Q&A session with Ken Collett, manufacturing director at Cranes Payment Solutions and a speaker at The Manufacturer Director’s Conference on November 9.
Mr Collet led Oldham-based Money Controls through its merger with Cranes in 2010. His presentation at MDC will share the experiences of a company highly respected for its workforce culture, as it amalgamated with it new owner. Here Mr Collett answers a few general questions on his outlook for UK manufacturing and his participation at MDC 2011.
TM: Have external factors in 2011 brought any particular challenges to your company and how have you tried to handle these challenges?
KC: I think that as a globally competitive manufacturing company business is always challenging. In terms of specific challenges to our business our focus this year has all been about creatively managing the complex supply chain dynamics.
In 2011 cautious market conditions in our niche markets have led to a strategy of delivering to customers with reduced lead-times in order to win share; which was held alongside a need to reduce our working capital requirements. This has been the most significant challenge to our business from external factors along with supply chain volatility in metals, oil, and electronics commodities. To counter this we have entered into more long-term consignment stock agreements with our supply base and leveraged the combined strength of our operating division within Crane.
TM: You have recently been through a change of ownership – do you think the process was harder/easier because it took place at a time when the wider economic and industrial environment in the UK was unstable?
KC: In our case I do not think that the timing of a change of ownership was impacted by our position in the economic cycle – notwithstanding the fact that it will always be challenging to understand the requirements of new owners.
We were fortunate that our new owners are an operating company who fully understood our particular market dynamics and were seeing the same strains within their other businesses. In many ways our experience has been that the process of successful integration of the business is more linked to the processes of the acquiring company rather than the stability or otherwise of the global economy.
TM: At MDC you will address a range of cultural and engagement issues around change management and integrating with another business. Aside from these ‘soft’ management issues – what technical/operational difficulties did you come up against during the Crane acquisition?
KC: As a key strategic acquisition to Crane we were seen as the final component and enabler to integrate four independently operating companies in Europe and the USA to become one operating company. Each of the four businesses within Crane Payment Solutions has a long and successful history and was a “stand alone” business. There have been many technical and operational hurdles to overcome in creating a single business in terms of 4 different ERP systems; 4 different business models, 4 different product design methodologies etc.
Our answer has been firstly to present a single Crane Payment Solutions “face” to the customer by creating vertical sales leaders and then to integrate the management teams as early in the process as possible and then to keep talking as a collegiate group to come up with and implement the best strategies for the business.
TM: If you could advise a company going through a similar change process today what is the most important lesson you learned from your experience of changing ownership?
KC: Get as involved as you can in understanding and helping to create the future state. Be positive in outlook and understand that having new owners means that changes will happen – embrace them but keep hold of the positive culture of the business. Secondly; when working hard to integrate into the business do not take your eyes off running your company.
TM: What do you hope to give and gain through participating in MDC 2011?
KC: I have always managed to come away from conferences with some nugget of best practice and shared experience that can be used to improve our business. So what I hope to give and gain is shared experience with other attendees.
TM: What are your hopes and targets for 2012?
KC: Profitable sales growth of 10% and a fully integrated operating business.