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Based in Wigan, Reach and Rescue is a business that truly makes a difference to people’s lives. Its unique long-reach telescopic pole system is used by 80% of UK Fire and Rescue services – and in over 50 countries worldwide – for water rescue operations. The lightweight, super-strong carbon fibre poles extend up to 20 metres, enabling rescuers to retrieve casualties quickly without compromising their own safety. 

Shortly after celebrating its tenth year of helping to save lives, in April 2021 Reach and Rescue won royal recognition for its achievements with a prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Innovation. This is the highest business accolade that can be bestowed upon a UK company, and gives Reach and Rescue the ability to use the esteemed Queen’s Award emblem for the next five years.  

The company has worked closely with several of the Hub’s services since 2018, including specialist manufacturing advice to free up capacity and support ongoing innovations.  

Supporting innovation

Part of the ingenuity behind Reach and Rescue’s telescopic pole system is that it can be used with more than 20 interchangeable end devices, offering rescuers solutions for a range of different scenarios, such as hooks, grapplers and floats.  

In 2019, the business identified an opportunity to add a retractable line feature to the poles. To do this, it first needed to design and assemble a small batch of prototypes to test their quality and functionality. 

As Jo Taylor MBE, Reach and Rescue’s Director, explains: “The retractable line is a little more complex than some of our other attachments. It’s quite intricate so we needed outside support to develop the right components.”   

The Hub’s Manufacturing Service was on hand to help. The project was eligible for a grant from the Manufacturing Growth Fund, which helped to fund the design and production of 3D printed samples for seven mould tools needed for the components. 

Once satisfied, Reach and Rescue was able to proceed with the manufacture of the moulds, enabling prototypes to be developed. All in all, it took just a few months to go from conception to full series production.  

Lean manufacturing

Following the development of the retractable line feature, Reach and Rescue got to work on its next innovation – a new variant of the telescopic pole fitted with a tranverse clamp.  

To free up the capacity needed to add the new product line to Reach and Rescue’s production mix, Manufacturing Advisor Martin Hyman advised the team on how to improve its processes through lean manufacturing techniques.  

“We learnt a lot from Martin’s support,” Jo says. “We had quadrupled the size of our facilities and he really helped the team to embed lean processes and ensure we were as efficient as possible. 

“When he spoke to the production operatives making the poles, he brought things to the table and came up with solutions we hadn’t previously considered. I’m not from a manufacturing background, so having a sounding board when we’re having frustrations with something is really useful.” 

Bouncing back

Like many businesses, Reach and Rescue was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency services had to shift their priorities and sales to the maritime sector were also affected. 

In response, the business has set out to diversify its customer base and move into new markets. A £2,900 grant from Greater Manchester’s Small Business Recovery Grant programme in 2020 helped to hire a videographer to aid the new marketing push. 

“We wanted to do more promotions into new industries to help us bounce back from COVID, and the videos are a big part of that,” Jo explains. “We commissioned a number of videos for our products and it’s still an ongoing project; we have new products in the works and Portsafe, our public access water rescue system, is going from strength to strength.” 

The Queen’s Award win in April 2021 came at the perfect time, with the prestige associated with the scheme expected to help grow the business going forward.  

“The Queen’s Award really puts the icing on the cake for us and rubber stamps what we’ve done for the last ten years. We’ve brought a product from scratch into the world, and it’s been recognised for what it was designed to do, which is save lives.” 

The Hub’s support has played an important role in the journey, Jo says.   

“The support we’ve benefitted from has just helped with making sure we’re always innovating and developing as a business. It’s not just the manufacturing support, we’ve taken full advantage of many of the Hub’s services, all the way back to when we were encouraged to enter Venturefest North West’s Innovation Showcase in 2018. The support we’ve had from the Access to Finance team, International Trade and more recently the Global Scale Up programme has also been really valuable.”