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Collaboration is often cited as the key to accelerating innovation and challenging conventional thinking to find a new direction and expertise. This is certainly true of the relationship between Camira Fabrics, the Fashion & Textile Group Training Association (Textile Centre of Excellence) and Develop-U, a leading training provider offering bespoke and nationally accredited training programmes.

Award winning Camira Fabric’s mission statement, ‘we design and manufacture the most innovative, adventurous, environmentally sensitive fabrics in the world’, reflects their proactive, outward facing approach to business. With over 600 employees across their Meltham Mills, Huddersfield HQ and Lithuania, it is Victor Smyth’s, Camira’s Continuous Improvement Manager, responsibility to co-ordinate lean deployment across the business.

“Lean manufacturing is an umbrella term for processes improvement and looking at ways to improve product quality by encompassing new technology and training opportunities,” said Victor.

It was with this mandate that Victor embarked on aligning with a training provider to deliver the NVQ Level 3 in Business Improvement Techniques to existing employees. “We wanted to get Lean more embedded into the business with our employees and enhance their workplace skills as well as giving them the ability to monitor their own progress,” said Victor. “We asked staff to volunteer and from those who expressed an interest, we selected 27 from across the company in areas such as manufacturing, admin, sales and accounting.”

Victor’s choice of Develop-U, based in Rotherham, was due to their clear vision on how to deliver the training. “We chose Develop-U because they stood out in terms of softer management and leadership skills,” said Victor. “What swayed it for me is that they had a different and original take on delivering lean deployment.”

Sam Morris, Managing Director at Develop-U said “The training provider, client and all agencies working in a true partnership massively affects the success of any programme,” said Sam. “One of the things I say to every client we work with is that we need to work in a true partnership arrangement, with senior management involved in regular interviews. We need to work with our clients in an inclusive style and Camira were totally committed to this from the initial stages and have remained so throughout the process.”
Delivery of the NVQ started in May 2013 with a five-day intensive tools and techniques programme. This progressed to a knowledge based programme completing with exams in June 2014. Develop-U’s team has been available to all staff participating in the NVQ both inside and outside of the training programme. “We work differently to many of our competitors in that we employ a coaching function within our assessor role. We see this as essential to convert learning into improved performance and we are always available for advice and guidance,” said Sam.

Sam is very clear that communication is vital for the success of any training programme. “Victor’s communication strategy has been one of the best we have seen and we have worked with top players,” said Sam. “His methodology has been phenomenal and that has been instrumental to the success of the programme.”

The Textile Centre of Excellence, home to the Fashion and Textiles Group Training Association which provided assisted funding for the NVQ, proved “invaluable in their support” according to Victor. Sam echoed this and added, “The Textile Centre of Excellence was always professional, collaborative and co-operative. They are easy to talk to and work with making the operational side very accessible.”

The success of the NVQ is evident in the feedback from participants. Richard Calvert, Lean Leader, said, “A fantastic programme which has provided the basics of lean management. I would like to gain further qualifications as a result of this training.“
Bill Green, Lean Leader was equally impressed with the training, “I picked up a lot of news skills such as problem solving, process mapping, action planning and more about communicating, listening and leading teams,” said Bill.

“The programme is increasing and enhancing the knowledge of the teams,” said Victor. “A number of people have said that they wished they’d volunteered for the NVQ Level 3 as they can see the benefits to their work colleagues. This is positive affirmation in going forward with Develop-U and building on the success of our training programmes.”

Sam is clear that Camira’s success is due to their ability to address the shortfall between UK manufacturing and global manufacturing which has moved them towards textile excellence. “If you don’t want to be left behind in a world that is changing rapidly you must be brave enough to embrace change. Choosing your training partner and working together to tailor the programme to suit your individual circumstances is hugely important. With effective planning of the programme delivery you can minimise the impact on production and maximize the transformational change,” said Sam. “Most companies know they need to change but often resist the pain and inconvenience of changing. Camira has adopted a positive and proactive approach to training and this has clearly been a contributing factor in their marketplace success.”

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