Co Antrim based Steve’s cakes, manufacture ‘the world’s greatest cakes and traybakes’, which are distributed to national supermarket names such as Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s in the UK and Ireland.
As a result of a project with InterTradeIreland's FUSION, which matches companies with universities or colleges that have the specialist expertise they need and high calibre science and technology graduates, the company has reported significant savings in production costs and increases in efficiency.
Stephen Gamble, MD, knew he needed to improve operations on site in order to meet an ever-growing demand for his products and saw the answer to his needs in InterTradeIreland’s FUSION programme. FUSION offered the company both financial and practical assistance and according to Steve was the key ingredient in a production overhaul which has radically improved their manufacturing procedures.
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Cake and traybake manufacturer Steve’s Cakes has reported significant savings in production costs and increases in efficiency as a result of a project with FUSION which matches companies with universities or colleges that have the specialist expertise they need and high calibre science and technology graduates.
The company was formed in 2002 by Stephen Gamble, who said: “We have secured substantial efficiency savings thanks to changes and improvements made as a result of the FUSION project.”
A team of 30 work at the 20,000 sq ft manufacturing plant in Antrim town to produce ‘the world’s greatest cakes and traybakes’, which are distributed to national supermarket names such as Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s in the UK and Ireland.
With an annual turnover of £3m Stephen said that despite the current credit crunch business is better than ever: “There will always be a market for quality cakes, and our products offer the taste and texture of home-baked treats at supermarket prices – enabling our customers to sell more cake for less. Our sales are continually growing and we are confident that we can treble our turnover in the next few years.”
Stephen knew he needed to improve operations on site in order to meet an ever-growing demand for his products and saw the answer to his needs in InterTradeIreland’s FUSION programme.
“A member of the FUSION team visited the company to tell us about the programme and I was sold immediately,” he continued. “They were offering me both financial and practical assistance to improve the business and I recognised a golden opportunity not to be missed.”
As a result, he was able to employ graduate Roisin Meehan, who had completed a degree in product design engineering at the University of Glasgow.
They were paired with the Food Centre of St Angela’s College, Sligo and commenced a project to improve operations on site. Mentored by lecturer Michael Hosey, Roisin was tasked with achieving a number of main objectives.
She said: “Michael has been on hand throughout the project to offer expert advice and guidance through monthly visits to the company. He has been instrumental in helping me to work through each task.
“I first of all assessed the company’s production costs – including labour, packaging, raw materials and ingredients - and discovered that, by cutting downtime and increasing capacities, we could make savings.
“I then moved on to increasing motivation and workload capability among the employees. Every staff member at Steve’s Cakes is highly valued and we ensure they get that message from us, which is in turn a great motivator.”
Stephen was keen to implement an ongoing staff training system in the company and sent the graduate on a ‘train the trainer’ course, through which she developed skills in training methods, leadership and communication.
“The course was excellent and qualified me to train staff - something which I found daunting at first, but which has increased my confidence no end and has been beneficial for the company, since there is now no need to bring in external trainers,” said Roisin.
She also completed a postgraduate diploma in management practice at the Michael Smurfit School of Business, University College Dublin as part of the FUSION project.
“I covered a number of useful topics through the diploma, including sales and marketing, strategic and project management, HR management, and entrepreneurship and innovation,” she explained.
“I was later able to employ these skills in my work at Steve’s Cakes. The innovation module was particularly useful for me in achieving one of the project objectives, which was to implement ways of reducing waste.
“The FUSION programme has been brilliant to be involved with from a personal point of view. It has given me the opportunity to continue my education while enjoying the benefits and experience of full-time work and offered me a jump-start into the world of work.
“I have enjoyed every minute of it so far and would definitely recommend InterTradeIreland’s FUSION programme to other graduates.”