100 interview: Billy Kingsbury, thyssenkrupp Materials UK

Posted on 27 Jul 2022 by The Manufacturer

Billy KingsburyThe Manufacturer Top 100 2021 alumni Billy Kingsbury has over 20 years’ experience in the UK metals distribution sector, including 15 years at thyssenkrupp Materials UK. He became a National Product Manager for Stainless Steel, where he developed extensive knowledge of the steel market and was responsible for both the sales and purchasing strategy. Billy has advanced in the business through roles such as a Director of Vetchberry Coil Processing division and Commercial Director of the Materials business to now lead the combined Materials and Aerospace business as Chief Operating Officer. He is now focusing on driving customer-centricity and sustainability in the company.

Click here to view the video of the full Top 100 interview with Billy Kingsbury.

What does thyssenkrupp Materials UK do?

thyssenkrupp Materials UK offers a vast range of products and a wealth of experience in sourcing and supplying products such as stainless steel, aluminium and mild steel. The company also provides a range of services, whether it be fully welded and fabricated finished parts or bespoke flat products cut to exact sizes. To help reduce inventory and costs, thyssenkrupp Materials UK specialises in supply chain management and logistics solutions.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Top100?  

I am proud and happy to be part of The Manufacturer Top 100. It’s a positive campaign and it’s always nice to receive recognition for the work we have done during such a challenging year. From my point of view, the campaign provides some great networking opportunities as well. I have now extended my LinkedIn network to other Top 100 manufacturers. 

What do you think are the key attributes which led to you being nominated? 

I think I have been nominated by my colleagues because of the challenging year we have gone through, in terms of merging two divisions, going through Brexit and COVID-19, and facing various material and logistics shortages. Despite all these challenges, we have been successful in delivering on all our targets, expanding into new markets and satisfying all customer needs.

What do you find most inspiring about working in manufacturing and when did you realise this is the career for you?

Manufacturing is a varied, interesting and highly important industry. The achievement of producing finished products, ready to be used in different applications, is very rewarding and it provides the opportunity to change and improve things in the world.

Who or what has been the biggest influences on your career in manufacturing?

Finding the right company has been crucial in my career. Since I joined thyssenkrupp Materials UK, I have been able to grow as a leader and as a person. I’ve always been given the right platform to be able to take that next step in my career. Being able to work for a global company like thyssenkrupp, meeting colleagues from all over the world and sharing knowledge has supported my development to become a CEO.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far and how have you overcome it? 

The biggest challenge in my career has to be the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time as COVID hit, we made the strategic decision to merge our two businesses, which required a completely new structure and alignment of the two different cultures. However, this allowed us to adapt to the new ways of working and become a very flexible organisation.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in manufacturing during your career? 

The manufacturing industry had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brexit and numerous supply chain issues. During the past two years, the global markets have become much more difficult to navigate.

What are the biggest challenges that are facing manufacturing as a whole and how are you and your company seeking to address this? 

To address the challenges in the manufacturing industry, companies need to focus on digitalisation. Currently, the UK is behind on adopting robotics and automation compared to other European countries. The other aspect to focus on is sustainability. All companies are going to need to work towards carbon neutrality.  

As a global organisation, we are committed to working in the most sustainable ways and supporting our customers in the streamlining of their supply chains. For carbon neutrality, it’s all about understanding how we minimise that impact. We maximise our sustainability policies whilst minimising the additional costs involved.

Can manufacturing learn anything from any other sectors? If so, what? 

All industries can always learn from each other. Manufacturers should be looking for best practices across different sectors to keep evolving. It doesn’t have to be something that automatically, you would think would apply to manufacturing. It can be about how we use labour or how we can keep staff motivated. We can always learn and improve.

What sort of growth/change has your company implemented/gone through over the last 12/18 months and how has this been managed? 

Our business has gone through numerous changes during the past 18 months. We merged two divisions into one organisation, adopted and implemented the ‘Materials as a Service’ strategy, and we have entered new markets such as metal additive manufacturing. Bringing our two businesses together enabled us to leverage some of our expertise both from the logistics point of view as well as in terms of technical skills. The combination has made our company a much stronger business now, providing a wide range of services, unrivalled in the sector. We can say today that the move was a major success story. 

What do you think will be the long-term legacy of this current period of unprecedented change with the manufacturing sector? 

We have seen instability across the industry and more and more customers are looking for a partner that can solidify their supply chain and can offer more services from one source. This is why we have adopted the Materials as a Service strategy. Our global reach and expertise are allowing us to manage complex supply chains and take out the risk for our customers.

What advice would you have for any younger people who are considering a career in manufacturing?

There are many opportunities and exciting developments that are going to happen in the coming years in the manufacturing industry. The manufacturing sector is a great place to be if you want to challenge yourself. A decade or so ago, manufacturing was seen as not being particularly attractive and maybe a little bit old-fashioned. However, I think that’s changing as we are going digital, automating more and focusing on sustainability.