Learn about Improvement Architecture Ltd, where they have been, which events and other activities they have been participating in.

Caledonian Plywood -Testimonial.

    • Productivity improvement = 21% increase across 10 months of projects.
    • Profitability on new orders made possible through the efficiency or capacity/throughput gains = £184,000

        “Previously, Caledonian Plywood adopted a very reactive approach to manufacturing.  This Project changed the mindsets of our Manufacturing Managers. Although their desire to “improve things” was never in doubt, they lacked the tools and direction to channel this into focused strategic improvement. The workshops created an understanding of the potential utopia we could aim at and, crucially, a series of metrics that we can use to measure our progress towards that goal.”Murray Falconer, MD.
David Land, Commercial Director.

A warm welcome to David Land, Commercial Director.


David Land, Commercial Director.

David Land, Commercial Director for Improvement Architecture.

Improvement Architecture are pleased to announce the next stage of the companies development, we are delighted to welcome David Land to the team as Commercial Director.

The business was established just over 5 years ago by the founder and MD, Graham Sleep, initially set up to support the development, delivery and growth in Scotland through the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service. Graham and the team have achieved some very notable successes, ranging from scale-ups to large international clients

Working in the North East in collaboration with BE Group have recently achieved further success through the delivery of the NELEP Manufacturing Growth Programme where 37 companies went through a business diagnostic, resulting in all companies now having clear objectives and plans, with a further 150 new jobs being created.

IA continues to look at new and creative ways to help a wide range of businesses by bringing their diagnostic tools and brain model to help companies find their purpose and direction, enabling route causes to be identified and problems resolved.   This growth has resulted in them adding technology-based platforms, new growth models, strategic leadership and Transformational Strategy boot-camps, to their existing portfolio. IA have also supported national charities through their 20:20:20 Vision Programme, which continues to run for another four years.

To further support their growth Improvement Architecture are delighted to announce David Land will be joining the business as Commercial Director helping to further develop the client base and investments. David comes with a wealth of experience gained through his years within the automotive sector.  Beginning his career with Cummins Engines at Darlington, David built up his manufacturing knowledge before moving on to Tallent Engineering (Now Gestamp Tallent) where he became Business Development Director, Plant Director for the Aycliffe site and finally the UK Industrial/ Engineering Director. David now spends his time supporting growth in the region through his various roles as NELEP board member, setting up and Chairing County Durham Engineering Manufacturing Network, advisory board member for Business Durham, a governor at the University of Sunderland and a founder sponsor and now Deputy Chair at the regions first UTC.

Graham stated; “It is a privilege to welcome David to IA, he brings not only the industrial experience but also renewed drive and energy to get things done, we are fortunate to have his high level of senior experience and credibility within our team. Along with our new products and services, we can drive not just our business growth, but that of our clients.  When I set the business up I wanted to ensure that we were “delivering purposeful, measurable, behavioural transformation in people and organisations in order to achieve their strategic ambitions” – this appointment takes us a step closer to achieving this.

34% Reduction in Manufacturing Costs– Mainetti Ltd. 

The Company 


The Mainetti Group is the largest manufacturer and supplier of hangers in the world. Mainetti was established in 1961 in Italy and now operates in over 40 different countries, employing over 4,000 people worldwide. 

Mainetti lists a number of blue-chip high-street customers, however, has been seen to have slowed down due to the economic recession by approx 20%.  Even with this, the local management team are committed to continuing a restructuring operation to enable Mainetti in the UK to continue to compete in a global market.  

To complement these growth plans, the company has a strong vision for lean manufacturing to become a way of life, even given the traditional culture on which it is based. The company has shown great commitment to continuous improvement, lean and culture change no matter how challenging.   


The Challenge 

 The challenge of conducting business in the middle of economic recession highlighted the need to change the business.  It was soon apparent that the organisation needed to focus on key business wins, rather than a traditional lean implementation programme. The culture of the organisation and previous attempts at lean implementation had left some degree of resistance and a general nervousness of what this programme would mean to the organisation.  This uncertainty was shared at all levels throughout Manetti. 

The decision was therefore taken to look for external support in order to look at reducing internal costs in terms of materials, Labour & space utilisation, that’s where Improvement Architecture Ltd came into assist.   


What We Did  


  • Structured an ongoing programme through completing an “X” chart of potential projects.


  • Focused the initial learning at the operatives themselves around the tools and skills required for the specific lean implementation project required, whilst still enabling staff to gain an overall appreciation for the overall philosophies and additional tools available. 


  • Used a variety of real-life issues that arose to solidify the grounding for lean, and support for the overall culture of lean. 


  • Covered broader issues around facilitation and change management which arose during the discussions. 



Improvement Architecture Ltd 

  • A strong partnership was developed between  Improvement Architecture Ltd and Mainetti management which has helped to improve the business through continuous improvement and culture change. 
  •  Improvement Architecture Ltd offered the skills and experience in lean tools/techniques needed to help progress Mainetti down the Lean Journey. 
  •  Improvement Architecture Ltd has provided external structure and project management support to control improvements being made whilst not becoming a barrier for management internally. 


Lessons learned 


Although the lean training has successfully gained improvements in the short-term, it is critical that further standardisation of people, systems and processes is required to ensure ongoing sustainability. 


There is a skills gap at Team Leader level which can act as a barrier between operatives and management.  Further development of this area is required in order that Kaizen programmes may be created successfully. 


The proactiveness shown within the shop-floor areas needs to be further developed with programmes including Engineers and more technical staff across the organisation.  These will be critical to long-term continuous improvement culture and reduction in quality issues. 




What was the impact for the Company? 


In addition to the benefits from the 3 key projects identified below the training has encouraged and enabled the participants to review and use the data already collected in the factory with more confidence.  


High Raw material prices.  An 84% reduction in material cost has been achieved through the use of regrind material, rather than 100% virgin material. 


High Labour Cost.  A 29% reduction in labour cost was achieved through the reduction of operatives from 6 per shift to 4 per shift.  A total reduction of 6 operators per day. 


Overall Machine Cost.  It was determined that an opportunity existed to reduce the overall cost of manufacture by using the 4-cavity tool rather than the 12-cavity where possible.  This resulted in £1.057 saving per 100 parts (or 34% reduction in manufacturing cost).  Further to this, a machine which was used within the original area “just in case” was sold for a saving of £21,000 per year for the rental period, and generated a one-off £40k for bottom-line. 


Further improvement projects are being identified on an ongoing basis due to the change within the cell culture giving increased sustainability to this area. 


There are also further programmes being ongoing for additional cell improvements to link to an overall culture change within the business. 




After having struggled previously with the implementation of lean, SMAS through their deliverer Improvement Architecture Ltd was extremely successful in delivering our needs and structuring the programme to fit our culture.  This project has given significant business benefit.  Good job everyone.” 


Keith Charlton 

MD – Mainetti (North Europe)   


Graham Sleep

Entrepreneurs….  The Grey and Balding meet the Young, Energetic and Driven…

Grow your business

Bright Ideas Trust Event

I had the pleasure of speaking to the Bright ideas Club in London this week.  This charitable venture was set up by Tim Campbell MBE (the original winner of the BBCs The Apprentice).  Upon meeting him I realised that this was a very energetic motivated individual who maintains his London roots, and you can tell would become trusted totally by those he reaches.

The energy he created in the room when first opening the event and then interviewing Derin Cag, the CEO of Richtopia (a publication platform with over 1M followers) really epitomised the “new technological world we live in” – blockchain, growth hacking, artificial intelligence, a land of challenge for the “grey and balding” but exciting for this particular one – the opportunities are endless with these technologies.  I could have gone home then as they were a very hard act to follow, but after all these years I can’t let the Energetic and Driven drive me away.   Up I got and went completely away from any plans I had, getting carried away with the amount of information that was getting passed over to everyone – I absolutely loved it presenting more of a boot camp approach and not sure how many questions I posed everyone… “remember a consultant is defined by the questions they ask not the answers they give”.  It certainly was well beyond the 7 included in the title.

This was followed by a panel with a continuous stream of questions from thirsty young entrepreneurs and further members of the “Grey and Balding” mentors for the organisation.  Nobody trying to catch anyone out, no egos, no fear… all of the success criteria for entrepreneurs.  The two hours passed so quickly everyone stayed to ask more questions and continue their quest for knowledge as well as a little wine and food.  Just a shame there was a train to catch for this “grey and balding”.

If this is the outcome of a Bright Ideas Trust event, then we definitely need more of this in the North-East of England.  We look forward to welcoming you to our part of the world.  I look forward to the “return leg” Tim…  Thank you to Catherine and all the team for making me welcome.

All the best.

Grey and Balding 1.

Bright Ideas Trust

Charity Growth and Leadership Coaching Announcement.

Improvement Architecture Ltd. is delighted to announce they are working with the London-based charity The Bright ideas Trust in order to develop a strategic growth plan for the charity.  This will be executed in the North-East over the coming months and has been supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Trust to allow this private-charity partnership to be brought together.

This continues the theme for Improvement Architecture as they run a charity based programme in the North East called 20:20:20 Vision. Graham has coached senior charity people throughout their leadership journey and is starting to produce excellent results, not only on a professional level but also on a personal.

Victoria Dunn, Deputy CEO at The Key stated; Graham has been an amazing coach and mentor. Graham’s honest, refreshing and liberating approach has helped me to understand not only how I can become a better social leader, but a better person, providing me with his knowledge, expertise and tools to help me to think outside the box when approaching both professional and personal problems. I would highly recommend working with him!

Grace Dunne, Regional Manager for the Anne Franke Trust confirmed;  I’ve found Graham’s coaching extremely beneficial, both for my professional and personal development. I feel that the work we did together, looking at the tools and techniques really helped me when applying for, interviewing for and getting an internal promotion. It has also been a real help to have his coaching and support as I have taken on new responsibilities at work. I’m so glad that I saw this opportunity and applied for it, and would highly recommend it to other charity professionals.

Sinead Burke, Communications Manager for Gemarts stated; Working with Graham/Improvement Architecture over the past 8 months has been hugely positive. In the short term, working through the programme has given me new tools and techniques to assist in my day to day work. In the long term, it has helped me identify key aspects of my own character and leadership style which can both help and hinder, giving me the information I need to better manage this effectively and confidently lead others. The time and thought Graham has put into developing each of the mentees was clear when we all got to meet at a peer to peer session. Working with a coach is valuable to both the individual and the organisation, and the chance to take part in a fully funded coaching programme is a fantastic opportunity for any charity leader.

Dean Titterton, Chief Executive of North Tyneside YMCA confirmed; What I like most about working with IA is that Graham’s life experiences across a range of industries is hugely valuable and immensely useful. There is a definite sense that we are developing something together. It feels very much like a process of co-creation, not instruction.

Graham’s work within the North-East has come under the microscope of people on the global coaching stage, notably Ben Croft, the Founder of the World Business and Executive Coaching Summit (WBECS), Marshall Goldsmith recently voted the No.1 Executive Coach in the world in 2017 and many other businesses.  Graham has recently been invited to be part of a thought-leadership faculty at an international conference in Warsaw looking at innovation within human behaviours and the triggers behind this.


Ben Croft stated;

“After recently launching Ethical Coach where we apply the tools of coaching to philanthropic efforts creates a platform to really change lives.  Our goal is to empower leadership development, accountability, organizational capacity, and performance enhancement for 64,000 leaders a year, who can then extend their reach to an additional 100 children a year.  Given that I was delighted to hear last year that Graham has decided to pay forward with his 202020 Vision (a programme of Executive Coaching for Charity and Not-for-profit Leaders within the North-East of England).  His goal of raising the ambition of these leaders and subsequently young people and children are aligned to our goals of “adding value to the world, and doing it for the good of not-for-profit leaders” and therefore I wholeheartedly give my support to him within this endeavour. “ 


Marshall confirmed his support for the venture;

 “After being a successful business leader for over 30 years, Graham latterly has been part of the No.1 Global Executive Coaching team Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coaching, and the process and tools that this gives him which has resulted in 95% improvement within many global engagements.  Most recently he has approached me to support him with a passionate, courageous commitment to his “20.20.20 vision” which is to pay-forward and bring his knowledge to offer 1-1 Executive Coaching to 20 not-for-profit and charity senior leaders “free of charge” based in the NE England in order to support them in their own behavioural and leadership development.  This will create local leaders who will impact the aspiration of more than 1000 children in the North-East of England by end of The year 2020.  A very worthwhile venture I hope you agree. Life is Good.  Marshall” 


Whilst Improvement Architecture Ltd. continue with their high-impact interactions with private and public sector organisations, they are committed to continuing this work with the third sector. If you are interested in growing your organisation or your people, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can develop a bespoke package of support for you.


The Team

Improvement Architecture Ltd



The meaning behind our brand name Improvement Architecture.

Branding is a fascinating subject!

Recently we attended a North-East expo hosted by The Mussel Club. It was a great day of networking with people we know and of course making new connections. Although this was interesting the most prominent thing that I took away from the event was the misperception of our brand. This is something that I was aware of but the event really got me thinking.

Improvement Architecture, our name, is printed at the top of our marketing banner… immediately people assumed we were architects of buildings although further down the banner it does explain exactly what we do. This was not the first time it had been highlighted but it did make me think. Do I restructure the marketing? Do we rebrand or do I simply try to communicate the brand meaning behind Improvement Architecture?  I chose the latter.

The co-founders very cleverly came up with the name Improvement Architecture, based on the concept that they design, build and improve business structures centred around its people and processes. Fundamentally everything a business needs to function, operate and thrive.

I discussed my thoughts with my MD Graham Sleep and asked him for his interpretation. His response is below.

“As a business, we are focused on improvement of a business across its entirety so we knew it had to be part of the name.

Improvement /ɪmˈpruːv.mənt/ bringing into a more valuable or desirable condition

Architecture /ˈärkiˌtekCHər/ the art and science of designing a structure

We felt there were a lot of consultants who fill a “role” within organisations (and organisations who are happy for contractors to fill roles where they cannot get the calibre of talent required), which is not a problem, but not really where we wanted to be. We didn’t feel there were too many who really challenged and generated a change in both the environment (infrastructure, processes and systems) and people’s behaviours required for organisational success. Our focus, therefore, became to design the infrastructures that support integrated business improvement, innovation and growth within organisations and then supported the organisation in the transformation required to get there. Therefore, we now are a key part of senior teams within a number of rapidly growing SMEs and larger organisations. We don’t just talk, we do, and we measure the success of what we do to deliver the ambitions of these clients.

We could have gone down the route of a contracting organisation (and I am sure had more clients), but I never regret the day we concentrated on having fewer clients with deeper relationships who are all growing, and challenging them in getting better and better whilst maintaining a humility to bring people along with them. Recently, a CEO of one of our larger clients introduced me to another MD stated: “every time I attempt to change things (or want to change things) I call these guys to come and sort it out”.

I think this summarises Improvement Architecture very well.

My interpretation is:

“We are a one-stop shop for all business needs. Our consultants have reputable careers, spanning over 30years, their experience knowledge and skill set is unrivalled in the marketplace. They have worked in and successfully grown businesses of all shapes and sizes. They have capabilities to solve problems, work with you and understand exactly what needs to be done. Our delivery methods and meaningful customer relationships are what makes us unbeatable, we are a truly dedicated team and consider ourselves as an extension of your workforce”


So, if you have read this and it has triggered any questions, or there is something you are still unclear on, please let me know. We are a friendly team, happy to chat and discuss any issues you may be having. Not only that but, if you are considering options, have uncertainties and would like a sounding board, pick up the phone, pop a message across. We are here to help in any way we can.



Kaye Collins

Sales and Marketing Manager


North East Manufacturing Programme

Manufacturing Growth Programme

The Manufacturing Growth Programme was launched in July 2016 as part of the North East Growth Hub’s business support offering.  It is aimed at manufacturing SMEs in Durham, Tyne and Wear and Northumberland and will help senior managers within manufacturing companies assess and identify barriers to growth, and work with them to improve business performance and increase sales.

The programme is designed to stimulate the growth of aspiring manufacturing businesses across the North East through in-depth one-to-one support from manufacturing growth experts. It is an important and tangible part of the North East LEP’s support to businesses in the region.

The programme will run for an initial 12 month period. Working with over 80 growing businesses, the pilot programme is set to create 160 new manufacturing jobs. It forms part of our Strategic Economic Plan to foster growth within key sectors of the economy in order to create more and better jobs. The programme could be extended if this pilot phase proves successful.

The programme is being delivered by the BE Group – a North East based business services provider, and Improvement Architecture, a specialist business improvement consultancy.

If you are a small manufacturing business with big growth ambitions, please contact Tracey Watson for more details on how to apply.

Email: enquiries@ne-mgp.co.uk
Telephone: 0191 389 8434
Or see www.ne-mgp.co.uk for programme details and to check eligibility.

Improvement Architecture HIIT Partners

High-Intensity Impact Transformation Partner.

HIIT Partners -Improvement Architecture.

Following a discussion on our marketing strategy Improvement Architecture have decided to run a weekly bulletin on activities completed. We often post about what we do, the services we offer and the odd testimonial to demonstrate our capabilities, but, we know we do so much more than what we shout out about.  By analysing our activities it was decided we provide a HIIT service to our clients, we deliver high-impact growth activities transforming the businesses we work in. Our strategy is to communicate these activities and to see if it has an impact on our marketing traffic.

As every business understands, there is no magic formula for sales and marketing it is all about trial and error. Attracting the right audience through niche targeting, varying your content, posting at different times using various channels is a fine art to tune. Some of us get it right, sometimes, some of us get it wrong, sometimes. The main thing for all of us to remember is, sales and marketing is a process and needs to be an ongoing activity of our business function. Having a strategy is a great starting point, it provides focus, clarity, and guidance it allows us to review, monitor and tweak, we should always be looking to improve.  Don’t get comfortable, always aim high.

At the birth of our HIIT discussion, we realised ‘what we say we do’ is somewhat different to ‘what we are currently doing’ hence the weekly bulletin. It provides clarity and is more definitive making it easier for our followers and target audience to understand. Simply stating what you have done, seems far better than trying to shout over the “Me too” noise of competitors. We would love to see if our new approach works and would invite others to share what they have achieved, helped with or contributed to on our weekly update.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards
Kaye Collins


P.S This is my first ever blog.




Motivational talk with lower 6th form students at Emmanuel College, Gateshead.

Graham Sleep

Emmanuel College Lower SixthForm students with Graham Sleep following his motivational talk.

Characteristics of a good leader.

Graham Sleep’s Global Leadership Video. Entrepreneur’s Forum The Curve, Teeside University.


Graham Sleep talking about global leadership at the Entrepreneur’s Forum.