Skills Bank Interview – Anita Hine, Managing Director, Hine Labels

Tell us about your journey – what is your story so far?

We are a family run company, started in 1980. To this day we retain our original values of caring about our business, caring about our customers, and caring about our employees, whilst at the same time being progressive, innovative and thoroughly professional.

When the world closed down during the Covid-19 pandemic, we took the opportunity to refocus and develop our people through training part funded by Skills Bank.

We saw business  reduce in the early months of  lockdown, and a number of employees had to be temporarily furloughed. We were able to stay open as a significant amount of our work is in the food industry. We kept a core team working and focused on meeting customer needs, maintaining our high standards of service and delivery.  Fortunately we received large orders for hand sanitising labels, which did help the cashflow.

We had secured a productivity grant of £100k from Growth Hub in 2019, which helped fund an extension which almost doubled our workspace. We had outgrown our premises and capacity issues were preventing further business expansion. 

What training have you done with support from Skills Bank?

We completed Lean training with Astrum Business Transformation Ltd, to help us increase productivity and set ourselves up to work in a leaner and more efficient way as we moved to our bigger premises. 

The Lean Training has led to a fundamental shift in the way we run the business. We now have two separate workflows: one for traditional flexo printing and the other for digital printing.  This means that the digital workflow can be much more automated, allowing for greater throughput.

Lean Training has helped us to identify the blockages in our production process.  As a result, we have, for the first time, introduced shifts to improve efficiency.  Staff have responded well to this as they were part of the process and recognised the need to change.

Astrum worked with staff at all levels of the company and this has helped to bring about cultural change.  As a result, we were able to move from a mindset of ‘we have always done it like this’ to embrace new ways of thinking, harnessing peoples’ skills to really benefit the company and change thinking across the entire business.  Staff are now encouraged to put ideas forward and where these are adopted, we make sure the change is implemented effectively and safely channelled through the quality system. It really has transformed us from a small family firm to be ready to meet the challenges of a larger, more productive enterprise.

What difference has this support made?

Before we made the changes, our production capacity was locked, we could not do any more, and were always firefighting. We could not see how to unlock our capacity and growth. The changes we have made as a result of our training have enabled us to push for growth, so we are now working on an e-commerce website and are actively embracing digital marketing.

We have created several new roles, including Production Planner, Digital and Despatch Supervisors, a Quality and  Health & Safety Managers. Another major impact of the training is that we have been able to reduce waste, which should also have a beneficial impact on our bottom line.

We are delighted to report that we have come out of the pandemic in a much better position to grow.  We have been able to bring our employees back from furlough and have moved into the new extension.  Our workflow is now organised in a more efficient way and the new extension means we can become a BRC High Hygiene factory, so could produce our new flexible packaging range.

We are projecting a significant increase in turnover for the coming year and feel sufficiently confident to invest a further half a million pounds in new equipment this Spring.

What is next for Hine Labels?

We have submitted another application for more Skills Bank funded training. This time we are focusing on leadership skills. We will develop our lean thinking alongside management skills, health and safety management, team building and more. We want to develop our fantastic staff to become even better team leaders. We see this as a critical factor to enable growth.

What would you say to businesses thinking about investing in training for their employees?

When trainers come in to your business, it is really important for your senior leaders to make sure that the training does what you need it to do. Stick closely with your trainer so he or she understands exactly what you need and can develop sessions and activities accordingly. You need to implement training across your organisation, and all levels have to be involved, because one change can impact so many other parts of the process.  Skills Bank supports  bespoke training, allowing employers to really hone in on what they need to achieve.