Innovation is key for a Huddersfield company designing complex production facilities for manufacturing firms around the world.
Manrochem Ltd, based at New North Parade in Huddersfield, has grown since its formation 25 years ago to carry out projects for international clients in a wide range of sectors.
While a lot of its work involves “non-disclosue agreements”, meaning the firm cannot go into details about many of its contracts, examples of projects include ones to turn pond algae into Omega 3 as an alternative to fish oils, turn “brown coal” into high grade coal which will reduce stockpiles of poor grade coal worldwide and designing state-of-the-art tea production process plants in Africa and Sri Lanka.
Key client sectors include pharmaceutical manufacture, chemical production, technical transfer and the nuclear industry. Its specialist services include process engineering consultancy, risk assessment and engineering, procurement and construction management.
Business director and co-owner Edward Jennings said Manrochem was the first port of call for businesses seeking to implement new processes, install a new production facility, “upscale” production or solve safety or environmental issues.
The Manrochem group includes Manrochem Technical Services Ltd and its Asia and Middle East facility Manrochem India Private Ltd, based in Chennai.
The group is also part of a wider formal and informal network able to deliver complex projects.
Clients include blue-chip businesses such as Rolls-Royce as well as businesses with local sites, including pharmaceuticals firm Thornton & Ross at Linthwaite and speciality chemical company Lubrizol at Leeds Road, Huddersfield.
Mr Jennings said: “We have the diverse ability and qualifications to undertake projects that other companies can’t match or don’t want.
“We actively encourage working with our clients to solve their problems. One of our statements is that there are
no ‘stupid questions’. If you don’t know, we might — and then we have a way forward together.”
Camper van company Wellhouse Leisure has become one of the biggest names in the business.
The Shepley-based firm was launched 11 years ago, originally importing base vehicles from Japan for conversion to camper vans.
The company is now seen as the premier converted of compact camper vans, having worked with Toyota, Volkswagen and Hyundai during that time.
When Hyundai ceased importing into the UK the base vehicle used by Wellhouse, managing director David Elliott walked on to the Ford stand at the Commercial Vehicle Show in 2013 and stated boldly: “We want to build camper vans for Ford”.
Wellhouse got two base vehicles and built two prototypes, which were launched at the NEC in October 2013. Ford managers attended the show and were delighted with what Wellhouse had done.
Within a few weeks, the company was given the green light to build more. The vehicle, the Ford Terrier, was named Campervan of the Year for 2014.
Now Wellhouse has a network of 17 Ford dealers across the UK with more to follow, is expanding its workshops, adding to its 26-strong workforce and investing in tooling and staff training.
Every vehicle has “Made in Huddersfield” displayed on the tailgate.
Mr Elliott said: “To deal with Ford, they want to see progression and forward thinking.
“They will deal with small companies, but only if you think like Ford and share their aspirations.
“At Wellhouse, we have never been afraid to mix it with the larger companies.
“Working with Hyundai gave us our ‘apprenticeship’ so when Ford came along we were ready.
“We also knew it was time to go national, breaking from the numbers of 120 or 140 vehicles to 250, which is what we will build in 2014 via the dealership network.
“This will set us apart from our competitors and puts us straight up against VW UK with their camper van, which they sell through dealers.”
Wellhouse also “set the bar high” by gaining key accreditations which allowed the firm to work with Ford, such as full European Tyre approval and National Caravan Council approval.
Looking to the future, Wellhouse is developing two more Ford models to offer a whole size range of camper vans.
It has also ordered a left-hand drive model to take to Ford across Europe.
Wellhouse has already arranged to take its products to Ford in
Mr Elliott said: “The main thing that sets us apart is that Wellhouse is still seen as having the best quality conversions in the UK and although we are set to double production that is something we will never compromise on — ever.”
A furniture manufacturing firm in the heart of the Colne Valley is reaping the benefits of innovation.
Slaithwaite-based family business Daval Furniture, which has 65 employees, has been providing fitted bedroom furniture for independent retailers for almost 40 years — but like many UK manufacturers found itself competing with cheap foreign imports.
Recognising the need to “evolve to survive” the company carried out customer and consumer research teamed with business analysis to identify the need for shorter lead times, greater product customisation and increased efficiency to drive down costs.
A team was formed to devise a system allowing the firm to take on more product, designs and colours while also reducing stock. The result was Option-i — a volume, yet made-to-order production process which was also a first for UK furniture manufacturing.
Marketing and development manager Simon Bodsworth said: “Instead of a ‘you can have it in this size, in that colour and in eight weeks’ Daval can deliver ‘what you want, how you want it, when you want it’.”
The £1.4m investment in Option-i allowed Daval to reduce waste and production costs associated with bespoke furniture and open up choice and design to the mid-market. Lean manufacturing and the reduction of stock also released more funds to plough back into the business.
Daval was named winner of the innovation award at KKB Live — the UK’s largest gathering of kitchen, bedroom and bathroom manufacturers. It was also a finalist in the Northern Design Awards for its Como bedroom range and Option-i technology.
Daval has also increased sales against the backdrop of a flat market and from being a bedroom furniture specialist is now a trend leader in kitchens. It launched 50 new door designs in the kitchens market this summer with some of the products becoming best
sellers within a few months.
The company also launched a new kitchen range, Natural Trend, to help independent retailers offer customers a premium look at a cost which enabled them to protect their margins.
Plans for the next 12 months include developing a range of free-standing furniture to complement its painted kitchens, develop a digital marketing plan to target retailers, consumers and suppliers more effectively, implement 3D modelling software across its business to cut development time and invest in new bar coding equipment,
The firm is also set to launch another new range of bedroom furniture online as well as completing a five-figure refurbishment of its Huddersfield design centre.