We get out on the road with The Manufacturer MX Awards 2023 site visits to find out more about this year’s nominees, their thoughts of the awards process and get some in-depth insights from our judging team.
As we approach the end of the year, thoughts are beginning to turn to the Oscars of manufacturing, commonly known as The Manufacturer MX Awards. Taking place in Liverpool on 15 November, the awards are delivered by The Manufacturer in partnership with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and headline sponsor RS Group.
The Manufacturer MX Awards have a combined heritage of over 50 years and are widely regarded as the gold standard in industry awards. However, the gala ceremony is very much the culmination of a year’s hard work by The Manufacturer team, the awards’ judges, sponsors and nominees.
A key part of the awards process took place in September where moderators from The Manufacturer hosted the judging teams of the various award categories and took part in entrant site visits and judging days.
This sent our teams the length and breadth of the country to some of the UK’s most prestigious and innovative manufacturing companies which have entered categories covering key topic areas such as innovation and sustainability, through to apprenticeships, leadership and staff engagement.
Here, we gather the feedback from some of this year’s finalists on their experience of the awards so far, and get some insight from the judges on this key part of the process.
The application process has highlighted the great things we are doing that we perhaps might not have celebrated. It has allowed us to really recognise the strengths in the categories we have been shortlisted for, and we have learned even more about the business and ourselves from the great feedback we received from the judges.
They helped remind us that we are on a journey and the continuous improvement process is just that. As an SME it can be easy to assume we won’t stand a chance against the big PLCs, but our advice would be to go for it as you very quickly learn a lot about your business and its strengths, and this is a great opportunity to celebrate them.
The big benefit of entering The Manufacturer MX Awards was that, when considering what the judges would like to see, it really makes you think about potential areas for improvement within the business, which is great as it gives you focus areas to work on which may not have been identified otherwise.
It’s an opportunity to look at what you do as a business slightly differently, and the questions and feedback from the judging panel is interesting, as they are looking at the business with fresh eyes and from a different perspective. Again, this is a great opportunity to understand more about where areas for improvement may be within the business, which is very valuable when striving to constantly improve operations.
Our initial entry was a great opportunity for us to take a step back and reflect on all the hard work that goes on behind the doors at Vestatec. In addition to the written entry, the judges’ visit gave us the opportunity to demonstrate in person why our business deserves to win.
It is easy to become desensitised to the work you do when you live and breathe the processes every day, so The Manufacturer MX Awards is a great opportunity to take stock and reflect on our progression over the last few years. It has also shone a spotlight on the many brilliant people we have working within our organisation, without whom achievements like this would be impossible.
For future entrants, take the time to identify what makes your business unique and special, and what drives real value to your customers. The judges’ visit means you won’t get far trying to imitate others.
The Manufacturer MX Awards is a fantastic opportunity to shine a light on some of the amazing businesses that are working in UK manufacturing. So often we only see the final products that we buy as consumers, and rarely give thought to the companies and people that make that product and customer experience happen.
The entry process for the awards has been an all new and enlightening journey. It required looking at ourselves from a different perspective from our products, forcing us to reflect on external perceptions. This led to a deeper understanding of our company’s unique value proposition and market positioning.
Throughout the process, we’ve learned the importance of clear and concise communication of our achievements and innovations. Our advice to future entrants would be to start early – it’s a team effort and focus on the process as well as the products that set your company apart.
The awards have proven to be a valuable platform for industry recognition and with the potential for networking and exchanging ideas. Participating has opened up opportunities for potential new recruits and partnerships we might not have had access to otherwise. Overall, the awards have been a valuable learning experience, a team bonding exercise and a chance to proudly talk about the great things that are happening at GKN Aerospace.
TMMX Awards always bring us together as a company as we strive to look our best on the day of the judges’ visits. We always field a generous panel for the judges’ Q&A sessions because it’s great that as many people as possible can learn what is important to them.
Interestingly, even if we don’t get shortlisted it still teaches us that although we think we have a lot to say in a particular category, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are part of a best practice ‘elite’ group. We analyse the feedback when it arrives and always try to implement suggestions to improve our ways of working.
Because The Manufacturer MX Awards are national, it is always good to benchmark yourself against some of the best in the country. I would encourage businesses to get as many people involved in the process as possible – collating evidence to support the submission criteria.
If you are shortlisted, always attend the evening event in Liverpool as not only is this fun, it’s great to see your company’s name up on the big screen alongside some amazing manufacturing pedigree. Also, don’t just enter one year… once you understand the criteria, keep evaluating yourselves and come back fighting with even more to shout about the next year.
The awards provide a platform for a sense of purpose outside the daily grind, and an opportunity to show pride in your company and its employees. They are hard work but the kudos from being shortlisted (and of course winning) far outweighs the effort required to demonstrate your company’s abilities, processes, products, customer focus and talented employees.
We found the initial submission questions to be simple to complete but challenging enough to get us thinking on a more strategic level. Likewise, the judging visits gave us an opportunity to showcase the best of our organisation to like-minded people passionate about British manufacturing and engineering.
We’ve found that taking part in The Manufacturer MX Awards has enabled us to get everyone within the business involved in celebrating what we do every day. I’d recommend businesses of all shapes and sizes put themselves forward for the awards as they really do showcase the diversity in the industry. We were delighted to participate in the categories of Product Innovation & Design and International Trade, two awards that really do demonstrate the value of engineering here in the UK and further afield.
We love participating in The Manufacturer MX Awards because we get to look outside of our own sector and learn from the best manufacturers in the UK. If we are shortlisted then we get the added bonus of acknowledged industry experts visiting our site and giving us very constructive feedback on our key strategic workstreams.
We use this in our annual strategy deployment process to course-correct and continually improve our plan. Manufacturing requires continuous improvement to stay competitive so, by challenging ourselves in the awards process, it gives us confidence that our strategy and planning is heading in the right direction and allows us to make changes where we see we could improve. For us, the objective is the process – that’s where we get all the value.
The awards is a rigorous process that you can use to help drive your business improvement while benchmarking against the best in UK manufacturing.
Some awards we’ve considered appear quite vague, and we’re never quite sure what they’re after. Whereas, with The Manufacturer MX Awards, it’s very clear. Also, being a manufacturing business that is looking at lean and continuous improvement, it really made sense for us to enter – all the things that we do as a business fitted with the criteria.
To be in with the best chance of winning, you really need to focus and commit to this thorough process. But that’s the real benefit; it would be fantastic if we won or were recognised, but for us, the most important aspect is the learning exercise we go through to find out how we can improve.
It’s nice to get awards, but fundamentally, we do what we do for our customers. And if we can deliver a better service, products and manufacturing for our clients then that will lead to a sustainable business.
And it’s great that the judges who conduct the site visits are such manufacturing experts. You can tell by the questions they ask that they know their stuff. And I can’t wait to see the feedback; it will be really interesting reading and we’re really looking forward to implementing any recommendations they may have so that we can move forward and deliver a better service for our customers.
This is the second year that we’ve entered The Manufacturer MX Awards. I put the entry together personally because I like to make sure that it reflects what we really do and what we’re passionate about.
This year I can honestly say we were literally counting down the days until the shortlist came out. It was a real boost to the whole team when we found out that we got past that first hurdle.
Over the last two years, the awards have provided a great opportunity to learn. It’s always worth getting that validation that what you’re doing is actually to a very good standard. If anyone is thinking of entering the awards in the future, I would absolutely recommend it – it’s a great opportunity to share best practice.
And it’s not an audit. Part of the process is getting advice and feedback from the judges and identifying where you can go to the next level. I’ve got a picture of last year’s awards in my office. It was the proudest moment of my career so far. And, when I look at that picture I know that it’s genuine joy on our faces, knowing that we’d been recognised for such a prestigious accolade.
We treat the awards as an opportunity to benchmark ourselves and to look at how we can improve. Any organisation thinking of entering should keep that in mind. Yes, everyone wants to win, but it’s more about learning how to be better. To win is just the icing on the cake.
We’re absolutely delighted to have been shortlisted in the Sustainable Manufacturing category at The Manufacturer MX Awards 2023. The awards are a highly respected celebration of UK manufacturing excellence and we’re proud to have been recognised for the significant strides we’ve made on our sustainability journey.
It was a pleasure to welcome the judges to our headquarters in Hull, where we were able to show them in person our many notable investments and discuss our plans for a green future. We’re excited for the awards in November and look forward to what we’re sure will be a wonderful occasion.
Andy Hill Sales and Marketing Manager, Philadelphia Scientific – (Product Innovation & Design category)
Being on the judging panel for the Product Design & Innovation category was a truly fantastic opportunity. Witnessing the ingenuity of industry leaders across different manufacturing sectors from companies big and small, made it a truly rewarding experience. The talent on show from all of the different entrants is a testament to the strength of real manufacturing ingenuity in the UK.
Dr David Lott Chief Executive Officer, IfM Engage – (Leadership & Strategy category)
Being a TMMX judge is a significant commitment in time and effort as the judging process is designed to be robust. TMMX judging is also its own reward, however, and it is always a privilege to visit such a wide and varied range of excellent manufacturing companies across the UK. I always learn a huge amount in the process.
This year’s entries represented a range of different industries but were united in their desire to learn, grow and be recognised for their successes, and it was perhaps harder than ever to pick a winner this year.
I would encourage all manufacturers to think about entering the TMMX awards – it’s a great way to reflect on your successes, bring teams together around a shared objective and drive yourself to continue to innovate, grow and improve as a business.
Being named as a TMMX finalist puts your company among the very best in class of UK manufacturers, and is a great way to engage your team and recognise their achievements. Not only that, but the TMMX awards ceremony is the best party in the UK manufacturing calendar.
Tasha Lyth Sustainability Manager, Gripple (Young Manufacturer of the Year category)
It was brilliant to judge the shortlisted candidates for the Young Manufacturer of the Year; the amount of success and motivation displayed by all was inspirational. It made me even prouder to have won the award last year as it gave me a true appreciation for the high calibre of young people we have in the industry. I came away from the day really in awe of the presentations we had seen.
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