Bangor-based Munster Simms Engineering has saved around £250,000 in inventory costs, in the past six months, from a series of initiatives including the appointment of a Business Improvement Agent (BIA) under an Invest Northern Ireland-backed scheme to help local companies become more competitive.

Munster Simms, a successful manufacturer of manual and electrical pumps and plumbing systems for the international marine and recreational industries, signed up for the BIA Programme, earlier this year, as part of a continuous improvement plan to achieve savings in excess of £400,000.

“The plan aims to ensure our sustained ability to compete in our target markets and driving the company’s continued profitable growth by making continuous improvement a central theme for management and all employees,” said Brian Batchelor, Managing Director of Munster Simms Engineering. “The BIA is an important initiative because it has enabled us to deploy a person to pinpoint issues and help in taking steps that will improve our product and service quality levels to existing customers and to compete more aggressively for new business.

“As a result of this sharper focus on improvement throughout the business, we’ve achieved significant benefits in a number of areas including productivity at manufacturing cell level through layout and operational changes such as the introduction of a Japanese Kan Ban system, and also improved process and material flow through implementing Kaizen principles and techniques.

“Our internal communications have also benefited from the BIA’s ongoing exchange of information and ideas with employees at all levels on measures that will ensure the continuing success of the business,” added Mr Batchelor.

The BIA programme assists companies to add significant value to their operations and position themselves for faster growth by applying knowledge-led business improvement techniques.

Invest NI and companies taking part in the programme share the salary costs of the business improvement agents over a period of three years with the intention that the company create a full time BIA post and will fully fund the agent thereafter.

Victor Jordan, Director of Invest NI’s Business Improvement Services, said the BIA programme had been developed to help management and staff increase capability and improve the overall competitiveness of their business.

"The role of the BIA is to identify priority areas for improvement within each company and then manage the delivery of actions to improve performance.

“The programme’s aim is to help individual companies to achieve a three-fold return on the total costs of employing the BIA supported by sustained improvements to processes over three years.
"The programme will help to ensure that continuous improvement becomes integral to the operations of each company and thereby ensures sustainable competitive gains,” he added.