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Case Study - W E Amies(est 1929)

Website -
Location - Quarry Lane, Chesterfield

WE Amies & Co Ltd is a family owned company that specialises in manufacturing plastic mouldings for commercial and industrial purposes. The company has customers throughout the world, including UK, Europe, China, USA, and Japan.

Established in Sheffield in 1929 by the Shepley family and Bill Amies, the company moved to their current address in Chesterfield in 1963 where, today, they employ 24 people. The workforce is set to grow further following grant funding, which Chesterfield Innovation Project has assisting it in achieving.

The company has received a £42,000 grant from Global Derbyshire which will enable it to double the size of the business two years earlier than if it was self-funded and also create three new jobs.

Bob Ball, Managing Director of W E Amies & Co Ltd explains how.

How did you access grant funding?

We were looking at the possibility of opening another factory and initially made contact with the Chesterfield Innovation Project to investigate potential funding for a new building. It was while discussing future plans for the company that Paul Stuart from the Chesterfield Innovation Project made us aware of Global Derbyshire, a small business support programme that provides grant funding for Derbyshire's SMEs that want to grow, collaborate, innovate and export. Our new CoagMax product ticked all these boxes and Paul was able to fund a Specialist Advisor who was then able to assist us with our successful funding application which enabled us to secure funding.

This is the first time we've ever accessed any grants and I'd definitely look into doing it again.

What will the grant fund?

The grant will be used to purchase three new machines, increasing the business turnover and helping in the manufacture of the new CoagMax medical product. The first of the new machines is due to be installed and operational by December 2014. Having the new machines means we are also to create three full time jobs - two machine operators and one finisher. Without the Global Derbyshire grant it would have taken us two years to self-fund the machines the grant has enabled us to purchase now as well as create the new jobs.

The grant will also enable us to increase capacity and turnover by 20%, which means we can consider further expansion and job creation much earlier than planned.

How is CoagMax changing your business?

There is every indication that CoagMax will be a world beater and it has the potential to massively change our business.

It is the first machine to measure blood viscosity using MEMS technology (Micro Electro Mechanical Sensors), and Amies Innovation is manufacturing all the devices plastic components and the accompanying disposable plastic strips. The long-term forecast for the disposable strips is up to six million strips per month, the account has the potential of doubling the turnover of the business.

How easy is it to get into the medical marketplace?

For a long time we had wanted to expand our product capability. Currently the manufacture of plumbing parts accounts for 40% of the business and we are well established in the food industry, producing plastic products with silver magnesium embedded in them which kills germs on contact. Having experience in manufacturing technically challenging components for the engineering sector and for the food industry, made the transition into medical manufacturing a natural next step.

In 2011 we established sister company Amies Innovation to focus exclusively on the requirements of its medical technology customers. With the help of the Chesterfield Innovation Project we hope to access further funding to grow this division and create a dedicated manufacturing unit within the next 18 months - two years/ This will enable us to create a further 20 new jobs.

How have you future proofed the company to meet potential demand?

The grant funding has been essential in helping us future proof the company. Originally, we planned to buy the new machines in 2016 following a major upgrade to the on-site power supply. This upgrade would have used all disposable income in the company.

We have now invested £50,000 on a new on site electricity sub-station to enable the business to run at full capacity. Prior to this we were experiencing power outages and the new machines would have been impossible to run on the power supply we had.

The grant funding has enabled us to substantially accelerate our plans for growth. We have been able to invest in new technologies, like the two-shot mouldings used for the CoagMax, which will enable the business to be able to compete in the modern Plastic Injection Moulding sector.

We've also got the ISO 9000 and ISO 13484 accreditations which are a pre-requisite of manufacturing medical mouldings. We have built a class 7 Clean-room, which is a sterile environment with filtered air. Having these standards and facilities mean we now have the infrastructure to compete within the medical marketplace.

Investment in technology and infrastructure is important to the future of our business, but equally so is being true, loyal, and consistent to our customers. We have long-term relationships with many of our customers, three of them have been working with us for more than 25 years. It's important to continue investing in those working relationships.

What does the future look like for W E Amies?

WE Amies and Amies Innovation will continue to grow, but with the help of the Chesterfield Innovation Project we can grow quicker than predicted.

I'd like to see a new site dedicated to medical moulding manufacturing for Amies Innovation and within the next 18-24 months we'd ideally like to have that second site at Markham Vale.

Being based in an Enterprise Zone like Markham Vale, will enable us to access further grant funding to secure our growth and double our workforce.

Without the support for the Chesterfield Innovation Project we would not have been aware of available grant funding or how to go about securing it. It's made a huge difference to W E Amies and has been instrumental in not only growing the business but also securing its future.