Tractor boys reap a bumper harvest at The Manufacturer of the Year Awards

To the victors the spoils: Colin Larkin and the team from The Manufacturer of the Year Award winners New Holland Agriculture with Lord Digby Jones at The Manufacturer's Awards ceremony on Wednesday night.
To the victors the spoils: Colin Larkin and the team from The Manufacturer of the Year Award winners New Holland Agriculture with Lord Digby Jones at The Manufacturer's Awards ceremony on Wednesday night.

Tractor manufacturers New Holland Agriculture won The Manufacturer of the Year 2012 at a glittering awards ceremony in London on Wednesday night, with Accolade Wines and Milliken Industrials claiming the joint runner-up place.

Champagne flowed and the cigars came out last night for tractor boys New Holland Agriculture, as the company harvested two more awards recognising their world class manufacturing capabilities at The Manufacturer’s annual awards.

The Basildon-based tractor makers scooped the overall prize, The Manufacturer of the Year 2012, as well as the World Class Manufacturing award.

Wine bottling and packaging giant Accolade Wines and airbag fabric manufacturer Milliken Industrials were awarded the joint runners-up award, at a spectacular ceremony that celebrated some of the best manufacturing companies and people in the UK.

Lord Digby Jones of Birmingham compered the evening with characteristic bombast and zeal, lauding the assembled manufacturers as essential wealth creators on which the UK economy is based.

“What a please it is to be among real people,” he began, as his hugely popular keynote time and again slapped the backs of the audience for “focusing on making money to help UK plc get on, while the media and so many organisations are obsessed with spending the stuff.”

The awards evening was The Manufacturer’s most successful ever, with over 600 people ramming the colourful venue, the modern Grange Tower Bridge Hotel in London, to the gunnels. Winners and shortlisted companies alike remarked that awards were The Manufacturer’s best yet.

On winning the top award, Colin Larkin, plant manager at the Fiat Group-owned New Holland Agriculture, said: “Over several years, the hard work that I personally and the team have put in has come to fruition. This award says that we are recognised as doing really special things in manufacturing, and good things within the UK. Four or five years ago people didn’t know who we were. They didn’t know that our factory in Basildon was producing 25,000 tractors a year.”

Earlier in the month, the Basildon plant won the CNH global group’s coveted Bronze World Class Manufacturing award, which just five of its 15 plants around the world have received.

Accolade Wines were suitably rewarded for four year’s of solid persistence in this awards programme by winning the coveted Leadership and Strategy award, and the runner-up spot for The Manufacturer of the Year Award.

Racking and storage solutions company Apex Linvar also got its just rewards for perseverance by taking the Manufacturing in Action award and receiving Highly Commended in the very popular People and Skills category.

Construction equipments makers and newcomers to these Awards, Caterpillar UK, walked away with the most heavily-entered category, the People and Skills award.

Coca-Cola Enterprises, 2012 winner of the Sustainable Manufacturer of the Year award

Coca-Cola Enterprises, 2012 winner of the Sustainable Manufacturer of the Year award

Drinks bottling group Coca-Cola Enterprises were crowned Sustainable Manufacturer of the Year for their intense work on minimising carbon emissions throughout its UK business and for more recent success in recycling plastic with EcoPlastics. The bottling giant pipped a deserved second-placed Premier Foods to the award.

“It is very clear that working in an environmentally sustainable manner is the [most important] thing for our economy and the environment,” remarked Roman Manthey, group operations director at Coca-Cola Enterprises. “Our 2020 vision is to reduce the carbon footprint of our 500ml bottle by a third which means we are focused on further reducing packaging, increasing recycling content in the bottles, and engaging the person on the street to recycle more.”

Tyneside’s Tharsus Group, run by genial local businessman Brian Palmer, won the Best SME over 125 employees, another popular category, with gas detection manufacturers Trolex picking up the Best SME in the under 125 category.

BAE Systems’ Sean Gallagher won the Young Manufacturer of the Year, beating fierce competition from sister company and missile manufacturers MBDA (who are entered for three further industry award in the next two weeks), AkzoNobel, Green Tweed & Co, Honeywell Electrical Systems, and Robert McBride.

While the others came close, Sean, 22, snuck it with his work-sponsored project for a novel but simple medical device, based on a rubber band, that assists with holding dressings together in military theatre. The device has been granted patents in seven countries.

Sailing close to the wind with some of his humour, which was mainly lapped up by the partisan audience, Lord Digby “No grey areas here” Jones took the opportunity to shower Britain’s manufacturing sector with praise. “You just don’t know how important you are,” Lord Jones said as he warned against complacency in “Asia’s century”.

He warned the audience that Britain’s place in the globalisation race is hampered by a dogmatic faith in Europe, a union akin to “being like a team with their legs tied together in a global race, where India, Brazil, Russia, Nigeria, Singapore etc are unfettered. And when one of our lot breaks his leg, what do we do? We break each others’ legs too, to even things down.”

While some of Lord Jones’, aka Digs’, anecdotes are very well-travelled, he couldn’t resist bringing up his pet hate, Britain’s educational record. “After 11-years of compulsory, free, full-time education, just 48% of our 16-year olds leave school without an A to C grade in English and Maths. And we want to take on China, do we?” he spat. The jibe was topical, on a day that newspapers revealed that one school has hired proofreaders to correct teachers’ school reports before they are sent out to parents.

Commiserations must go to several companies who were very close in their categories but who on the final judging, fell just short of the award. AkzoNobel, BAE Systems Electronic Systems, Honeywell Electrical, manufacturer of products for hospitals Vernacare, MBDA, precision engineers Newburgh Engineering and R&R Ice Cream will rightly feel disappointed for missing out.

The competition is always very tight at the top but, as Digs said, “it’s very important to have so many companies participating in these competitions, because you can only have a winner when enough people run the race.”

More winners and shortlisted companies comments are here.

The Manfuacturer would like to thank all our sponsors, friends, Lord Digby Jones and the companies who entered for making the 2012 awards the best we have held. A special thank you goes to Royal Bank of Scotland for supporting the awards as headline sponsor for the fifth consecutive year.

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