The Manufacturer celebrates Best in Class 2009

Posted on 9 Dec 2009 by The Manufacturer

The Manufacturer of the Year Awards 2009 in November was a celebration of excellence in UK manufacturing. Will Stirling summarises the winners and some of the runners-up in this highly respected industry awards ceremony.

Some of the best manufacturing companies in Britain were celebrated at The Manufacturer of the Year Awards 2009, held at the Tower Hotel in London on November 12.

Hosted by British Formula One racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart, whose address was warmly appreciated by the 400-strong gathering, and held in association with principal sponsor the Royal Bank of Scotland, companies from all industry sectors attended the event that was a great advertisement for the diversity and strength of UK manufacturing.

A record number of companies submitted entries for the 2009 Awards. As usual, the standard of entries was extremely high and in some categories it was particularly difficult for the judges to choose a winner.

Market-leading garden watering, spraying and aquatics company Hozelock won top honours with the Manufacturer of the Year award, as well as scooping the awards for Design and Innovation and Supply Chain and Logistics. Hozelock has enjoyed a period of very strong growth despite the recession, partly as a result of extensive marketing and promotional activity. The company grew by 14.8% in 2009, according to analysts GfK, increasing its share to almost 70% of the garden watering market.

“It has been a fantastic year for the company,” said managing director Peter Rush, “and to cap it all by being voted the Manufacturer of the Year is a tremendous result for everybody in the business.

All of our employees have worked their socks off this year and it is a credit to them that we have received this wonderful accolade, in the face of stiff competition from some of Britain’s biggest and most successful companies.”

The Leadership and Strategy award recognises the value of inspirational leadership and a properly constituted and communicated corporate strategy.

Drallim Industries collected the award for the second year running. Its leadership strategy included people initiatives like a ‘no blame’ culture, and dedication to open and honest communication, as well as product initiatives like the development of bespoke IT services.

Four outstanding companies made the shortlist for the World Class Manufacturing award, whichrecognises efficiency and business management improvements on a lean journey or programme.

While Sheffield Forgemasters’ business turnaround since its management buyout is a compelling story, and specialist printer Howard Hunt Group had shown excellent results from its lean journey, including a host of measured KPIs including internal incidents and customer surveys, the joint winners — who the judges could not separate — were makers of oncology equipment Elekta UK and multiple advanced component manufacturer e2V Technologies. Their individual strengths differed, but both companies presented a very convincing display of employee buy-in to the company’s corporate objectives and excellent internal communications through the use of KPI and message boards, and effective team leaders.

“Elekta is honoured and delighted to receive the World Class Manufacturer of the year award,” said Brian Edwards, senior manufacturing manager.

“The award is a key message to all staff at all levels in motivating us in our transformation activities to deliver improved performance in a competitive market place.” e2V’s Scott Carson and team were equally pleased with the recognition the award gave to a huge amount of work the company’s management and staff had put in to modernising operations in the last 18 months under the supervision of MD Steve Whigham.

Many happy returns

Two great companies made the shortlist for the Best Automotive Company award. The results were very close and Michelin Tyres was commended for its strong application, but the judges pipped Morgan Motor Company as the winner. It was an appropriate prize, given the iconic British sportscar firm celebrated its 100th birthday this year. Morgan has improved workflows at its Malvern factory, invested in people in 2008/9 through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and is working on an innovative and sexy fuel cell model, the LIFEcar.

Charles Morgan, managing director and grandson of the founder, said: “The whole team was very proud to receive an award and we will definitely be entering again.” Award sponsor Accelerate’s Rachel Eade commended Morgan’s contribution to the UK car industry through its long history.

The Aerospace and Defence award was collected by building exterior specialists Alumet, who manufacture walling systems for airports among other applications. The award recognised in particular the company’s development of the ABLE Façade System, a clever bomb-blast resistant walling product.

This system has led to the company securing its largest order to date – a £6.2m contract to design, manufacture and install the new system on a large Ministry of Defence project. Following the award, director Dean Walton said: “ABLE is probably the most important innovation in our 17-year history. This award recognises the hard work of our team and will certainly speak volumes when negotiating future orders.”

Green for Go

In a year where environmental concerns were second only to recessionary ones, the Sustainable Manufacturer of the Year was one of the more fiercely contested awards, with seven shortlisted entries. Global food manufacturer McCormick UK, which has a long history of sustainable practices, were the deserved winners. Mark Whalley, plant manager of McCormick UK in Haddenham, spoke of his delight at winning the award. “While sustainability may be relatively new to many, our company has committed to these principles for many years and thanks to the dedication of all of our employees, we received ISO14001 certification in 2008 in recognition of our environmental achievements. We see sustainability as an integral part of our business – this award recognises the company’s long-term commitment to the future.” The judging was once again very tight and Avon Metals, Boss Design, Lush Manufacturing and Paul Fabrications all gave the winner a very close run for its money.

Market-leading food manufacturer Ginsters scooped the Food and Beverage award, closely followed by Linpac Packaging. The judges were impressed with the waste reduction initiatives the company has employed and they commented specifically on the high effectiveness of equipment purchased, which enabled impressive return on investment. Its waste reduction initiatives have completely eliminated the Ginsters’ requirement for landfill. Despite the economic downturn the company has achieved growth at the rate of five times the market in 2009 so proved a tough act to beat.

Ginsters scored twice on the night, also collecting the People and Skills award, which Peter Hines from sponsor the Lean Enterprise Research Centre at Cardiff University, valued as arguably the most important award given that the importance of employees to good companies. Six companies made the shortlist and Drallim Industries, Hozelock and e2V were among the firms that ran Ginsters close.

Export drive

Sheffield Forgemasters International, who took the Export Manufacturer of the Year, is a company to watch for 2010. It was praised for successfully capitalising on opportunities arising in emerging BRIC economies, and is the world’s major supplier of heavy castings to the offshore sector, as well as realigning its business to benefit from growth industries like power generation.

Following a management buyout in 2005, a strong focus on niche export markets meant Forgemasters completely turned its fortunes around – from bankruptcy and near closure before the MBO to record profits last year. Dudley-based office furniture maker Boss Design was unlucky in this category, following success at these Awards in 2008. Another company to watch, it has a clutch of ISO standards and has won awards for its sustainability and corporate social responsibility.

In other categories, Pentagon Chemicals took top plaudits by a whisker in the 10-shortlisted Best SME category. By eliminating variance Pentagon has increased its yield and generated £1 million worth of extra product this year, while its commitment to safety has seen one of its sites operate for six years without a lost-time accident, and the other site for four years with zero accidents.

Seven Seas won the Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices award, where the company has increased its Overall Equipment Effectiveness this year from 33% to 60%. Linpac Packaging won the Operations and Maintenance award, chased closely by Ginsters. Linpac Packaging’s implementation of almost 7,000, 30-second corrective actions in the 18 months to June 2009, among other operational gains, was a strong contributing factor in the judges’ decision. Motorbike parts maker Renthal did well to win the hugely competitive IT award, where no less than 22 companies entered. The new Manufacturing in Action category is open to companies that have been profiled in The Manufacturer and is judged on a range of business efficiency criteria by the TM editorial team – here Johnston Sweepers were worthy winners.

Pipped at the post

In the Design and Innovation category, Alumet, Blueberry Foods and Glen Dimplex Home Appliances can all justifiably feel unlucky, pushing winner Hozelock hard for top marks. Metal recycling specialist Avon Metals, which has won several prestigious awards, was particularly unlucky on the night having been just edged out in both categories it entered, Sustainable Manufacturing and Best SME. Nazeing Glass just missed out for the second year running on the D&I category, but the company is developing a special type of environmentally friendly glass and is confident of recognition next year.

The Manufacturer would like to thank all the many companies who entered the awards, and to commend those who were shortlisted but did not win. The awards system is inclusive and many small companies, as well as more familiar names, came close. Advanced Recycling Systems, for example, is a small family business from Cornwall who entered the Design and Innovation category with the KerbyCan, a unique system designed to collect, sort and bale recyclable materials including both types of metal cans and plastic bottles while on the road.

A very sincere thank you to all our sponsors for this year’s awards, who are listed below. We hope you will all join us again in 2010 to celebrate more British manufacturing excellence.