Case study

Evolution Workshop

'Investment in a new CNC machine, a redeveloped material store and extra staff to expand the firm’s CNC machining and materials processing capabilities to increase the complexity and capacity of the business’ manufacturing offer'

Ilkeston-based business Evolution Workshop (EW) was established by University of Derby graduate Travis Kelly in 2008. The company offers fast and reliable precision cutting supported by in-house CAD design. EW specialises in delivering a wide range of projects from conception to manufacture and has worked with a variety of clients including individual designers, joinery companies, large international businesses and universities. Over the last 10 years EW has built a strong reputation and client base by consistently delivering products and projects on time and within budget. 

Prior to its involvement with the Invest to Grow programme, EW had reached its limit in terms of revenue growth and manufacturing capabilities. The company was keen to address these barriers by investing in new machinery, additional staff and workshop storage improvements but lacked the necessary capital to do so.

Why engage with Invest to Grow?

Having worked hard to establish its reputation in technically challenging precision cutting, EW’s business owner identified a gap in the market for cost effective product design and 5 axis machining services. To supplement the company’s existing 3 axis CNC services, EW successfully applied for Invest to Grow monies to purchase a new 5 axis CNC machine and to redevelop an area of their workshop into a dry lockable machine store. This led to £20,000 funding from the programme to support a total cost of £81,000. The project also supported the recruitment and training of two extra staff over a two-year period to deliver the new products and services. 

What has been the impact of Invest to Grow?

The new 5 axis machine and material store were fully operational by February 2018. The new machine has improved productivity and expanded EW’s service offering. The firm is now able to deliver higher volume projects more efficiently, whilst freeing-up staff for other activities. 

“The new machine has sped up all our processes. For bigger jobs we can set up jigs on the machines and this gives us a lot of spare capacity because once the jig is set up you’re saving hours of time.”

For example, since the installation of the new machine EW has won new contracts that would have previously been undeliverable; as Travis Kelly, Founder of EW, explained:

“I was recently approached by a company who manufacture parts for a new 4x4 motor vehicle. Following a successful trial production, we’ve been commissioned to produce 100 products for them using the new machine. This order can only be completed with a 5 axis machine, we wouldn’t have been able to compete for that work previously with our 3 axis.” 

A workshop of wooden material

Invest to Grow support has also enabled the company to recruit an additional employee to support the operation of the new machine.  Another team member will be recruited soon to support the firm’s expanding assembly line.  In revenue terms, the Invest to Grow investment is expected to play a significant role in the company’s planned expansion.  Travis Kelly commented:

“We expect to increase our turnover to £300,000 by 2020.  I’m confident we will achieve this and that the Invest to Grow project will be directly responsible for £200,000 of this expanded revenue.”

Efficiency gains have not just been made through the new machinery, the expanded work space created by the new material store has enabled EW to rationalise its stock retention and improve its working practices to make the business safer and more efficient.  Travis Kelly observed:

“We had intended to use the new space purely as a material store, however, since it’s been built we’ve realised that we keep hold of far too many materials.  We’ve moved our vacuum table (from the mezzanine) into this space which has increased our operational efficiency and improved the safety of our working environment.”

As a graduate of University of Derby, EW’s founder has benefited from a long-term relationship with the university.  The company’s involvement in Invest to Grow has built on its previous involvement in employment-related initiatives undertaken with the University.  Travis Kelly stated:

“I loved my time at the University of Derby.  What I learnt there has stood me in good stead to this day.  That’s why we’ve had lots of Derby students come through the studio over the years.  We’ve provided a stepping stone for them and they’ve been invaluable to us.  It has enabled them to come in and see whether or not they will enjoy being a professional practitioner in a commercial workshop environment.”

EW is clear that the Invest to Grow programme has been the critical factor in the businesses’ continued growth and that without the project’s support the investment received would not have happened.  Travis Kelly concluded:

“Without Invest to Grow I don’t think investing in the new machinery would have been feasible.  Without the project’s help I would have had to take on the whole debt.  This would have been expensive and just not possible given my cashflow constraints.  The key benefit of Invest to Grow is that it has given us an incentive to grow – this can only be a good thing.

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