TM Podcast – business transformation & ageing workers

Editor-at-large Nick Peters charts Michelin Dundee's journey from survival to excellence with plant manager, John Reid; and uncovers one director's proactive response to an ageing workforce.

Podcast 1

John Reid took over Michelin’s ailing Dundee tyre plant in 2010 and not only saved it from closure but turned it into a world-leader.

John Reid, plant manager, Michelin Dundee.
John Reid, plant manager, Michelin Dundee.

In 2010, Michelin’s Dundee car tyre plant was on its knees. It lived under the permanent threat of closure, the axe swinging ever closer as productivity stuttered.

On every metric possible, the plant languished at the bottom of the company’s league table. As the largest private employer in the town with a workforce of 900, families and Dundee itself lived in fear of disaster.

Today, by startling and exhilarating contrast, Michelin Dundee is Michelin’s best-in-class, now topping the tables that were once the source of its shame. What was the secret? Investment? Well, yes, there has been £70m of that, compared with virtually nothing pre-2010, but that was a consequence, not a cause.

If you ask John Reid, who took over as plant manager in 2010, he would say the transformation was brought about by people. But every fire needs a spark – Reid is just too modest to admit that the spark was him.

He told Nick Peters how he and his team did it, and how the key was winning the support of the workforce – and the Unite union.

 

Podcast 2

Some parts of the manufacturing sector are facing an existential crisis as the workforce ages and insufficient young engineers enter the system. One company owner thinks he has the solution.

Ageing Workforce Feature - Grant Jamieson, managing director, Winkworth Mixers.
Grant Jamieson, managing director, Winkworth Mixers.

Grant Jamieson is managing director of Winkworth Mixers and should be pretty pleased with the world he surveys. After all, he exports to most of it, and so highly regarded are his products that the name Winkworth has become the catch-all name for mixers, just as Hoover did for vacuum cleaners.

The company started in 1924 and is renowned for machinery that mixes anything from concrete to chewing gum. The products are high value with long lifetimes, and they can be found from Russia to the US, Australia to Mexico, mixing products for the world’s top brands. Winkworth turns over in excess of £6m and employs just shy of 50 people. A classic SME success story.

But Jamieson is far from content. A cautious man, he has been watching with mounting concern what he calls ‘the trough’ moving steadily through his workforce.

At one end he has a large number of ageing workers who are approaching the natural end to their career (although now, of course, they can go on past 65) and at the other he has the prospect of younger engineers joining up as a result of the latest apprenticeship programmes, but between them lies the trough, which is 25 years long and contains very few middle-aged employees. When the older ones retire, he will have a problem.

He discussed these challenges with Nick Peters.