Growth Hub team really aligned with a lot of the plans we had for the business."
"We had a massive business plan going in, and we wanted to change a lot in a short period of time. That meant that we were under some financial pressure too, because it can be a significant investment, but the Hub has helped us on that front with more than £10,000 in grant support."
Mentors and Mentees
Aiden says: "I'd never run a business before and the Growth Hub set me up with a mentorship programme and connected me with Paul Norris, who had been a director in several companies and had really been there and done that.
"On a personal level, I gained so much confidence. Moving from management to a directorship meant that I was experiencing a lot of things for the first time and feeling a bit of imposter syndrome. When you move from being a small cog in a big engine, to being a major component you can put a bit more pressure on yourself that might be a bit undue.
"It wasn't just a new business; it was a completely new sector for me because I was going from finance into manufacturing. I was confident in the people management side of things, but as a sector it was a new world. My partners did help me with that, but the folks at Growth Hub were great to bounce ideas off and show me what to look out for."
Paul adds: "There were significant inefficiencies in the business which were impacting on turnover, profits and quality and needed to be dealt with. Aiden was trying to take everything on by himself rather than using the talent he already had in the team. We worked together on areas which included: time management; planning; delegation; processes; forecasting and measuring performance.
"I enjoyed working with Aiden because he was proactive and started to look and act like a Managing Director and in turn he got the right people in the right places and doing the right things well."
Andrea Hill, account manager at the Hub, says: "We'd initially gone to Bridgewater to look at the ways in which we could help them to manage resource efficiency and minimise waste.
“Our specialist environmental business advisors not only provided guidance on good waste management practices but also helped the business apply for grant funding to replace their old light fittings with LED alternatives. This led to Bridgewater reducing their energy consumption by 22,219 kWh and saving 6.06 tonnes of CO2e while making £2,623 energy savings in the first year of the project’s implementation. "
“This was only the start. Seeing that there were several opportunities where we could work together further, we encouraged Aiden to let our manufacturing team also take a look around.”
Rachel Baldry, manufacturing advisor, says: "When we looked more closely at their manufacturing process, we could see how we could introduce efficiencies and make soft changes that would make significant improvements."
"One of these came about by helping Aiden secure some funding for buying a piece of equipment. At that time, team members were working together to lift huge panels of material onto a saw ready for cutting. We helped them secure a COVID Small Business Recovery grant to go towards a panel lifter and now one person can operate the lifter and the saw alone.
“This enabled the business to increase output from the factory to allow more inbound sales and helped release an employee who was able to upskill as a CNC apprentice utilising advice and support available from the Skills for Growth Programme.
Aiden says “The panel lifter has undoubtedly made a huge impact on both the output and the working conditions of the staff at Bridgewater, this has been a key project in our evolution towards modern manufacturing and will help us to compete with the bigger manufacturers in our field”.
Embracing Industry 4.0
In October 2020, Aiden attended the Made for Manufacturing programme which helped him identify how digital technology could improve their productivity and efficiency. The business was experiencing communication problems between their design system and the CNC machines which was creating a major bottleneck.
Aiden says: “Rachel introduced us to the Made Smarter team who were able to plan out a solution which came in the shape of a bespoke piece of software. This was part-funded by the Manufacturing Growth Fund and utilising Made Smarter's digital technology internship programme we were also able to secure a fully-funded intern to carry out the work.”
Andrea says: "One of the major things was introducing Bridgewater to Made Smarter to help improve connectivity between their various machines and demonstrating exactly how different pieces of software could improve the way they were working and cut down on human error.
Berry adds: "We've really been helped in terms of our software development, and the Made Smarter team was so important in showing us what was available in the market to help that process. They did a lot of research on our behalf, which was really amazing.
"We're now in the process of linking all of our different systems to create a seamless route to manufacturing for a product and the work the Made Smarter did with us was crucial to that. We're 70 per cent of the way there now."
Aiden says: "Rachel and Andrea have helped to guide us through the different arms of the Growth Company and the various departments of the Growth Hub. They have helped connect us with their colleagues from across the organisation and showcase what support they are able to give us.
“From cutting costs in energy usage to improving processes and efficiencies within our day to day work the Hub has helped Bridgewater develop into a profit-making organisation during one of the toughest periods any business has had to face in recent times.
“We're in a stronger position now than we were in 2019, we don't want to grow unsustainably and what we've done is bolster our position and solidify the bottom line. We're more efficient and the customer experience is better. Making sure to improve the bottom line has put us in a great position to expand and grow.
He adds “Because the Growth Hub has so much expertise and knowledge, I'd always be inclined to go back to them to see if they have any advice or insight, or even to put us in touch with someone who's done it before. They've been a massive help to us and I'm a huge advocate for the Growth Hub and recommend them to everyone I can."