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Business Productivity through a data driven diagnostic.

Image of commercial interiors featuring Skopos Fabrics

Skopos fabrics Ltd are an innovative textiles company based in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. They produce contract fabrics, curtains, bedding and upholstery fabrics for commercial interiors.

Using specialist materials, such as their acoustic fabrics they can minimise sound reflection within a room. Their antimicrobial fabrics are used widely in hotels, care homes and on cruise ships as the fabric gives the added benefit of protecting against viruses and bacteria that can be spread through touch. Skopos also source fabrics and yarns that had been transformed from plastics, as part of their need to embrace a greener future.

Why did Skopos Fabrics join the West Yorkshire Business Productivity Service (WYBPS)?

John Burrill, Skopos Operations Manager, highlighted the initial driving force for joining WYBPS was that they were looking at investing capital in automating elements of their labour intensive manufacturing (sewing) unit on-site, after a large cushions order. They knew they needed investment in equipment to respond to these significant peaks in production demand. The Business Productivity Service offered them match-funded grants of up to £50,000 to contribute to capital investment. John noted:

 “We’re business to business and everything is done on larger contracts. So, we might fit out the full hotel of 400 bedrooms over set phases, or the work can be all at once and very seasonal, for example, a current student accommodation contract is 2000 bedrooms. You can imagine the logistics around that.”

John Burrill – Operations Manager Skopos Fabrics.

What was the original situation in the Sewing room?

Skopos has 18 to 20 staff in the sewing room, all using old sewing machines, in a way they did 50 years ago. With the vagaries of the commercial interiors business, the workload on the sewing room can have very high peaks, when a commercial order comes in.

So, with contract orders, sometimes having to produce 7000 cushions, or 4000 curtains, Skopos knew they needed to look at the manufacturing-side of the business to improve productivity and efficiencies to enable them to scale and fulfil larger orders.

It was clear from the outset, that the sewing room workforce were incredibly skilled, but ageing, with three of them past retirement age, and some of them potentially wanting to retire, leaving a “skills-gap.

There was also the change in the product requirements for the commercial markets. A move to wall-to-wall curtains and big window walls, added an increased weight-complication for the machinists, as they had to handle larger and heavier curtains.

Machinist at Skopos Fabrics sewing a commercial curtain

Skopos knew from the planning process that they would need to reassess how to effectively manage their sewing room with the potential decline in the skilled workforce, and with the weight-complications from the market-driven changes in curtains. They needed to look at innovative manufacturing equipment and automation.

How did the BPS help Skopos?

Skopos already had a well-established set of KPIs they used to measure performance across the organisation including those applying to the manufacturing unit.

When James Smith Productivity Manager – Exemplas first spoke with John, the company had just got a large cushion order, and they were looking for investment in capital to support this, but when they applied the diagnostic, they ended up looking at the whole business, across all product ranges, all departments, and all contracts.

We looked at virtually everything in the business and how it hangs together. It became clear where we had issues.”

John Burrill – Operations Manager Skopos Fabrics.

What the diagnostic showed:

Skopos already knew they would need to reassess how to effectively manage their sewing room with the potential decline in the skilled workforce, but it became clear that this was more imperative when they looked at the market opportunities in curtains. The weight-complications from the wall-to-wall curtains and big window walls meant that it was essential to look at specific automation here.

The diagnostic also enabled John and his team look across the business at all the measures and take a refreshed view of key resource constraints to growing productivity not only in the manufacturing unit; but across fitting as well, highlighting the significant costs generated by “wasted time,” when fitters go out to a site to fit curtains in new build hotels and other accommodation.  As John highlighted:

“If a team of fitters can’t park near the customer, or can’t get into the bedrooms for the fittings, it’s a waste of experienced personnel’s time. It’s hundreds of pounds a day just for one fitter to go to site and it’s a cost that we can’t recoup. Added up across contracts, it can be quite a large expense for the business.”

John Burrill – Operations Manager Skopos Fabrics.

With the diagnostic they could visualise, trace, and measure the financial impact of this bottleneck. and put processes in place to reduce the occurrence and reduce the financial impact felt by the business.

This has led to the development of further KPIs and reporting metrics to improve productivity management constraints from manufacturing to delivery, and installation.

What is the follow-up to this programme for Skopos?

Skopos are continuing to track data and measure impact of the changes they have put in place; as well as plan their next steps to invest in capital to improve productivity in their manufacturing unit and mitigate some of the future risks of an ageing highly skilled workforce in this area of the business.

They are also looking at further support that can be provided by Exemplas through their Business Boost programme in West Yorkshire (funded through the Shared Prosperity Fund) around leadership and innovation.

Speaking about the Business Productivity Service John noted:

“The benefits of the programme for Skopos were enabling us to take a helicopter view of the drivers of productivity in our business. This led us to identify where we might place additional performance measures and monitoring to grow overall productivity. We now have some important new performance measures and metrics that will meet our wider ambitions to grow.

James’ expertise and understanding was invaluable and facilitated new insights that will benefit our organisational management and productivity and growth objectives.”

John Burrill – Operations Manager Skopos Fabrics.

Want to know more? Contact us:

James Smith – Programme Manager-Productivity Exemplas.

John Burrill – Operations Director Skopos Fabrics.

Rob Sales – Head of Business Development Exemplas/