USW provides vital initial step for company’s improvement trajectory

USW provides vital initial step for company’s improvement trajectory

South Wales manufacturer benefits from key knowledge transfer advice in midst of recession to embark upon evolutionary journey.

Brick Fabrication manufactures pre-fabricated building products for the UK House Building industry, supplying national house builders and the construction industry. In 2008, the company undertook its first Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project with the University of South Wales (then the University of Glamorgan). At that point, the company had sales of approx £800,000 per annum and employed 16 staff. During the two-year period of the project, sales doubled to £1.6 million per annum and its employees increased to 38. In the five years since the project ended, sales have further increased to £4 million with 72 colleagues now employed.

KTN-SoRIn 2008, when KTP was first considered as a route by Brick Fabrication, it now seems inconceivable that there wasn’t a formal facility for engineering drawing in place. All products were manufactured to rough sketches, often with little or no dimensional detail. During the project, the Associate successfully introduced Autodesk Inventor 3D CAD software to Brick Fabrication. For the first time, staff and customers were able to visualise the increasingly complex products the company was manufacturing.

Having the ability to visually demonstrate its products was one of the key enablers that allowed the steady growth of the business. At that time, the building industry was in the midst of one of the longest and worst recessions in living memory. The introduction of Autodesk was so successful that the global Californian-based software company who provided the software featured Brick Fabrication on their website as a case study.

John White, Director, Brick Fabrication said: 

“Without gaining the advice and support of USW and obtaining the initial KTP funding, it’s unlikely the business would have grown at the rate it did.”

Building on the success of the first KTP project two further KTP’s were undertaken, in partnership with Cardiff University. The first was to build upon the successful implication of 3D CAD to the business by redesigning the factory layout in a format conducive to Lean Manufacturing techniques. Computer Aided Design was then linked to Computer Aided Manufacturing (CADCAM). Further investment in automated production machinery followed which, as a consequence, increased the quality and capacity of the manufacturer.

The most recent KTP looked at customers’ future needs and then expanded the product range. As part of this project, a fully developed business plan has been established which projects sales of Brick Fabrication to reach £10 million per annum by the end of 2020.

The experience enjoyed by Brick Fabrication demonstrates the advantages of the Welsh HE sector partnering to place the strategic development of the company partner at its core. KTP is a UK-wide programme that has enabled businesses for the past 40 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base.

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