Midlands manufacturer strikes hot with digitalisation overhaul

Posted on 7 Dec 2023 by The Manufacturer

A Birmingham-based commercial ironmonger has increased its manufacturing capacity by 15% and enhanced the digitalisation of its operations, thanks to knowledge acquired through the Help to Grow: Management Course.

Instinct Hardware is a bespoke hardware manufacturer that produces ironmongery products – such as door knobs and handles, door stops and accessories – for commercial developments, as well as education, healthcare and hospitality projects.

The business, which was founded in 1989 and is co-led by Director Nil Chohan – the son of Co-founder Ray Chohan – employs 50 people across its manufacturing, digital and operations teams.

Nil, who has more than 20 years’ experience in engineering and design, felt there was an opportunity to improve the efficiency of the business’ manufacturing processes and customer experience. To understand the opportunity further, he enrolled on the 12-week Help to Grow: Management Course, which is designed to help business leaders and senior managers increase resilience, innovation, and growth.

The course was delivered by Aston Business School – a recipient of the Small Business Charter accreditation that recognises institutions that support small businesses – and gave Nil the knowledge he needed to capitalise on the growth opportunities that digitalised operations can offer.

Since Nil completed the course, Instinct Hardware has begun the transition to a more digitalised approach to manufacturing. This includes implementing the latest computer aided design and rendering software, in addition to material resource planning software, to improve efficiency and create a more defined process for quality control management.

Instinct Hardware has also invested in a new on-site powder coating facility and employed three new members of staff to support this goal. The new coating facility brings a process that would have previously been carried out externally in-house and gives the team greater control of the manufacturing process from start to finish, whilst improving the accuracy of lead times.

These changes to the manufacturing process have helped the business to boost its output capacity by 15%. They have also been complemented with the introduction of a new online portal, which gives customers more detailed information about their orders and deliveries to improve customer experience.

Since completing the Help to Grow: Management Course and improving efficiency across different areas of the business, Nil has had more time to explore new growth opportunities. This has included collaborating with Aston University on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership project, part of the government-backed Innovate UK scheme designed to help businesses implement digital technology. Two academic staff from the engineering department and a master’s student will work alongside Instinct Hardware to use real-time data to build a more accurate planning and decision-making process.

Nil Chohan, Director at Instinct Hardware said: “It’s no secret we’re in a technological revolution and that manufacturers are one of the prime candidates to evolve from what is traditionally a paper-based trading model. Digital transformation is something that should excite us all in the sector, it’s a huge opportunity to create a more refined service offering and make sure we’re continually developing the customer’s experience.

“Since completing the Help to Grow: Management Course, the goals we’ve had as a business have never been so clear. We started trading before the turn of the century and the sector has progressed across all fronts, but especially when it comes to technology. The course has allowed me to identify where improvements are needed in our operational efficiencies and how to put plans in place to streamline processes and add value through digital adoption.”

Michael Hayman, MBE, Chair, Small Business Charter, added: “Like many business leaders, Nil has spent years developing his technical expertise but he knew he needed to grow his business knowledge to be able to take Instinct Hardware to the next level.

“The Help to Grow: Management Course provides entrepreneurs like Nil with a solid understanding of the business frameworks and skills required to increase productivity and build sustainable growth but also to innovate across all areas of their organisation. By applying the knowledge gained during the course, Nil has been able to confidently lead a digital transformation and build an exciting and resilient future for the family business.

“I’m looking forward to seeing Nil and his team continue to develop throughout their digital journey and tap into more technology to streamline their business and differentiate their customer service.”

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