Chasing the gazelles: how Knowledge Exchange has helped Parafix
- Published: Thursday, 14 May 2015 10:12
- Written by National Centre for Universities and Business
Case study by University of Brighton
Parafix Tapes and Conversions is a £10m converter and distributor of self-adhesive materials, based in Lancing, West Sussex, employing 135 people. Managing Director Mike Punter explains how two recent collaborations with the University of Brighton have helped with increasing productivity and raising efficiency in international marketing.
A strength of Parafix was the fact that staff rarely leave. This is something to be really proud of, but the flip side is that we only did what we knew. We did it very well, but if we were to develop, we had to bring in some outside intelligence. I wanted some input from experts, and some bright brains that would challenge me. So I thought ‘I need to get close to a university’.
The first piece of work we did with the University of Brighton was about driving out waste and improving our process flow. We did this through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). The biggest element of waste we had was that valuable time was being spent by people wandering about looking for things. So our first graduate came in and analysed exactly where everything needed to be positioned in the factory, reducing our footprint and streamlining production processes, and we saw a dramatic change in productivity as a result.
We continued to make and sell things to hundreds of clients around the world, but we didn’t have a clear view of where we wanted to be or how we were going to get there. So we embarked on a second KTP with the University of Brighton which aimed to produce a five year marketing plan.
We took on a graduate, Louise Vincent, from the university’s business school and she very quickly got to grips with analysing the markets we were in, identifying which were the most profitable, and what our customers thought about us. We also had input from a senior academic at the university who helped guide the project. As a result of the KTP we now really understand our customers’ needs across 22 different countries, know exactly which markets we want to focus on, and where the high-growth potential lies.
We have backed the conclusions of the analysis and we are now looking at healthcare, automotive, electronics and lighting sectors. We’re chasing the gazelles. Louise is now a full time employee at Parafix and she is implementing the new marketing plan. Going forward, I am focussing on giving opportunities to younger people – this year we have hired 10 new employees under the age of 25, and I plan to continue building a two-way relationship with the University of Brighton, as you never know what sort of expertise you are going to need next.
It’s really useful to have that community to ask. For example, we wanted to put bright lights over a machine in the clean room. We kept trying to make the lights brighter and brighter, but we just couldn’t seem to get it quite right, so we asked the photography department at the university, and now part of the clean room is painted black! We would never have thought of that.”
Mike Punter, Managing Director, Parafix Tapes and Conversions Ltd