Tecman pivots to provide healthcare support and jobs
"This has ensured our ongoing global competitiveness by enabling us to increase output, reduce lead-times and add flexibility to our branding."
A small Leamington manufacturer is producing PPE for the NHS and healthcare systems across Europe after adapting swiftly to the demands of the pandemic.
Supported by a Warwickshire County Council small capital grant, after a referral from the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Growth Hub, Tecman has switched its expertise, previous applied mostly to the automotive sector, to the health sector.
Before COVID-19, Tecman dealt mostly with the automotive industry until the first lockdown saw over 60 per cent of their business disrupted. An effect of that, however, was the release of manufacturing capacity which gave them scope to adapt
The enterprise they showed has both shored up their own business and provided substantial support to the NHS.
"As an SME we are agile enough to make quick decisions and pivot,” said Kevin Porter, director at Tecman, in Berrington Road. "So we got thinking how we could adapt to best support the healthcare sector in its hour of need.
"We were already supplying ventilator gaskets and components for diagnostic equipment so investigated other ways we could support this industry. We settled on PPE after the shortages become apparent.
"We set about developing a face shield that could be manufactured at high volume to address the supply issue and also address the issues of comfort for the wearer. Within a week we had designed our face shield and by the following month had fast-tracked CE certification, in addition to sourcing all materials from UK manufacturers, helping to support jobs within the supply chain and our own community."
The company had hit upon a winner, but then came the associated issue of meeting very high demand. This is where support from the county council and Growth Hub was invaluable.
"Due to demand, we needed to ensure we could remain competitive on a global level," said Kevin. "It became apparent that we needed to invest in automation technology and new ultra-fast machinery."
Shan Wilkinson, Finance Manager at Tecman added: "During this time we were contacted by Martin at the Growth Hub and Sim at the county council. They provided invaluable advice and support with regard to grants for capital equipment and also sourcing personnel to support our manufacturing output.
"Thanks to the financial support from the county council, we invested in an automated ultrasonic welding system for our face shield production line. This has ensured our ongoing global competitiveness by enabling us to increase output, reduce lead-times and add flexibility to our branding.
"Sim and Martin were wonderful and innovative to work with and we are extremely grateful for their support."
Tecman's flagship face shield is now listed on the NHS supply chain, supplying into NHS trusts throughout the UK. They are also supplying into Danish and Norwegian healthcare systems, have multiple distributor partners in Italy and throughout Europe and are in contact with US customers with initial boxes of samples sent out in November.
Martin Nwangwa, account manager at the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub, said: “I contacted Tecman Speciality Materials during lockdown to discuss their plans for expansion and job creation to offer the assistance of the Growth Hub.
“I was impressed by their proposals to manufacture PPE items, particularly since the Growth Hub was involved with encouraging the supply chain in Coventry and Warwickshire to help the Government to expand the number of products available.
“I got in touch with Warwickshire County Council to discuss if there were any grants available towards Tecman buying machinery. We held a couple of meetings online to develop a framework to help Tecman apply for a grant which proved successful and we wish them the best of luck in the future.”
Warwickshire County Council business growth advisor Sim Lee said: "From our first point of contact, Shan and Kevin at Tecman showed great drive to push their project forward and play a key part in the UK supply chain for PPE. With grant support of £29,445 from WCC, we were able to capitalise on this opportunity and bring forward the investment, fast tracking their plans and bringing valuable jobs to the county at a much-needed time."
* For more information about WCC’s capital grants programme, visit here
* For information about other support to support your business, contact the CWLEP Growth Hub