Manufacturing companies will be assisted to add significant value to their operations and position themselves for faster growth by applying knowledge-led techniques through an innovative business improvement programme announced today by Leslie Morrison, Invest Northern Ireland (Invest NI) Chief Executive.

Mr Morrison said the programme would enable up to 25 companies each to recruit a full-time Business Improvement Agent (BIA) who would be tasked to identify measures that could be taken to strengthen their ability to win new business, retain existing customers and improve profit margins by increasing efficiency.

Said Mr Morrison: “The BIA programme, the first of its kind in the United Kingdom, has been developed by Invest NI’s Business Improvement Services as part of its focus on encouraging local companies to improve their overall competitiveness by helping management and staff increase capability.

“It is in line with our Corporate Plan commitment to build a partnership with individual companies that will help them to add value to their business through the application of new knowledge or techniques.

“It is based on a successful model programme that involved a small group of companies including Allied Bakeries in Belfast, Boomer Plastics, Lisburn and SCA Packaging, Warrenpoint. These three companies, for example, are predicting combined savings of more than £1 million over the next two years.

"BIAs will pinpoint areas for improvement within each company and then manage the delivery of actions to improve performance.

“Each BIA will be monitored and measured to ensure tangible benefits for participating companies. The aim will be to achieve a three-fold return for each company against the total costs of employing the BIA supported by sustained improvements to processes over three years.

“It is essential that all companies assess their operations to ensure competitiveness through continuous improvement in efficiency, productivity and cost-effectiveness.

"We want continuous improvement to become integral to the operations of each company and thereby ensure sustainable competitive gains. Business today is no longer about size, but agility and speed of response. Agile companies that apply knowledge quickly within a culture of continuous improvement out-perform slower competitors," added Mr Morrison.

Invest NI and companies taking part in the programme will 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.

Invest NI’s Business Improvement Service will also work closely with each agent in identifying and making improvements.

Companies are being invited to join the BIA programme by means of advertisements in local daily newspapers and by direct e-mail marketing
techniques. Companies may also find out more about the programme by e-mail at

Allied Bakeries, Belfast manufactures a broad range of bread products from large loaves under Kingsmill and other established brands to smaller items such as pancakes, potato and soda farls and scones. Improvement projects underway include an automatic ordering system and increased pancake throughput following a review of the manufacturing process

Boomer Industries, Lisburn manufactures plastic extruded products for the construction and other industries. The company is implementing projects that will increase efficiency through faster changeover of dies for product lines and shorter raw material delivery times.

SCA Packaging, Warrenpoint produces folded and printed cartons for customers throughout Ireland. Improvement projects at the plant include new safety procedures, application of Total Productive Maintenance processes to machines throughout the factory and enhanced internal communications.

Invest NI’s Business Improvement Services assists companies to increase performance through techniques that enable them to assess their current competitiveness against internationally recognised standards within their business sector.

Practical expertise is provided on best practice covering activities such as:
· Strategy development and implementation;
· Productivity and efficiency;
· Customer/market focus;
· People/skills development;
· E-business; and
· Supply chain development.