Leyland Trucks takes Best Overall Business and 16 other companies were honoured at IMechE's annual MX awards.
The great and the good of British manufacturing gathered at London’s Dorchester Hotel last night to vie for 12 industry awards recognising best practice in manufacturing, customer focus, logistics and resource efficiency, process innovation and more. Preston-based Leyland Trucks, runners-up in two categories at MX2008, was the overall winner and multiple award winning Gripple, the wire fastener maker from Sheffield, won best small or medium sized enterprise. Leyland also scooped the customer focus award and Gripple the National Skills Academy award for best small or medium enterprise. The annual awards are organised by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
Few shortlisted companies were left empty-handed as five of the 12 categories received commendations as well as winners, and few companies took more than one award. The judges repeatedly emphasised how difficult it had been to decide on the winners, and the product innovation award was a dead heat with the award being given jointly to Randox Laboratories and Selex Galileo Edinburgh.
Lord Paddy Ashdown proved a popular master of ceremonies, fixing the audience’s attention by demonstrating his empathy with the importance of manufacturing to help fill the “black hole” in the UK’s public finances and trade deficit, combined with witty anecdotes. Ian Lucas MP, the minister for business and regulatory reform, who held the audience rather less convincingly as the level of bonhomie rose, and Keith Millard and Stephen Tetlow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers also co-presented the awards.
The reaction of most of the winners was a stark reminder of the passion and belief-in-the-job of many UK manufacturers. As the evening passed, several companies competed for the unofficial Ashdown award for Loudest Celebration, including Converteam, Gripple, Leyland Trucks, Hozelock, and the very vocal ZF Lemforder, which won best integrated e-business.
Peter Jukes, assistant operations director at Leyland Trucks who went up to receive the overall winner award with five Leyland employees, said of their two awards: “These awards reflect the passion of the employees. It reflects a 113 year history founded on strong teamwork, particularly in the last two years under the banner of our Team Enterprise. In the last nine months we’ve called on that team spirit,” referring to the companies decision to operate a four day week which had the full support of the staff, says Jukes. He added: “We’re really proud to be a part of manufacturing in the UK, as should everyone who is here tonight. I feel privileged to be among this talented group.” On the specific improvements Leyland has made, he said “the whole basis of Team Enterprise is a continuous improvement journey, showing staff engagement, empowerment and creativity – it’s been a long journey over many years.”
Contitech Beattie, originally a family-owned business based in Ashington, Northumberland and now owned by German rubber products giant Continental, was shortlisted for several awards and came away with best financial management. Finance manager John Hodgson, who has been with Beattie throughout its incarnations over 12 years, said “we’ve developed a finance system over the last three years to make our accounting relevant and more timely, which has been challenging. We had been pushed by Germany to produce accounts on time – that is much better and now happens organically. I think this award actually reflects our greater internal focus – we now have much more detailed accounting for individual business managers so that everything is reported on time.”
Adrian Chell, manufacturing manager at ZF Lemforder, the specialist supplier of chassis systems to Jaguar Land Rover which won the integrated e-business award, was clearly delighted, nearly falling over when The Manufacturer congratulated him and the firm on its success. “I’m ecstatic!” he said “What a team, what a team. It’s bl**y brilliant!”
Lord Ashdown received several rousing rounds of applause for identifying the mistakes behind the credit crunch and the neglect of manufacturing and foreign trade to support the UK economy. He said the government must turn this around, and that it had “not yet found a policy, nor any recent government, to give industry the support it needs” if Britain is to maintain its world status.
Several companies can feel disappointed not to have won an award and IMechE stressed the competition this year had been very tight. Aquamarine Power, a design and engineering business behind the innovative and operationally simple Oyster wave energy converter, tipped as one to watch this year, missed out on the award for product innovation to Greenbank Group (commended) and Randox and Selex Galileo (winners). Matthias Haag, COO, said he thought they might have a better chance when the test prototype has passed its renewable energy tests on the Orkney Islands this summer and they had developed a unit closer to a final production model.
Boss Design might also feel unlucky to have missed out on the sustainable manufacturing award, where they received a commendation in this category. Boss has made a raft of sustainable business improvements, printing the carbon footprint of its furniture products and involving the local community in ‘green’ and socially responsible business initiatives, but it came second behind winners Balcas Timber, the wood processing company, which has built a renewable energy facility involving combined heat and power and wood pellet manufacturing, both fuelled by sawdust and wood chip from its sawmilling operations.
A full list of the winners of MX09 can be found at: www.mxawards.org.