Improved efficiency at Longton company

Deck Joint is a Staffordshire company with big ideas that aren’t just pie in the sky.  True to their name, they make bespoke formwork solutions used in the construction of concrete floors in high rise buildings.  The joints are individually manufactured from perforated steel using high-tech CAD/CAM equipment at the company’s Longton factory.  Speed and accuracy are important as components are often delivered ‘just in time’ to building sites as new floors are added.

Like some of the best businesses in the world, it all started in the founder’s garden shed.  Deck Joint has expanded rapidly in the past six years, taking on a total of 14 staff in the process and now supplies major construction companies in London where the urge to build upwards – 60 storeys is not usual – has really taken off.  Father and son team Jean-Paul and Kyle Krzowski recognised the dangers of being constrained by inflexible systems and looked for fresh ideas to help their business move forward.  Keele University, which offers a range of flexible solutions for businesses, including funded programmes, is helping the company break through to the next level.

In the past, the company used three separate spreadsheets to price different aspects of its products.  Through the Keele Research Innovation Support Programme (KRISP)*, Deck Joint has taken on two students, at no cost to the company, for a short term project to improve this critical process. Mathematics students April Gough and Luis Devargas brought an in-depth knowledge of spreadsheet and database design into play.  They analysed the current processes and suggested, tested and implemented a solution to produce quicker and more accurate pricing.  With the system in place, what previously took days now takes just minutes.  The pair even pointed to the next stage, recommending that Deck Joint link the pricing directly into their QuickBooks accounts system.

During the project the students called in support from Keele Univeristy's Computer Science Senior Lecturer Steve Linkman, a further benefit of Keele’s programme, which connects businesses with experts across the University.  “Our students are equipped with the right skills and knowledge to tackle a variety of growth challenges which companies face,” says Steve.

Jean-Paul has ambitions to scale the business up to meet growing demand powered by the capital’s high-rise building boom, but recognises that this will challenge the team and they need to adopt new management approaches.  Son Kyle has now been selected to participate in Keele’s Mercia Centre for Innovation Leadership (MCIL)* programme.  Kyle was amazed at how simple the process was to get on the prestige programme, first completing a telephone interview and then a more detailed discussion back at the factory but with minimal paperwork.  “Keele University were so helpful, it really was plain sailing,” comments Kyle.

ERDF logo Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent businesses can benefit from a range of specialist support and funding.  Interested companies should contact Keele University’s Business Gateway on 01782 733001 or email business.gateway@keele.ac.uk

The KRISP project (ref: 32R16P00711) and the MCIL project (ref: 32R15P00229) are part-funded from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds England Growth Programme 2014-2020.