Top 100 interview: Andrea Wilson, Hone-All Precision

Posted on 22 Mar 2022 by The Manufacturer

Andrea WilsonThe Manufacturer Top 100 2021 alumni Andrea Wilson is a Director of Hone-All Precision, a specialist SME based in Leighton Buzzard offering precision machining services in deep hole boring, deep hole drilling, CNC honing and CNC turning, with a skilled team of thirty-six.

Hone-All is a successful company with a vibrant and strong brand, recognised throughout the industry and regularly cited as an exemplar business for continuous improvement and regular investment in both their teams and technology.

The business services over four thousand customers who represent every industry including Aerospace, Defence, Automotive, Petrochemical, Nuclear, and Construction.

Andrea has spent over 25 years working to improve the awareness, recognition, and image of the industry within the UK and has been active in influencing the Government’s approach and focus to ensure long term manufacturing strategic planning and success.

This included membership of the EEDA Manufacturing Panel, the Automotive Academy Steering Committee, the NSAM / SEMTA skills Council for the Eastern region and the MTA Training & Education Committee.

She was Chair of the Make UK Eastern Regional Advisory Board for over 10 years and still sits on the Make UK National Membership Board.

She is a passionate campaigner for a dedicated Commissioner for SME Manufacturing to represent engineering and manufacturing and improve the knowledge of, and support for, SME businesses within Government in the hope of changing the “one size fits all” approach once and for all.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Top 100?

It’s an honour. This is my third time in the Top 100 and I am truly humbled that people nominate me. (I was there twice as Andrea Rodney, prior to getting married).

What do you think are the key attributes which led to you being nominated?

I believe my passion for the industry shines through and the people who nominate me do so because they know that the work I do, the campaigning I call for and the changes I push to see are for the good of my industry, not just my business.

What do you find most inspiring about working in manufacturing and when did you realise this is the career for you?

The variety, the diversity, the depth and breadth of engineering and manufacturing businesses astounds me constantly and I never stop learning. I knew this was the career when I first joined 30 years ago.

Who or what has been the biggest influences on your career in manufacturing?

I’d love to say it’s something positive, but my biggest influences and motivators are simply the governments complete lack of understanding of the needs and requirements of SME businesses. Their ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is steered by the large OEMs in most cases and it’s time that the voice of the SME was heard within government.

What’s the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far and how have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge in the early days was gender bias but I saw it as fun, a challenge and I loved pushing back! I didn’t see it as a problem but as an opportunity for a re-education for those ‘struggling’.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in manufacturing during your career?

Diversity is much improved – both in gender and age. Also, engineering and manufacturing businesses are much more processed-based now and are aware of image and CSR so much more than they ever were.

What are the biggest challenges that are facing manufacturing as a whole and how are you and your company seeking to address this?

The lack of skills and the complete failure of government to address the skills shortages is our biggest challenge. We run adult apprenticeships here (a posh way of training someone with no knowledge who is keen to learn) and also campaign for change within government.

Can manufacturing learn anything from any other sectors? If so, what?

Yes – look at the amount of good quality skills training courses there are in construction, beauty etc. More importantly, we need to learn from the past – apprenticeships within businesses were successful and trained multiple generations. Give businesses the funding being wasted on numerous skills agencies and let us train our people ourselves on the correct equipment and with the correct skillsets.

What sort of growth/change has your company implemented/gone through over the last 12/18 months and how has this been managed?

The company has retracted due to COVID but the bounce back started in September and seems to be continuing. We are now looking at this year (2021) being at our pre-COVID level which was our best year ever (end 2019).

What do you think will be the long-term legacy of this current period of unprecedented change with the manufacturing sector?

COVID has changed the way we work and how we interact – that will stay forever.

What advice would you have for any younger people who are considering a career in manufacturing?

Don’t even question it – just do it! Be open to the large number of careers in manufacturing and engineering – accounts, marketing, quality, machining, H&S, IT – there’s just so many options and not just the ‘perceived’ routes to success.