Business Productivity Programme helps Blake UK tune in to new phase of growth

Featured Manufacturing

A family-run manufacturing company, which has served Sheffield for over 50 years, is hoping to tune in to a new phase of growth after securing grant funding from the South Yorkshire Business Productivity Programme.

Blake UK designs, supplies and manufactures a wide range of aerials, CCTV systems, Wi-Fi signal boosting equipment and networking products for domestic and commercial use. Many of Blake’s products are manufactured at the company’s Rutland Road headquarters, but faced with increasing competition, notably from overseas manufacturers, the senior management team realised that, to achieve its ambitious growth objectives, a strategic review of its operations was required.

Following a presentation at a business seminar, managing director Paul Blake decided to approach Business Sheffield for support. Working together with a business adviser made the process of scrutinising the way in which the business operated much easier. Their work revealed that, as Paul had suspected, many of the systems and processes used within the business needed radical improvement.

With the aim of making the entire company paperless, Paul applied to the Business Productivity Grant Programme for help. Working with key account manager Andrew Sorsby, he secured a match funded grant, which has been used to purchase new equipment to improve the company’s manufacturing process. At the same time the company’s computer systems were upgraded, vastly improving the company’s manufacturing process and stock level monitoring.

Since implementing these changes, the company has experienced a measurable increase in productivity. One of the key benefits is that it allowed Blake to cost-effectively diversify its product range and capitalise on new opportunities. To meet this rise in demand, the company has also recruited two new apprentices to help retain the vital skills needed within the business.

As a direct result of the support received from the Business Productivity Grant, Blake UK has been able to successfully eliminate substantial amounts of waste – and costs. The introduction of a paperless order processing system, as well as consolidating and streamlining processes elsewhere within the company’s manufacturing, warehousing and sales operations has helped Blake UK to save the business approximately 16 hours per month, as well as a further 24 hours per month as a result of the improved management processes.

Paul Blake, managing director, Blake UK said:

“Many businesses in our market rely upon products manufactured overseas; however, we’re proud of our long association with Sheffield and the fact that a big proportion of our ranges continues to be made in the city. We had come to the conclusion that some of the systems we used to manage the business were no longer fit for purpose. Inevitably, the more you delve into these issues, the more you realise the impact they are having on productivity.

When I approached Business Sheffield to discuss the challenges we were facing, our key account manager suggested that our business may be eligible for help under the Business Productivity Programme. I was delighted to find out that our application had been accepted, and since securing the grant, we’ve also been able to implement software that allows all aspects of the business to be viewed holistically. Moving to paperless systems has helped us to reduce the amount of waste we generate, and as a direct result of the improved processes we’ve implemented we’ve seen demand for our products rise. We also expanded our workforce as a result, creating two new apprenticeships within the business.

The impact of this project has exceeded all of our expectations. The new software means we can manage the team much more effectively, and diversify the product range, which has resulted in a significant increase in new orders.”

Andrew Sorsby, key account account manager, Business Sheffield said:

“The Business Productivity Programme was developed to help businesses across South Yorkshire overcome barriers to growth. For Blake UK, this meant upgrading some equipment the company needed to improve its manufacturing processes, as well as replacing manual systems with digital ones, not only helping to reduce waste in the business, but also helping the company to identify and overcome the challenges it faced within its supply chains.

The net result has been an increase in orders secured, and new jobs have been created, but perhaps most importantly of all, the technology embraced by the company has helped it to successfully prepare for future growth and cement its position as one of the UK’s leading operators within a highly competitive marketplace.”

Blake UK was founded by Paul’s father Ron in 1971 as Blake Aerials and has firmly established itself as one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of TV aerials. The company changed its name in 2002 to reflect the increasingly diverse range of products it manufactures and sources. Today, the company employs 24 people in its Sheffield headquarters and supplies its products throughout the UK.

The Business Productivity Programme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and provides businesses with 50 percent grant funding up to a maximum of £12,499, and the other 50 percent  must be provided by the business.

The maximum project application is £24,999 and can include investment in new equipment or machinery and consultancy services to help them overcome barriers to growth. The scheme is delivered by Enterprising Barnsley, Business Sheffield, Business Doncaster and the Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO).

Any business based in South Yorkshire wishing to find out more about the grant funding available through the Business Productivity Programme should contact the Enterprising Barnsley team via