BUSINESS | Ludlow business expands to help meet customer needs

A family-owned manufacturing business which has operated in Ludlow since it was founded in 1982, has expanded its base so that it can better meet customer demand, drive operational efficiencies, improve the working environment and create new jobs thanks to two grants supported by the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Heelman, a specialist CNC machine shop that focuses on small and medium batch manufacturing for customers across the automotive, aerospace and pneumatic fittings sectors, has expanded in to a fourth adjoining unit on Ludlow Business Park thanks to a grant worth just under £10,000.

Part of the £2.5m Marches Building Investment Grant (MBIG) which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the scheme is intended to support businesses across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin that need to finance extensions, renovations or reconfigurations of commercial premises. For Heelman, it has meant that physical expansion can be achieved without a move to new premises.

Andy Styles, General Manager, explains:

“Increasing demand from both existing and new customers meant that we needed to review and improve how we managed our production so that we could manage this increased workload.

“Whilst a move to another, larger, unit on the business park was a consideration, this would have entailed moving all the machinery, as well as carrying out reparations to the existing units that we’d vacate and simply that was not financially viable. When we found out, therefore, about the MBIG programme, it quickly became apparent that it could provide a way for us to realise our growth potential.”

Andy and the team had already secured £2625 worth of funding from the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP) to design and support the implementation of a new production control software solution and it was Catherine Bray, Manufacturing Growth Manager, who introduced them to the MBIG team. Andy continues:

“When Catherine introduced us to Caroline Cattle at MBIG, our vision for growth soon became a reality.

“I’m so glad we pursued this as it makes a big difference to us as a company. The new, additional, unit is allowing us to consolidate all non-production functions in to a single space and leave room for additional pieces of equipment that will enable us to improve our overall service to new and existing customers alike.

“The high level of hands-on support provided by the grants team was very welcome and there was always someone available to ask questions to. I’d urge anyone who has considered applying to not hold back as it’s a really straightforward process.”

Heelman’s growth is also expected to lead to a potential 10% increase in turnover. Speaking on behalf of the MBIG grant scheme, Programme Manager Caroline Cattle, adds:

“It’s great to witness a grant applicant come to us via referral from one of our partners in the region as it allows them to benefit from all-round support and achieve a level of growth that may not have otherwise been possible.

“In the case of Heelman, they’re now working on recruiting an additional CNC Programmer as well as focusing on significantly increased turnover. However, they’re doing so confident that they’re also presenting themselves in a more professional and far safer way and this is, in many ways, one of the forgotten aspects of the grant’s benefits.”

The MBIG funding received by Heelman has not only provided distinct areas for non-production activities but has also driven efficiencies via physical adaptions that include an internal opening between the units and the installation of a mezzanine floor. The electrics and lighting have also been upgraded to facilitate continuous working across the 4 units.