In conversation…Leeds City Region Supply Chain Programme

This month we interviewed Ian Rhodes, Supply Chain Advisor at Leeds City Region Supply Chain Programme, to tell us more about how they work and support manufacturers in the region.

The LEP’s ‘In conversation…’ series profiles partners, academics, innovative businesses, support programmes and resources to share what they are working on, how they are encouraging innovation and what support is available for businesses looking to innovate in the Leeds City Region.

This month we interviewed Ian Rhodes, Supply Chain Advisor at Leeds City Region Supply Chain Programme, to tell us more about how they work and support manufacturers in the region.

Q1. Can you tell us a bit about who the programme is for and what it offers?

The Supply Chain Programme’s focus is to support SMEs, manufacturers and suppliers to the manufacturing sector, that are based in the Leeds City Region. A priority for us is to encourage reshoring of products and work with the LEP to expand and visualise capabilities and excellence of local providers.

We provide free advisory time, working with owners and senior management teams to support their business performance, growth and improve their customer and supplier engagement. In addition, where appropriate, we can also provide grants to help towards the cost of using external consultants and specialists on specific implementation projects.

Q2. What is your role at the LCR Supply Chain Programme?

The programme is made up of a team of professionals from manufacturing backgrounds who have significant experience in a variety of sectors, business sizes and levels.

Our role is to engage, evaluate and recommend changes to improve a company’s productivity, efficiency and bottom line. These changes are then put into action and can impact how a company manages its supply chain, changes to operations and reduces risk.

We work collaboratively with the Business Support teams and Growth Managers across the region, with LEP colleagues and other ERDF programmes from the LEP to ensure companies can access the support available for their needs.

Q3. How do you work with SMEs in the region?

Enquiries from SMEs come from several areas: direct enquiries from our website, referrals from Growth Managers, LEP Business Support teams, other ERDF funded programmes, consultants and recommendations from businesses we have supported.

Once eligibility has been established with the business, we engage with senior management to understand what the key areas affecting their businesses are. We do this by undertaking a diagnostic which covers all areas of the business and then we produce an Action Plan, prioritising the key areas.

It’s a high priority for many companies, particularly due to Brexit and even more critically, COVID-19. During the pandemic we have supported many businesses looking to reorganise their operations, diversify, re-source or dual source as part of looking at reducing risks to their supply routes and to ensure customer deliveries are maintained.

Q4. How can businesses benefit from seeking external support? 

Every business can benefit from having an impartial pair of eyes looking at it. Our Supply Chain Advisors are all ex-manufacturing managers with significant knowledge and experience that can provide an honest opinion. If areas are identified that can’t be supported from the business’ own team and resources, we work with external specialists to ensure project implementations are to the agreed specification. 

Q5. What have you noticed about businesses over the recent months?

Brexit and more recently COVID-19 have had a major impact on SME manufacturing businesses.

Some have been able to adapt quickly by applying new working practices and others have taken calculated risks to increase raw material stock holding to ensure continuation of work – however this increases pressures on cash flow. Many companies have had to critically review their supply chains, look at new sources of supply, the costs of supply, re-shoring opportunities, dual sourcing critical items to continue operations.

We have seen companies grow and companies struggle, but we are seeing an increase in confidence as more companies are looking to invest in projects to support operational performance, linked with capital investments.

Q6. How do you think innovation will help with our region’s economic recovery? 

Innovation means different things; what is innovative to one company may be standard practice to another, however, innovation is the way forward.

New product innovations, innovations in manufacturing operations, data and digital implementations, innovative thinking on problem solving all have a significant part to play. Investment support, supporting skills development and adoptions are a key part in growing the UK and the Leeds City Region.

To implement innovation in SMEs it’s important to understand the benefits, such as an increased return on investment (ROI), particularly in current businesses where money and budgets are potentially more limited than usual.

Q7. Finally, can you describe what innovation means to you in five words?

Transforming products, processes, services = Growth.

The Supply Chain Programme runs until March 2023 and is a European Regional Development Funded (ERDF) programme, delivered by the University of Huddersfield in conjunction with the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Further innovation support

If you are looking for help around improving or developing new products, processes or services please visit our Innovation page or contact our innovation team. Our team of Innovation Growth Managers, part of the Connecting Innovation programme, can connect and partner businesses with the right support for your project.

The LEP Business Support Service is here to help businesses, get in touch with our helpline to find out more.

Connecting Innovation) is delivered by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (the LEP) in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.