Cutting-edge robot integrator CNC Robotics went from strength to strength after securing expert support on marketing, business strategy and management systems.
Bootle-based CNC Robotics is a leading supplier of robotic systems for machining applications. Having pioneered the use of industrial robots for making props in the creative sector over a decade ago, the company is now at the vanguard of the UK robotics scene and designs and builds bespoke systems for a wide range of clients and sectors.
Reaching new heights
By 2018, CNC Robotics had built a strong reputation with its state-of-the-art robots, but it was still very much a micro business that was only touching the surface of its full potential.
“We had established ourselves as a specialist within a specific area of robotics, but we were still relatively small in terms of turnover and number of people,” says Managing Director Philippa Glover, who joined the company that year. “We wanted to develop a strategy that would enable us to achieve sustainable growth, not only in the type of robotic systems we provide but also our reach.”
To kick-start its growth ambitions, CNC Robotics required sales and marketing expertise and approached the Liverpool City Region Manufacturing Growth Fund for support. With the help of Manufacturing Advisor Phil Anders, the business secured grant funding to bring in a specialist consultant who looked at how the company could develop its market presence.
As Philippa explains, the project would ultimately plant the seeds for CNC Robotics’ rapid growth and emergence as a driving force in the industry: “The consultant’s review of our online presence and recommendations really helped us to develop the strategic element of the business, which was my remit when I joined the company.
“We put a lot of effort into developing our marketing channels, reinventing our website, changing the look and feel, using SEO strategically, and leveraging social media and PR to engage with our audience and grow our brand visibility beyond just the traditional people we were talking to. We set ourselves an objective to grow 30 per cent year-on-year, and that’s exactly what we did.”
Pursuing continuous improvement
CNC Robotics went from strength to strength and continued to expand even after the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020. This came with some natural growing pains, and the next challenge for the business was to ensure it had the right systems and practises in place to manage growth sustainably.
The company decided to work towards globally recognised ISO standards 9001 and 14001 to develop its quality and environmental management systems, but needed to identify the right consultant to support its certification journey.
Philippa says: “I’d been involved in this sort of governance work in previous positions, but I’d never taken a small business all the way through the management systems journey. We wanted to go down the full UKAS-accredited route to allow us to really understand and review business performance in a way that could drive continuous improvement.
“It also made commercial sense. The more companies we’re engaging with, the more quality and environmental management is coming up in conversation, especially in larger contracts.”
A further Manufacturing Growth Fund grant and advice from Phil secured the services of a suitable consultant, who guided CNC Robotics through a nine-month programme to full certification in 2021.
The business has already used the process to identify several key strategic projects to address inefficiencies and re-defined the way it wants to operate going forward, creating two new jobs in the process. A first surveillance visit in early 2022 passed with flying colours.
Small interventions, big impact
Having started the journey as a micro business, CNC Robotics now employs 20 staff and has more than doubled its turnover since 2018. Both grant funded projects have played a key role, as Philippa explains: “The projects are nicely interlinked – the early work we did on business development and strategy created the opportunities, revenue and skilled jobs that gave us a platform to then look at quality and environment more closely.
“While it was a relatively short intervention in terms of timescales, it’s been invaluable in helping us to build momentum and take us to the next level. That’s the power of the support available – it plants the seeds that enable you to grow and develop as a business. Had we not done that work, I don’t think we would be where we are today.”
For Philippa, accessing guidance and support from a specialist advisor was crucial: “Our advisor Phil has been incredible. It’s not just about the financial element of the grant funding, it’s also about the advice we’ve been able to access when we needed it and the invaluable connections he has in his network.”
The path ahead
CNC Robotics has since moved into new premises as demand for robotic machining solutions continues to grow both in the UK and overseas.
“The pandemic has accelerated the uptake of robotic applications, even in sectors you wouldn’t necessarily associate them with,” Philippa says. “Net zero and sustainability is now a key growth area for us as manufacturers switch to producing lighter composite materials that can be used in products like electric vehicles.
“It’s not just large businesses that are looking at robotics. In comparison to other solutions and high precision machines, we offer a really strong return on investment which makes our robots much more accessible to SMEs. People are realising that they’re not as expensive as they thought and we’re looking forward to driving more of the national conversation around robotics as we continue to grow.”