One of the first companies to sign up to a programme to improve the digital capabilities of smaller businesses has officially opened its new company headquarters and factory in Sandwell.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) cut the ribbon at Ramfoam’s new site on Haigne Road, Tividale which will see the business increase in size by 50 per cent.
Ramfoam, which makes foam products for the military and other organisations, was one of the first businesses to sign up to the West Midlands Made Smarter programme which is aimed at increasing the number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) adopting digital technology in manufacturing. Last year Ramfoam adapted its manufacturing practices to produce two million face visors a week at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Made Smarter, which was officially launched in June, is headed up by the WMCA and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands said: "The West Midlands is a shining light for UK innovation, and that has become even more apparent throughout the pandemic.
"That’s why, in partnership with BEIS, we set up the Made Smarter programme to help SMEs really make the most of our region’s digital capabilities.
"It is therefore brilliant to see companies like Ramfoam not only taking part in the programme, but also the transformative effective it has had with their new expansion. The more companies that prosper like Ramfoam, the more jobs we’ll be able to create for local people."
So far 85 companies have asked to join Made Smarter West Midlands and 58 have started the first stages of the programme. The year-long £1.9 million programme will see digital experts provide advice to businesses - like Ramfoam - on how to switch to advanced and automated technologies as well as working to improve employees’ overall digital skills.
Tim Mulqueen, Ramfoam’s sales director, said: "The Made Smarter programme is greatly assisting SMEs with their invaluable experience. Ramfoam is now actively working with Made Smarter to apply digital technologies to our business that will enable us to manufacture smarter and improve our efficiency, and in turn generate growth.
"I believe all West Midlands SME businesses could greatly benefit from support through Made Smarter; we all as SMEs need to challenge the way we do things in order to continuously improve and innovate."
Ramfoam was helped by WMG at the University of Warwick to scale up production from 100,000 to two million face visors a week for the Government at the height of the pandemic.
By creating a digital twin (a virtual model) Ramfoam was able to make 54 million visors over the last year. The company also signed up for WMG’s help to creating digital visualisation of its new factory, and now, as one of the first participants in Made Smarter West Midlands, will benefit from further assistance in adopting digital technology further.
Dr Mark Swift, head of SME programmes at WMG, University of Warwick commented: "The pandemic was a tough time for any business, and being able to flourish during it is certainly an achievement that Ramfoam has been able to do. We thoroughly enjoyed helping them drive up productivity and look forward to helping to transform Ramfoam further.
"It is incredibly exciting to see a West Midlands manufacturer doing so well, and we hope that more businesses will sign up to Made Smarter and continue to make the West Midlands a thriving manufacturing hub."
The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is leading the one-year Made Smarter scheme with the region’s other Growth Hubs in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Worcestershire, The Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire on behalf of the WMCA and BEIS. The Growth Hubs are working closely with the WMCA and their strategic partners WMG, at the University of Warwick, and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry.
Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said Ramfoam is a great example of a company best placed to take advantage of the Made Smarter scheme.
He said: "It’s fantastic that Ramfoam is one of the first firms to become part of the Made Smarter programme here in the West Midlands. It will help firms like Ramfoam develop innovative technology for the benefit of the region, as well as adopting new technology themselves to improve efficiency.
"Made Smarter will enable SMEs across the West Midlands receive the specialist support they need to embrace digital technology, and we are looking forward to more companies applying to Made Smarter and following in Ramfoam’s footsteps."
Cllr Ian Brookfield, WMCA portfolio lead for economy and leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said: "SMEs have felt the effects of the pandemic and have had to adapt to different ways of working as demonstrated by Ramfoam.
"Improved digital expertise gained through Made Smarter can help the region’s SMEs future-proof their practices, contributing to the economic prosperity of the region."
To find out more about Made Smarter visit https://www.cwgrowthhub.co.uk/made-smarter-west-midlands