Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Our specialist Manufacturing Service has surpassed 1,000 businesses supported in Greater Manchester since 2014. To celebrate National Manufacturing Day, Senior Manufacturing Advisor Geoff Crossley looks back at the last few years and picks out some of his favourite success stories. 

Manufacturers supported

Jobs created


Sales increased

Tonnes CO2e saved

I think it’s fair to say it’s been a rocky road for manufacturing over the last few years. EU Exit, a global pandemic, war, energy crisis, cost of living crunch, skills shortages and a looming recession is quite a hit list in a short space of time. Add to that the challenges around decarbonisation and digitalisation and we really are in an era of disruption to business as usual.

That’s a lot to deal with on your own; it’s hard not to get bogged down in the day-to-day of running a manufacturing business as it is. But sometimes all it takes is a fresh pair of eyes and a helping hand to reframe these events as opportunities rather than obstacles.

We’re very lucky in Greater Manchester to have a team of specialists who have been providing their eyes, ears and expertise to SME manufacturers on a fully-funded basis for many years, helping them to embed manufacturing excellence throughout their operations.

In the last year 18 months alone, we have supported 176 manufacturers in Greater Manchester, helping to create more than 100 jobs, 33 new products and £10.5 million in increased sales through a combination of one-to-one advice and our Made for Manufacturing, Lean Champion and Production Leader training programmes. Here are some of my favourites success stories…


Kids Funtime Beds, Manchester

productivity increase

sales increase

jobs created

Whatever challenges you face as a manufacturing leader, making time to observe and engage with your manufacturing process through the lens of lean is the absolute foundation of any excellent manufacturing business.

Bed manufacturer Kids Funtime Beds is one of my favourite examples of how much you can gain just by making time for the simple things.


Read the case study


When I met Kids Funtime Beds for the first time, they were struggling with rapid growth in demand. Increased production had resulted in excessive rework and waste, and lead times were becoming problematic.

I worked closely with Managing Director Tony Leng-Smith to take things right back to basics using lean principles like 5S and waste elimination. We implemented a pull system on the shopfloor to reduce work in progress, and redesigned the layout of the workshop to improve flow. No expensive new equipment or technology, just good thinking.

In Tony’s own words, learning about and implementing lean improvements can seem daunting at first, but with expert guidance the time and effort pays back ten-fold. 

“Geoff guided us through the process and helped us prioritise the most important tasks. The reduction in lead times and increased quality has seen improved customer service, and our website is now full of 5* reviews from happy customers.

“At one stage we were considering moving the factory to larger premises, however lean manufacturing has enabled us to increase production and decrease rework, utilising our existing factory space more efficiently.”


Pure Fabs, Bolton

productivity increase

waste reduction

jobs created

A core lesson from our Lean Champion course – two-day of hands-on training covering the What, What Else and How of Lean – is the importance of regularly walking the factory floor, speaking to your team, and never just walking by when Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) isn’t being followed – no matter how small the problem is.

One business that has taken this lesson and really run with it is ventilation ductwork manufacturer Pure Fabs.


Read the case study


Pure Fabs had a great product but a challenging shopfloor environment. Unpredictable demand meant work in progress was being routinely pulled off the production line, generating a lot of waste.

I worked with Director Pete Connor to improve SOPs and make time for regular Gemba Walks on the shopfloor. Gemba Walks are one of the most effective ways of increasing productivity in any factory and I’m happy to say Pete is an avid convert.

“I take a Gemba Walk around the site most days, and spot test the guys on the 8 deadly wastes. It opens up two-way dialogue and the team have seen the benefits. They have seen that if they can suggest a way to do something better I will listen to them and we make the changes together.

“There’s been a total culture change, it’s not been easy and it’s by no means complete, but we’re now a team committed to continuous improvement. I have worked in manufacturing all my life, but never believed that lean methodology could make such a difference to the shopfloor.”


Thomas Storey, Manchester

sales increased

electricity savings

tonnes CO2e savings

Culture change is another key theme running through everything we do. Manufacturing is a people business like any other, but managing and leading people doesn’t often come naturally to those in our industry. Practicing empathy and compassion is a hugely undervalued way of increasing productivity and achieving success in a manufacturing environment.

Steel fabricator Thomas Storey is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when you put people first.  


Read the case study


By their own admission, Thomas Storey had taken their eye off the ball when it came to their company culture. They had grown by always putting the customer first and focusing entirely on output, to the detriment of their own people and processes.

We sat down with the company to change its culture from the ground up and create an ethos of continuous improvement. Technical Director Phil Ramsdale described the results as “gamechanging”.

“We went right back to our mission statement and our values as a business. One of the first things we did was to change our daily meetings from just emphasising on output to looking at safety, quality and cost, such as what downtime was occurring and why.

“We introduced a new pay grade system where everyone is given an ABC grade on safety, quality, cost of delivery and attendance. That’s been an absolute gamechanger. We’ve even had someone who had left because of the old pay structure return after hearing about our new approach. People really want to work here now.”

It’s not just the culture that has changed at Thomas Storey. There have also been some impressive improvements to the manufacturing process – leading to a 20 per cent increase in turnover – as well as a range of energy saving improvements courtesy of our colleagues in the Sustainability & Net Zero Service.


Arden Dies, Stockport

jobs created

mentoring relationships established

If you were to ask me what’s the single most important change manufacturers can make to become better, more productive, more profitable businesses, I would say it’s becoming what we call a ‘learning organisation’.

A learning organisation is one that celebrates problem solving over firefighting. When faced with problems they don’t look for workarounds or temporary solutions, they take the time to truly understand the issue, make evidence-based decisions about how to solve them, eliminate them forever, and move on.

This was a central theme in all of our training courses, including the popular Made for Manufacturing programme for senior leaders. For tooling manufacturer Arden Dies, participating in Made for Manufacturing had a huge impact.


Read the case study


Production Manager Julian Homer applied what he learnt through Made for Manufacturing to a range of different issues he was facing. Crucially, he didn’t just jump at the nearest workaround to solve his problems. He bought into the methodology of a learning culture: they stood back as a team, observed, understood what was happening and followed the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) methodology to continually look for ways to improve.

“It sometimes feels like opening a can of worms, which then leads to another can of worms, but that’s how continuous improvement works. It’s a never-ending process that’s already made a huge difference for us. We’ve now employed a Continuous Improvement Manager who is like a dog with a bone – he gets everyone around the table and makes sure there is accountability.”

One of the most powerful things about Made for Manufacturing was how we brought senior leaders from different businesses together to learn as a group. Leading a manufacturing business can feel like a lonely job at times, and Julian loved the opportunity to engage with his peers: “Having been at the same company for 21 years, I suddenly found myself in a virtual room with 15 people from entirely different manufacturing backgrounds. We were able to bounce ideas off each other in a way I hadn’t experienced before.”

Phil Ramsdale from Thomas Storey also participated in Made for Manufacturing and had the exact same experience: “It’s so easy to get stuck firefighting every day and trying to fix issues. Made for Manufacturing was a good exercise in just sitting down, reflecting and planning.

“It’s a lot like therapy. Once you start talking about your problems, you realise you’re not the only one suffering from them.”


Here’s to the next 1,000

Manufacturing excellence isn’t always straightforward, it’s a journey that takes time. But one thing all of these stories prove is that an extra pair of eyes from someone outside your organisation is really valuable. Phil is right – it is a lot like therapy!

The good news is that our support will be continuing here in Greater Manchester, and I’m looking forward to meeting the next 1,000 companies as part of our ongoing mission to ensure our city region is a brilliant place to run a manufacturing business.

GC Business Growth Hub was part financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) 2014-2021, as part of a portfolio of ERDF-funded programmes designed to help ambitious SME businesses achieve growth and increase employment in Greater Manchester. Eligibility criteria was applied. The 2014-2021 ERDF  fund was allocated by the European Union that finances convergence, regional competitiveness and employment and territorial co-operation.

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), formerly the Department for Communities and Local Government was the managing authority for the European Regional Development Fund Programme, which was one of the funds established by the European Commission to help local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support local businesses and create jobs. For more information, visit European Regional Development Fund: Documents and Guidance - GOV.UK (

Get in touch

Take that first step and we’ll support you with whatever you need to succeed.


Sign-up to our newsletter

Insights, news, events and opportunities straight to your inbox.