Nicholas Cox travelled to Birmingham with a clutch of the most innovate UK SMEs to attend BGF’s (Business Growth Fund) inaugural manufacturing workshop.
For its maiden manufacturing workshop, BGF (Business Growth Fund) brought together some of the UK industry’s most successful SMEs to discuss the challenges they are facing, and will face in the coming months and years. Companies attending the event represented a range of sectors – automotive, printing, plastics and clothing – and all had received investment from BGF.
BGF provides long-term capital for fast growing British companies, providing long-term funding for growth and equity release to growing UK manufacturers with a turnover typically between £5m-£100m.
Championing a collaborative approach, the independent investor identifies those companies with robust and realistic expansion goals, with the flair, business acumen and passion to reach new heights.
Its head of manufacturing, Mark Bryant kicked off the day’s proceedings by praising the SME community for weathering the financial crisis ‘storms’ and remaining positive amid such a difficult economic climate.
Bryant stressed the importance of having a robust investment road map, and the proper processes in place to effect change, particularly in today’s constantly evolving consumer landscape.
Dudson is a British company with more than 200 years’ experience in the manufacture of fine china tableware to the hospitality industry. Iain Martin, head of manufacturing at Dudson, gave his thoughts on the science and mechanics of managing cultural change.
The recent introduction of the National Living Wage has had an immediate impact on the Staffordshire-based business, forcing the management team to assess Dudson’s current business model and identify potential savings from across the operation.
Despite this need to cut costs, Martin maintained that the process was viewed as an opportunity and never a problem at every stage. He frequently reiterated the importance of communicating this new vision for Dudson, and how vital effective communication was in driving successful cultural change.
Martin’s primary methods to keep employees well informed of the changes taking place were frequent, open, consistent, bilateral forums, coupled with a culture of celebrating success. The combination served to mitigate the effects of those employees reluctant to – or resentful of – evolving working practices.
The importance of communication was an almost constant theme running through the agenda, with many strongly advocating gaining the endorsement of those who will be ultimately responsible for delivering the change/s required.
You cannot discuss the impact that change and disruptive innovation has on a manufacturing business without looking at how it also affects the supply chain.
Jerry Attridge, operations director of aircraft seating engineering company, Acro, took to the stage to discuss just that.
With a strong export base and an order book of £64m taking production through until 2021, Attridge said it was imperative that Acro has robust processes in place to cope with the effects of innovation on a global scale.
Attridge spoke of how he views supply chain management by asking, “Does it safeguard my customers?” In this way, the director is able to identify both suppliers and processes that had the potential to cause customers harm.
For example, the potential for natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and floods, to disrupt the supply of materials raises the need to have alternative solutions and capability at your disposal. Attridge recommended being able to switch to pre-qualified suppliers in order to keep an uninterrupted supply chain to satisfy your production needs.
He referred to this process as a “sanity check”, a “testing” of supply chains that many companies fail to do rigorously enough, and risk paying the price if their current, inflexible model is altered by external factors.