Draeger Safety UK reaches the top at MX Awards

Posted on 28 Nov 2012

Draeger Safety UK was crowned the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ overall winner at the MX Awards 2012 last night, with imaging technology company FFEI taking the Best Small to Medium Enterprise.

Breathing apparatus manufacturer Draeger Safety UK took the top prize at the IMechE’s MX Awards last night at the company’s fourth visit to the awards.

The Blyth-based business, a wholly owned subsidiary of Drägerwerk AG, also won the award for Financial Management and the Professional Engineering award for Logistics and Operational Efficiency.

The company, category winners in previous MX Awards, was shortlisted in every award category, bar the the Best SME being ineligible as it employs 400 people at two sites in the UK.

Malcolm Irving, head of operations in Europe for Draeger Safety said, “This is the Olympic 100 metres gold medal. It exemplifies all the hard work, how we understand our customers, how we innovate our products and processes and it’s a team effort.”

The awards, run annually by the IMechE with Professional Engineering magazine and supported by Arup, The ERA Foundation, Lombard, WMG and the CBI, showed the wide diversity in best practice manufacturing as finalists came from such diverse sectors as tile adhesives and grouts to mechatronics and lubrication systems.

FFEI, a manufacturer of imaging products such as inkjet and digital labeling machines, was completely destroyed in the 2005 Buncefield oil depot explosion. Within weeks the company was up and running at another site. It was commended for its business process analysis centred on quality management, which has included five audits in 2012 and zero product defects.

Few observers familiar with the MX Awards would have been shocked to see missile manufacturer MBDA claim the ERA Foundation Award for Best Partnership with Education and the WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group) Award for People Effectiveness. The company’s training and people development is renown and it has amassed a handsome trophy cabinet of people-related awards over the years.

Flooring and wall cladding makers Altro also won two awards; the AESSEAL Award for Customer Focus and the Arup Award for Sustainable Manufacturing. Judges commented that what made the flooring manufacturer’s entry stand out was that customer focus was instilled in every level of the business, and the panel “could find nothing at fault” in this regard. Grout manufacturer Building Adhesives has highly commended in the Sustainable Manufacturing category.

The CBI Award for Most Improved Company was a two horse race, but MX debutant HK Timbers snuck it from the super-competitive Draeger Safety. Judges were impressed that all the staff got behind the company’s objectives, and they commended the achievement in its first year in the competition.

“This award reflects the commitment and engagement in the business. The work we have been doing in continuous improvement in the last two years has drastically changed our efficiency, productivity and quality,” said David O’Neill, production director at HK Timbers.  “This is underpinned by NVQs and frontline management training throughout the business.” Eight people received an NVQ at HK Timbers in 2011/2012.

Accutronics, a custom rechargeable battery manufacturer, received the Lombard Award for Innovation in Products and Processes, where the low power consumption of its PowerVault product was singled out. ScotAsh, a company that recycles coal ash into building products, was highly commended.

Plastic injection moulder Hymid Multishot won the award for Business Development and Change Management.

Winners show their delight

Bryony Smith, general manager for MBDA UK, said “We are delighted to have won these awards. It’s a real testament to the commitment of our people, to grow skills and really place emphasis on ensuring that we have a programme with our apprentices that provides us with an opportunity to grow for the future. We are a people-based organisation and placing an emphasis on the development of skills is something that we really value.”

Technical sales director at Hymid, Andy Tettmar, said: “We are absolutely delighted and shocked to have won this award. It’s a vote of confidence for the team, and all the hard work we’ve put in in the last three to four years to turn the company around. It’s a sign that manufacturing is going strong in the UK and I’m proud to be part of a growing industry.”

David Shepherd, operations director at Building Adhesives who were highly commended in the sustainable award, said “We came with no great expectations. We entered the competition because we wanted to learn from the best and improve the business, so to achieve a commendation we’re extremely pleased with that outcome. I continue to get involved in the programme to see how we can improve the business.”

The evening was introduced by Professor Isobel Pollack, president of the IMechE and the first female president in the institution’s history.

Ex-minister Michael Portillo was a popular compere, delivering a dry and self-effacing series of quips about life during and after his time in Westminster. This included forming his new club for “prime ministers who never made it” which, he quipped, has recently received David Milliband as a new member and he looked forward to welcoming David’s brother Ed very soon.

Minister of State for Business and Enterprise Michael Fallon MP introduced the awards presentation, stating that he had been mandated to help manufacturers to cut red tape.

He said that the government is committed to helping the sector in two main ways, by investing in skills – where he cited that apprenticeships in manufacturing and engineering were up 40,000 in 2012 – and access to finance. Lending figures from the Funding for Lending Scheme he said was evidence that more money was getting to companies  that needed it.