Cup of success for printing company

Ask Mark Woodward about the value of his recent relationship with the University of Central Lancashire, and surprisingly his answer isn’t the thousands of pounds it saved his company.

The CEO of the Printed Cup Company places much more significance on the importance of having student thinking challenging the way he and his employees were working.

Based in East Lancashire, the Printed Cup Company produces millions of paper cups, designed to be used at events, in cafes or for marketing materials, and has provided a bespoke production service for the last 13 years. The company, which has a turnover of £2.5 million, also employs 40 local people to manufacture the cups from its manufacturing facility in Clitheroe.

Company networking results in production benefits

The Printed Cup Company produces millions of cups per year using a variety of printing and forming machines. However, it was a chance meeting at a networking event which led to such a fruitful partnership.

During a discussion about the benefits of the Raspberry Pi computing chip, Mark expressed a desire to link them to his paper cup forming machinery in order to better understand their inner workings and become more effective.

With help from the DigitME2 team, a manufacturing business support programme based at UCLan’s Burnley Campus, a technological assessment followed and bespoke monitoring chips were installed to assess the performance of the machines, from vibrations which can tell the operator if elements are starting to fail, through to assessing which machines are the most and least productive. Similarly, the technology can also monitor and send an alert when stock levels fall low, or when an unusual amount of waste cups are being created. DigitME2 enables the utilisation of advanced industrial digital technologies to help increase productivity and drive growth.

While the chips were programmed to observe customised data, the service also offered an alternative up to £20,000 cheaper than having it installed professionally. Additionally, the company is now looking at a system which sends a picture of the manufactured cups to the customer as they are being produced, as well as creating a digital printing service.

Personal value greater than pounds and pence

But it isn’t the money that Mark Woodward is interested in. He places the real value from the collaboration with DigitME2 down to the role of inviting outside opinions into the company.

He said: “I think the key benefit is having students in your business, questioning your staff about how they do things and why they do it. They can ask the questions that you don’t think about and can make you think differently about your work. Having those young, agile minds in your business can bring about a different view of your company and how it works.

“That the staff in the factory were able to work with these students and start to think differently about the way we all are working gives us real strength as a company, while having the level of information newly available to us from the technology allows us all to work smarter going forward.

"DigitME2 has allowed us to think about our business in a different way, as a result of the students asking particular questions about the running of it, which in a way has had a greater value than any monetary value that we could generate."

Geoff Hall, Project Manager at DigitME2, added: “By working with The Printed Cup Company, we have been able to develop a uniquely custom digital service, which allows Mark and his staff to objectively view and scrutinise the whole operations of not just the machines, but of the entire business.

“The final solution has helped to address some specific needs which will prepare the company so that it can continue its growth and efficiency, while all staff members have been given the tools to become more empowered at work.”

DigitME2 is a University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) project, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund and supported by Boost; Lancashire’s business growth hub.

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