Work in Progrex: The Preston IT solutions firm working on everything from curry paste to Roman tiles
One of the North West leading software developers, Progrex IT Solutions promises to be 'your partner in workflow optimisation'. And while such tech jargon sounds far more at home in the sunny climes of Silicon Valley, the fundamentals of what Progrex does are just as applicable in Preston as they are in Palo Alto: using software to make businesses more efficient and productive.
A family business based in Preston, Progrex was founded 10 years ago and now works with a wide range of clients from small local businesses to some of the UK's biggest movers and shakers in the manufacturing sector.
Patak's at one point supplied 75% of British curry houses with sauces and mixed spices. Property company Bruntwood posted revenues of £116m this year. AB World Foods owns internationally-recognised brand names such as Blue Dragon, Levi Roots, and TABASCO. Enviro Systems is a Preston-based agricultural solutions business which produces, amongst other things, hygienic cow bedding. The GCE Group is Europe's leading gas-equipment company.
What ties them together? Progrex has worked with them all.
"Ultimately, what we do is look at a businesses' processes and try to automate them using software," explained Sharon Xuereb, the company's Sales and Marketing Manager. "For our developers working on programming, there can be different projects, but there's the same underlying structure; the structure of what we do is the same, but the nitty-gritty is different."
Progrex's realm is one of automating workflows through the development and use of bespoke software solutions. They map out processes, spot bottlenecks and limitations, then implement solutions. And their staff has a combined total of over two decades of working in the field.
"I basically do a lot of work on LinkedIn to connect with out target market; we work with a lot of food manufacturers and compliance managers from various other manufacturing sectors such as packaging," said Sharon, who also does a lot of networking and blogging on specific issues in the industry. "I link them back to what we do with software, which centres on making compliance easier when auditors come knocking - why try to dig out a piece of paper when we could use a software solution which is much easier?
"We work with some really interesting companies," added Sharon, who is originally from Malta and who lives in Walton-le-Dale. "Darwen Terracotta and Faience makes bespoke ceramic terracotta tiles for buildings and have worked with the Royal Albert Hall, and I got to go on a tour around their factory. They're using a similar process to that which the Romans used to use when they made their terracotta with a few modernised elements like computers.
"And there were no togas when I was there, at least!" she added. "That kind of thing is really fascinating."
With Sharon having worked at the company for two years, Progrex has two other main employees including her husband Edward but also works with a core team of sub-contractors. "It's a varied role," said Sharon of her job. "I enjoy the nature of it - meeting people and networking is great.
"Connecting online is really enjoyable and then getting to know the people behind the businesses who we are working with and speaking to people who know what a business' challenges are and what their best at is really interesting," she added.
Looking ahead to the future, Sharon also foresees things going one way and one way only.
"The industry has to grow really, because if you want to increase productivity in business manufacturing then one key way is to automate and do things more quickly and reliably and with fewer quality issues," she said. "If we free-up 20% of our customers' time, then they could be doing other things which a computer can't do.
"It's such an important way forward."