Passion, ambition and achievement created an atmosphere of rarefied excitement for guests at The Manufacturer of the Year Awards 2013.
Too often, Britain’s industrial power is spoken of in the past tense, harking back to the days of Brunel and Arkwright.
The record breaking crowd of confident, competitive and innovative companies that gathered in Birmingham on the night of December 4 provided fierce proof that British manufacturing might is a present reality, and it is champing to reclaim recognition for this fact in wider society.
Over 800 guests attended The Manufacturer of the Year Awards 2013 (TMYA2013) ceremony at the Birmingham ICC which was compered by TM’s CEO Nick Hussey with assistance from Richard Noble OBE, leader of the Bloodhound supersonic car programme and Nikki Hesford, founder of Made in Preston, the lingerie company for well-endowed women which recently reshored its manufacturing from China to take advantage of ‘fast fashion’ trends and brand Britain.
Mr Noble was inspiring as ever, never ceasing to amaze his audience with the sheer ingenuity behind his initiative, now supplied by 260 UK manufacturers who have faith in the project’s ability to transform the image of
STEM subjects and manufacturing and engineering careers.
Ms Hesford, a former glamour model and single mum, graced the crowd with a light-hearted account of the trials and tribulations she had faced in securing finance, skills, equipment and knowledge of the UK manufacturing landscape
in order to bring manufacturing of her products back from China.
“Perhaps naively I expected support for creating jobs,” she quipped before speaking about how unprepared she found herself to manage and motivate staff – particularly young people.
Tenacious to the last however, Hesford carved her way towards her ambitions, searching out industrial sewing machines on ebay and learning about the business tax and regulatory environment on the hoof.
Ms Hesford’s parting shot to the audience before the awards began in earnest, chastised the industry for allowing stereotypes to endure. “I was asked by three guys on my way in here if I was coming as a dancer, a singer or a piano player. No, I said. I’m a speaker and I run a manufacturing business.”
Apparently this caused some surprise.
Bloodhound blows minds again
Even those well acquainted with the Bloodhound SSC project agreed that Richard Noble’s presentation at the Manufacturer of the Year Awards 2013 was delivered with particular panache.
Here are a few of the inspirational facts guests had to chew over as they enjoyed dinner after Mr Noble’s powerful presentation:
- The Bloodhound SSC will be capable of 0-1,000mph in 55 seconds
- The Bloodhound will cover a mile in 3.6 seconds – faster than a bullet
- At 1,000mph the car will experience 20 tonnes of drag
- 4,000 schools registered to follow the Bloodhound SSC education programme in the first 18 months of the project
- 315,000 stone collectors worked to clear stones from the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa where
- Bloodhound will attempt to break the land speed record in 2015
- 6,000 tonnes of stones were removed from the Hakskeen Pan
- 260 UK manufacturers supply the Bloodhound SSC programme
Perhaps it was due to the increasingly optimistic economic environment around UK manufacturing, or to the fruition of intense effort in recent years to improve culture and engagement in the industry, but the bursts of excitement as awards were announced at TMYA2013 seemed more exuberant and heartfelt than ever.
It was excellent to see so many manufacturers arrive with large teams of employees all raring to recognise their collective determination to excel in meeting new business challenges.
The 2013 awards also stood out for the unprecedented range and diversity of manufacturers represented. Old hands in the competition were there in force, but importantly there was a significant cohort of newcomers among the finalists too. (See the full list of finalists here.)
Again, this injection of fresh blood in the competition speaks volumes for the swelling confidence in the sector, particularly in the SME base. As, Mr Hussey referenced in his opening comments, the CBI recently reported that SMEs are leading the charge on economic recovery with the manufacturing sector’s smaller businesses outstripping the growth of peers in the retail and construction sectors.
But companies large and small at TMYA2013 revelled in the human element behind achievements in business strategy, supply chain management, the application of information and communication technologies and responsiveness to newer influences on competitiveness like sustainability and through life engineering services.
Recognition of the dedication, talent and resourcefulness of employees was the name of the game – and so it is no surprise that some of the heartiest celebrations took place at the tables of the winners of the People and Skills,
Apprentice of the Year and Young Manufacturer of the Year Awards.
Anna Schlautmann at MBDA was ecstatic as she grasped her trophy for Apprentice of the Year, “I can’t believe the judges said I was an inspiration to women in manufacturing,” she said. “That’s one of my greatest ambitions!”
Ms Schlautmann said she felt her success in transforming her school teachers’ perceptions of manufacturing so that they now actively promote apprenticeships was one of the strongest elements in her application for the prize.
Both Ms Schlautmann and Ross Meikle, from pump manufacturer Hayward Tyler who scooped the prize for Young Manufacturer of the Year, paid tribute to their employers for providing the foundations for their own successes. “I get pushed hard to keep achieving,” said Mr Meikle. “It’s great to work at a small company where you get given responsibility quickly and can prove yourself even at a young age.”
Where is Meikle hoping his mounting achievements and experience will lead him? With a father who progressed from the shop floor to become managing director of another manufacturing firm, he has no hesitation in saying, “I’d like to be the boss one day.”
While recognition of young talent and individual achievement is essential to inspiring tomorrow’s leaders, the decision of
the judges to give the overall Manufacturer of the Year Award to the winner of the People and Skills category, GE Aviation Wales, demonstrated the fundamental importance of teamwork in achieving manufacturing excellence.
On receiving the site’s awards Mike Patton, plant manager for GE Aviation Wales said: “I’m excited. It’s a testament to my team. Hard work, dedication, they know what we need to do. I’m just proud of the accomplishment and of what they’ve done.”