A new vision
Andy Mead, Managing Director, of Basildon-based supply chain specialists The Finishing Line, approached Essex with an ambitious idea that would take his company in a new direction, but it needed some academic expertise to make it a reality.
Andy’s project vision had three goals to: drive innovation and automation within their warehouse operations; upskill their staff and reinforce a great working culture; and upscale their operations into a larger space.
This would support them in creating a fully-fledged eCommerce strategy that would deliver new local jobs, boost revenue, and secure the future of the business.
Partnering with Essex, The Finishing Line embarked on an Innovate UK funded Management Knowledge Transfer Partnership (mKTP). A three-way partnership between the company, a team of academics and a KTP Associate – a skilled graduate hired to manage the project and quickly gain project management experience in a commercial setting, whilst still being supported by academics.
Finding the solution with Essex
The Finishing Line were guided step-by-step by Essex through the mKTP application and funding process to create a project that would see them collaborate with world-class academics from Essex Business School.
The company teamed up with Professor Niraj Kumar, Dr Shabneez Bhankaraully and Professor Matthew Allen, experts in strategy, operations, and entrepreneurship, who would share their knowledge around occupational psychology, change management and employment relations – fundamental subject areas for the success of the project.
Joshua Arrowsmith was hired as the mKTP Associate to lead the partnership and was tasked with driving the change in the company’s culture and operating processes.
Supported by the academics, he explored data and subjects encompassing growth mindsets, job satisfaction and employability, to prepare the company and its employees for expansion into their new markets.
The team’s combined efforts led to a formal training programme being rolled out amongst employees to build confidence in their roles and shift their mindsets. This helped them to engage with their personal development and prepare them for change
Through the project, employees at The Finishing Line gained skills and knowledge in Product Development, Digital Marketing and Customer Services, with new roles also created in these areas to keep up with the increased demand for their offering.
Joshua, who became Head of Commercial & Innovation after completing his mKTP Associate role, says: “We set out to establish The Finishing Line as a key service provider within the ecommerce fulfilment landscape, firstly by identifying new markets and then ensuring the business had the right knowledge and skill sets to take on the opportunity and run with it; and thirdly looking at automation.
“There’s legacy and a lot of history in the company, so I had to justify the value the project was adding,” he adds. “Fortunately, the project has been a success, but I have to say it’s always been about the people and developing the relationships which really made it work, especially the team at University of Essex and our MD, Andy Mead.”
Achieving innovation and growth
The Finishing Line transformed as a business through the partnership with Essex. The partnership allowed them to expand their existing service offerings and acquire new customers for eCommerce fulfilment, contract packing and warehousing, including the likes of Amazon and the UK Department of Health.
They’ve seen an increase of over £175,000 in annual sales and £55,000 in profits relating to new business. Both are expected to continue to rise in the coming years with The Finishing Line moving into a large, modern facility in October 2023 to accommodate their expansion.
Andy Mead, Managing Director at The Finishing Line, says: “For 35 years The Finishing Line has been focusing on one particular core market - magazine finishing, but now we’ve evolved into supply chain experts. Once we recognised that our skills could be transferred into other markets and other sectors, the University of Essex proved to be the ideal partner to enable us to achieve that.
“The KTP project crucially established momentum and with Joshua onboard, he was able to drive it forward and deliver real results.
“I would have no hesitation to recommend a KTP to other businesses. It’s been absolutely fabulous for us.”
An award-winning partnership
The mKTP between Essex and The Finishing Line has been so successful that it has been rated “Outstanding” by Innovate UK’s national KTP panel – the highest grade available.
Joshua’s hard work was recognised as a fundamental part in the project’s success in 2022 when he was awarded mKTP Associate of the Year at the University’s Celebration of Innovation awards.
The partnership also received national recognition in 2023 when it won the first ever Best Management Knowledge Transfer Partnership prize at Innovate UK’s KTP Awards.
Making change happen
Essex’s innovation partnerships are world-class. By leveraging collaborations with industry, and learning from those who are out there, doing - the University can amplify its power to change the world around us.
Our award-winning list of partners continues to grow with Essex currently the number one institution in the UK for active Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, supporting over 40 businesses and organisations to innovate and thrive.
New opportunities to collaborate with Essex’s academic expertise are always on the horizon. Take a look at all the ways in which Essex can support business growth both regionally and nationally.