Saturday, September 26, 2020

Innovative Sheffield manufacturer reaps rewards the benefit of growth hub support

Advanced Manufacturing (Sheffield) Ltd (AML) has seen its turnover double in the past 12 months from £2m to £4m and has created 12 new jobs, which is due, in part, to the support it has received from the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub.

The support has enabled the company to access grant funding for innovations within its production process, embark on a dedicated skills programme and gain strategic business planning advice for future growth.

The company, which originated as a spinoff of the AMRC (Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre), is a market leader in the machining of complex gas turbine products including shafts and discs, aerofoils and bearings, serving both the aerospace and energy industries.

Dr Gareth Morgan, Managing Director of AML, explains “When we were faced, like most businesses, with the challenges of COVID-19 earlier this year, the funding we had secured meant that we could mitigate damage to our business and respond to customer changing needs. We were also able to grow and recruit new staff at a very difficult economic time.”

AML had successfully secured a Productivity Grant from the Sheffield City Region, of £100k in 2019, which provided a platform for the company to purchase new machinery and invest in technical development. This new equipment meant that the impact of the Lockdown to the business could be minimised as the forced grounding of aircraft led to many aerospace companies bringing forward their maintenance programmes, which increased demand for AML’s services.

It also created a step change in the production process, as well as opening up new business opportunities by removing the process of grinding certain parts. This meant that AML secured new contracts to provide specialist high precision machining services to aerospace companies.

Without the investment secured through the Productivity Grant, AML would have found it difficult to respond to this increased demand from industry. It also meant staff could be retained during this challenging period and remained focused and morale at the business could be kept high.

It was during the lockdown that AML installed another machine for this specific product range, which it funded itself and enabled it to quickly scale up production of spares for the defence and aerospace sectors.

Dr Gareth Morgan explains: “The support we have had through the Growth Hub has made a huge difference in enhancing our future. It has meant that we have been able to achieve consistent growth and continue to create new employment opportunities in this region. It is all part of our grand plan to keep innovating and growing the business.”

“The Growth Hub team has a great understanding of our business and has been able to advise on the most suitable funding streams and support available to us.”

Access to Finance Advisor at the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub, Rachel Fletcher explains: “It has been a real delight to work with AML. They’re such a forward-thinking company and never cease to amaze us with their innovative thinking and ability to recognise new opportunities and how this could contribute to their future growth.”

Working with Rachel Fletcher, AML undertook a further AFCoE (Access to Finance Centre of Excellence) diagnostic that involved a strategic plan for funding for equipment to enable further business growth.

She adds: “The company has always been keen to access whatever grants are available to them. Wherever we have helped them to secure funding it has translated to new services they can offer that has created or helped to maintain employment in our region.”

AML started working with the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub back in 2016, on the innovation programme ‘Rise’. It also gained support for staff training through the Sheffield City Region Skills Bank. Over the past four years, the company has successfully accessed grant funding through the Sheffield City Region’s Scale Up, Made Smarter, Productivity, Enhancement Project and Exporting for Growth programmes.

In 2018, the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub successfully supported AML with an application for the Enhancement Project Specialist Grant as part of the company’s ambitious business growth plans. This involved creation of a business plan to get the company ready to maximise its growth.

AML also secured a Made Smarter grant (which provided 50% of the total cost of the project), AML could invest in a number of software solutions which enabled it to merge and digitally enhance its IT systems.

The company is now looking at other grant funding options to help accelerate its growth and expand even further, with plans to acquire further manufacturing space close to the site of the Advanced Manufacturing Park where it is based.

These would be used to service the precision machining needs of customers in the aerospace industry and enable AML to offer new techniques to OEM manufacturers. The company has plans to grow to £6m turnover in 2021 and this includes moving into a new sector and into new international markets.

The Sheffield City Region Growth Hub is also working with AML to secure an Advanced Heat grant and to secure future grant funding through Innovate UK. AML is also looking into developing its automation systems through use of robotics.

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