ERDF funding to advance manufacturing in the Midlands

MANUFACTURING firms in the West Midlands are to undergo management development as part of a European-funded initiative.

The European Regional Development Fund, through its Competitiveness initiative, has allocated financing to the Manufacturing Advisory Service – West Midlands to distribute the improvement programme.

In total, 16 businesses will take part in the Six Sigma programme, which will be stretch over seven months and be delivered by development consultants at Capella Associates.

The programme, which will incorporate workshops and in-house support projects, is designed to increase sales and profitability as well as create new jobs.

Largely used in the manufacturing industry, Six Sigma is a management approach to process improvement, which was first developed by Motorola in the 1980’s. It is essentially designed to maximise business performance.

It relies on firms gaining a better understanding of the needs of their customers and encourages the use of data and statistical analysis to improve processes so they can produce better quality products.

Worcestershire medical devices company Kimal is one of the businesses taking part in the programme.

It said: “99% achievement is usually seen as a good result, however, if that where the case it would mean we had poor quality drinking water 15 minutes each day, there would be 4,500 aircraft missing the runway at Heathrow every year and in the medical world there could be 20,000 incorrect operations a month.

“At Kimal, 99% achievement would mean that of the one million (product) packs produced each year, 10,000 of them would have a defect.

“In these instances 99% is not good enough. Utilising and operating along Six Sigma lines would aim us to achieve a defect rate of three in every million – that is 99.9997% achievement.”

The firm, which makes products for diagnostic and interventional cardiology, radiology, renal disease and oncology, is using Six Sigma techniques to improve product availability, workspace management and product handling.

Mark Jenner, business unit leader for commercial & supply at the Droitwich firm, said: “Kimal are engaged in ensuring that ‘continuous improvement’ is embedded in the organisation. We have adopted the Six Sigma methodology of problem identification and resolution to ensure any issues identified as an opportunity for improvement are addressed appropriately.”

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