The uncertainty of the pandemic heaped pressure on businesses but many were able to benefit from a Durham Business Recovery Grant to adapt their business model, launch a new revenue stream, tackle unforeseen challenges and develop new ways of working.
Overseen by Business Durham, the £6 million grant scheme provided financial assistance for the implementation of business recovery plans, helping firms that had a credible plan to adapt and recover but didn’t have the necessary financial clout to be able to implement it. The scheme provided grants from £1,000 up to a maximum of £40,000 and contributed 75% towards eligible recovery plan costs, with the business expected to meet a quarter of the project cost.
One beneficiary of the grant is Tridonic (UK), a global provider of smart and efficient lighting solutions. The Spennymoor-based company secured £30,000 of funding to invest in a new software package – or “digital twin” – to make its manufacturing processes more efficient.
Tridonic makes around four million printed circuit boards that are used in a variety of lighting applications – including emergency escape lighting, street lights and in football stadia – but was forced to re-evaluate its business processes during the challenges of the pandemic and the catch-up afterwards.
Ben Kennard, Manufacturing and Supply Chain Manager at Tridonic, says: “Previously our product changeover time – the time taken for our machines to switch from making one product to another – was running at an average of nine minutes. We wanted to find ways of reducing the changeover time and therefore cutting the amount of time that our machines weren’t running.
“We created a 3-D simulation of our factory and inputted all of our orders for the next six weeks into the software. It automatically identified the optimum build sequence for each product and the results were impressive.
“Due to our digital twin’s assistance, we’ve reduced machine downtime by almost 40%, which inevitably helps our bottom line, and has enabled us to fulfil orders quicker for the customer.
“We wouldn’t have been able to invest in this software without the recovery grant. This was new software with a high risk to the business as there was limited knowledge of it. However, we spent some of the grant on training staff so they were comfortable using the software, and over the next few years we’ll invest more time and energy to get more out of it. This digital twin has the potential to do so much more to make our business even more efficient.
“Business Durham has provided excellent support, and not just in helping us to access the grant. They’ve also assisted our workforce development plans by identifying training opportunities with local providers who we didn’t even know were on our doorstep. Now we’ve been able to hire two apprentices as a result of Business Durham’s help.
“It has been a testing couple of years due to the pandemic and this support has been invaluable. Going forwards, we intend to invest further in technology and skills to strengthen our position in this competitive marketplace.”