A Barnsley manufacturer is investing more than £1m in technology to speed up production of its specialist plastic products including play tunnels for children and dogs.
The Naylor group’s Specialist Plastics division has, over the last 15 years, increased its supply of bespoke tubes, ducts and profiles to a wide range of industries and, most recently, through a new venture called ‘Naylor Agility’, has started manufacturing and selling dog agility tunnels. It has now launched a new line in play tunnels for children called ‘Naylor Activity Tunnels’.
To meet growing demand across its diverse product range, the company is investing £1.4m in production line technology at its Wombwell factory to increase productivity levels by between 20 and 40 per cent.
This project has received investment from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), delivered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, through the Leeds City Region Growth Deal. This £1 billion package of Government investment aims to accelerate growth and create jobs across Leeds City Region.
Naylor made a successful bid for £100,000 of this funding with the support of Enterprising Barnsley, the business support arm of Barnsley Council.
Naylor will now invest in technology to tackle bottlenecks in production and increase output, with a particular focus on making more brightly-coloured PVC play tunnels for dogs and children.
The Coronavirus outbreak affected short-term demand for the company’s products, although its cable filler and ventilation duct teams were busy supplying healthcare-related projects including the NHS Nightingale Hospitals. Now, despite challenging trading conditions in many of Naylor’s construction markets, its exposure to other sectors means the company expects to return to growth.
Chief executive officer Edward Naylor said: “Before the pandemic, our Specialist Plastics division were struggling to meet customer demand across diverse sectors and we know we could have made and sold more had it not been for capacity restraints.
“We’re expecting growth to resume over the coming months and it’s important we increase our capabilities to meet it. This investment enables us to tackle production capacity constraints. With new technology and re-trained staff, we expect to be able to take on more orders and achieve a significant increase in turnover.”
Edward said the investment was key to realising the export potential of the new tunnel ranges for dogs and children. Over the next 12 months, a new automated production line will be introduced to manufacture standard tunnels quickly and cost-effectively, supplementing an existing labour-intensive production process for bespoke sizes and delivering a 30 per cent increase in capacity.
He said: “Our tunnel sales have grown considerably since we launched Naylor Agility dog tunnels with an e-commerce website in 2017. We’ve also seen export growth, shipping containers of the product to the USA.
“Whilst we want to retain the ability to produce ‘one-offs’ made by hand, our ability to access mass markets overseas relies on automation to produce more standard-sized tunnels. With new production technology, we expect to be able to take on more orders and achieve a significant increase in turnover.”
In addition, Naylor’s extrusion lines, which produce plastic tubing and profiles for a wide range of applications, will be modernised to quicken running speeds by between 20 per cent and 40 per cent.
Edward said: “The support of the LCR grant has allowed us to accelerate our investment plans, which might otherwise have had to spread over several years. We are now set to increase production by a third within two years and the anticipation of increased capacity will allow us to target new markets and boost exports.
“The team at Enterprising Barnsley have been superb in bringing this timely funding opportunity to our attention and supporting us with the grant application process.”
Roger Marsh OBE DL, chair of LEP and NP1, said: “Boosting productivity remains a priority for the LEP and I’m delighted that we have been able to support businesses across the region. A key part of the Local Industrial Strategy is to close the productivity gap with the rest of the UK; doing so would mean more better-paid jobs, improved living standards and could add £11 billion to the region’s economy. I’d encourage all businesses to get in touch with the LEP and find out about the support available to improve productivity.”
Coun Tim Cheetham, Cabinet Spokesperson for Regeneration and Culture, said: “We are very pleased that the Enterprising Barnsley team have helped Naylor secure LEP business productivity investment in support of the company’s new ‘Industry 4.0’ digital technology which we expect to quickly increase capacity in its Wombwell factory.
“As an ambitious company and excellent employer, Naylor has committed to retaining and re-training its workforce alongside improving its manufacturing technology and this strategy will enable them to increase output and sales. We are committed to championing a culture of digital innovation in Barnsley and supporting firms like Naylor to embrace technology and boost business growth.”
Naylor will measure and report back to the LEP on the productivity gains of their investment project for at least 12 months following implementation.