Small but beautiful as advisory group helps 500th firm

SCOTTISH Enterprise's flagship Manufacturing Advisory Service (Smas) has helped firms add £56 million to their bottom lines since it was launched five years ago, according to figures published today.

Smas has dealt with 3,600 enquiries from Scottish firms and has just launched its 500th business improvement project.

The service - which has been hailed by the manufacturing sector as one of Scottish Enterprise's better programmes - was struck a blow in August when Steve Graham, its highly-regarded director, announced he would stand down from his post.

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Graham has since left Smas to become executive director of the Technology and Innovation Centre for Renewable Energy and Enabling Technologies at Strathclyde University.

SE said yesterday that the recruitment process for a director was under way and that Gordon Bell, Smas's national operations manager, had been appointed as acting interim director.

Bell, an accountant who held senior roles with engineering giant Rolls-Royce and drinks can maker Rexam, was Graham's number two for two years.

Business improvement projects run by Smas involve a team of manufacturing experts being invited into companies to advise them on how to increase their efficiency and make their business more productive.

SE chairman Crawford Gillies said: "As our figures demonstrate, Smas has been one of our biggest success stories over the past five years, delivering real improvements to the companies' bottom line.

"Although we've already delivered 500 projects, we want to work with even more manufacturers across Scotland.

"With latest figures showing that UK manufacturing slowed in September following five months of expansion, now is the time for manufacturers to seek more efficiency and productivity from their operations."

Gillies said companies were now returning to Smas for a second or even third business improvement project.

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Food and drink producers account for one-in-four of the projects launched by Smas, with more than 80 engineering companies also taking advantage of the service.

The 500th firm to ask for help was Controlled Therapeutics, a life science company based in East Kilbride.One of its products is among the best-selling global brands for inducing births, which has helped to deliver more than six million babies.

Smas is working with the firm to cut its inventory of raw materials by 25 per cent and speed-up production times.

Cameron Macdonald, managing director of Controlled Therapeutics, said: "We've been working with SE for around five years now and we're really excited about this latest project with the Smas team."

The firm has also sought advice from SE on how to enter the Japanese market.

Smas was launched by the Labour-Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive and doubled in size by the SNP Scottish Government.