Agricultural components manufacturer Chapmans has seen plenty of changes and challenges on its 30-year journey. The family business has grown steadily from eight employees to around 130, and through acquiring other small companies has moved from its first site on Atkinson Street to a larger site where they have bought surrounding buildings and built their own forge. They’ve also weathered a flood and a fire over the years as well as the changes to the market and economic climate, most recently due to Brexit and the rising prices of steel and energy. Still, at this moment in time, Managing Director Ian Lane says the company is busier than ever – “We’ve never had such a long order book as we do now” – and has progressive plans for the future.
One of Chapman’s strengths is in investing and innovating to adapt to changing conditions and ensure the company is always fit for the future, making good use of available support. In 2019, they applied for a Local Enterprise Partnership Productivity grant to build their forge, diversifying the types of products they could offer. More recently, they successfully applied for a Business Productivity Grant to install new scales, which give them a real-time view of incremental changes in weight as products reach the end of the production line. This is not just about monitoring productivity but actively reducing ‘bad hours’; their production manager no longer spends most of his time walking around the factory and physically counting products, and can focus on identifying and solving issues instead. They are partway through installing induction heating, funded through an Additional Restrictions Grant during COVID-19, and building a new website, partially funded by European Regional Development Fund.
For the past five years, Ian has been working with Rachel Fletcher, a Business Advisor with Business Sheffield, to develop their grant applications. The Advisors are a team of experienced business people, experts in a wide range of sectors, who support Sheffield businesses to overcome hurdles and to thrive.
“Grant applications can be quite daunting,” says Ian. “They take up a lot of time, and it’s not always clear what they’re getting at. Rachel can help us work out what the objectives of the grant are, so we can represent the purpose and benefit of the changes we want funding for in the right way. It’s a massive help, she’s really supportive in all she does, and if she doesn’t know something she’ll always take it away and find out for us.
“The key thing about Rachel is that she knows our business. I don’t have to give her the background, which can be time consuming in itself. If I’m thinking about spending money I’ll always get in touch with Rachel; if there’s no relevant support out there at the time she’ll file the idea away, and even if it takes a while before something comes up she doesn’t forget. She’ll also come to us when new grants come up, to check if there’s anything we might be able to use them for.”
Chapmans’ focus now is on reducing their energy use, to manage their energy spend and reduce their carbon footprint. Their new heating system means equipment takes a fraction of the time to heat, and all heat produced is actively used in manufacture rather than being wasted during heating-up time. They’re in the process of applying for Low Carbon Grant funding to install a new laser machine that would halve energy input, and they’re also looking at how they could recycle energy. “We always have one eye on the future,” says Ian, “It’s always about tomorrow, not just today.”
To get in touch with Rachel, email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Read this article to find out more about the Business Productivity Grant, including more case studies. To discuss an application with one of our Business Advisors, call our team on 0114 2245000 or email BusinessSheffield@sheffield.gov.uk