Proform Europe is one of the leading manufacturers of tables and chairs for the education sector within the UK. The company is family owned and since early 2014 run by a new board of directors who have substantial experience in marketing, operations and finance across the education marketplace. However market changes have put them under threat, they have needed to radically evaluate their operating and business model in order to survive. They did this with help from the Essex Innovation Programme (EIP) whose private sector business professional worked closely with them to understand the true health of the business, to restructure their business, bring in high end manufacturing industry expertise and put in place major operational changes. Working together Proform and EIP have transformed Proform’s business and prospects.
Proform is a family owned manufacturing business with over 30 yrs experience in designing, manufacturing and supplying furniture. Formerly trading as Steltube, the company designed and manufactured tech polypropylene injection moulded chairs for some of the largest local authorities in the South East.
At their height, Steltube had a turnover of over £7million and employed 60 staff. By 2009 the market had changed and it was clear that Steltube were under significant pressure to remain profitable.
Working with the Essex Innovation Programme (EIP)
One of the directors of Steltube met the Essex Innovation Programme at an EIP ‘Access to Finance’ Event where he applied to be part of the programme and to get free access to EIP’s professional business mentors network. EIP matched them with an experienced EIP private sector mentor whose experience and background matched their needs.
Steltube and EIP worked over an extended period to fully understand the challenges facing the company, its state of health and the opportunities for progress.
As a result of responding to the changes set to them by their mentor, EIP were also able to refer them to Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) resulting in them accessing funding to further develop the business.
Working with EIP enabled Proform to . . .
• Conduct ‘deep dive’ analysis of all departments and operations to understand the health of the business
• Develop a far reaching road map towards recovery and increased profitability
• Restructure their businesses including the recruitment of a new Managing Director with relevant manufacturing experience
• Save £350,000 in transport costs
• New phone, computer, material requirements planning (MRP) and server systems were put in place
• The IFM reassessed the business and took the project on with a result of stabilising the business and offering funding
• Company looking to grow profits to £10million with all operations now cloud based
• Now the largest cast PU table manufacturer in Britain since acquiring assets and the registered trademark from the now closed Remploy businesses
• Signed up as a member of IfM
“Our Essex Innovation Programme mentor gave us his wealth of experience over a course of meetings, helping us to analyse budgets and put marketing strategies in place. We now have a £4.5million turnover and are in discussions with Chinese manufacturers.”
Kevin Donne, MD, Proform Europe
Development of new products
Moving forward the company is also now focused on their latest innovation – anti-bacterial chairs. Proform has been working with Biocoat and now have world-wide exclusivity on polypropylene seating that kills C. difficile, MRSA etc in 15 mins.
The product has already been trialled in doctors and vets surgeries with a success rate of 99.9% less germs than were found on normal chairs. Proform are now looking at producing tables with the same technology as used within its seating.
“We have already sold our products to the NHS (National Health Service) and the MoD (Ministry of Defence) along with taking part in a trial on the world's first anti-bacterial classroom. The classroom was equipped with our classroom and ICT chairs and tables, all protected with BioCote antimicrobial technology.
Initial findings were impressive; the antimicrobial products in the protected classroom were shown to be over 95.68% less contaminated with bacteria than the corresponding items in the unprotected classroom.”
Adrian Gayler, Marketing Director, Proform Europe
About the Essex Innovation Programme
Since 2014, Proform Europe has worked with the Essex Innovation Programme. The programme, run by Essex County Council’s Enterprise Team, offers growing and established businesses the opportunity to work with experienced private sector mentors across a variety of business growth themes to help develop innovative products and improve a company’s competitiveness and market share.
Find out more at Essex Innovation Programme
See here for more details about Proform