Top 100 Interview: Anita Davenport-Brooks, Lander Group

Posted on 16 Mar 2022 by The Manufacturer

Anita Davenport-BrooksThe Manufacturer Top 100 2021 alumni Anita Davenport-Brooks has the opportunity within Lander to be involved in developing and building the future strategy for the business. She has a passion for people development and is proud of Lander’s apprenticeship and people development programmes which have received lots of external recognition and awards. Supporting people to achieve more than they expected they could, no matter what their background or ability, really inspires Anita. She is also the Regional Chair for the West Midlands Apprenticeship Ambassador Network and has met passionate and dedicated people supporting apprenticeships in lots of different organisations. Anita said she was excited and honoured to be the winner of the Skills Champion award this year from Enginuity.

Click here to view the video of the full Top 100 interview with Anita Davenport-Brooks.

What is your role at Lander?

I am the Group HR Manager for Lander, the company manufactures tubular components for the automotive industry. I have the opportunity within Lander to be involved in developing and building the future strategy for the business. I have a passion for people development and I am proud of our apprenticeship and people development programmes which have received lots of external recognition and awards. Supporting people to achieve more than they expected they could, no matter what their background or ability, really inspires me.

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

To be part of the Top 100 for the second time (this time as an Exemplar) is absolutely amazing. I am really honoured and blessed to be shortlisted and nominated for the award.

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

I think it’s my passion for manufacturing and apprenticeships. I really believe apprenticeships are the future for manufacturing and other industries. So, I really am keen to promote manufacturing and apprenticeships to a wider audience.

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

Every day is different. There are a variety of challenges and people from different backgrounds. The different elements of the industry such as customers, suppliers and myself, find that it is more of a family atmosphere – everyone really wants to achieve their goals and objectives.

Everyone is keen to make sure the company can be the best. I realised it was a career for me when I first worked in manufacturing for the Japanese. I loved their style of management, methods, kaizen and lean manufacturing. It inspired me not only to work in HR within manufacturing but to understand manufacturing processes a lot more. I had the opportunity to learn about value stream mapping, and I still use some of the techniques today.

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

It has to be my time working with the Japanese. I loved the way their processes work, and the ideas that they have – it is very structured. I’ve also been inspired a previous manufacturing manager, Nigel, who I worked with at Omron. He was so inspiring and took every day as it came, he didn’t get riled by any of the challenges, was very calm, very collected and always said ‘tomorrow is another day’. I’ve also taken inspiration from other people outside of manufacturing, such as Tony Robbins.

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

Working with previous managing directors, where their style of management was very autocratic.  They were not focused people at all and did not believe in apprenticeships. They thought that the only thing that was important was getting the product out to the customer, which it is. However, sometimes it was at the detriment of some of the support needed for some of the operators or managers within the business.

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

It’s got to be the changes in technology. More robots, the introduction of cobots etc. Also being able to use AR/VR within training but also within design and development. Those technology changes have been really interesting and inspiring, but also challenging as we’ve had to make sure we have people with the right skills.

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

The digital revolution. Everything is getting leaner and smarter, so we need to upskill our workforce and make sure they have got the digital skills needed for the future. Not only in our industry but also within manufacturing generally. At Lander we have taken on two new businesses, both with their own sites. They are not as advanced technically or as up to speed as far as skills are concerned. So our challenge is to make sure we upskill but also to continue with our apprenticeship programme.

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

Throughout my career I worked in lots of different sectors such as service and retail, and I think there is always something we can learn from each other. I see that as part of my role as Regional Chair at the West Midlands Apprenticeship Ambassador Network group. We have different organisations that are part of that group so there is always something to learn – new ideas, technologies, programmes etc.

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

In 2020 not only did COVID hit but Lander, a family-owned business, was actually sold to an investment company. So, straight away that was a massive change for the business. However, it was greatly supported by the new owners and they made sure we did all the right things; supporting workers that were on furlough, keeping communications going, putting the right measures in place when we needed to bring people back into work.

Then in September last year the company purchased two new businesses, which are now part of the Lander Group. There are two different sites, one in West Bromwich, one in Malvern. As I mentioned previously, their methods of working are quite outdated, so there are a lot of challenges – not only from the manufacturing side but from a people perspective. The culture is really different so we need to support them. We are more of a family environment here and we support each other – we want people to develop and have opportunities to grow within the business.

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

Over the last two years, through Brexit and COVID, manufacturers have supported each other, grown together and risen to the challenge. Just look at the ventilator challenge – so many companies in manufacturing, from different backgrounds, came together – all the barriers were reduced. So I think as technology changes and we become manufacturers, rather than just specific industries, we will see companies like ourselves going into other markets and being successful. In a way I think we all understand why it is important to be a manufacturer in the UK and we all want to stay being manufacturers in the UK.

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

The advice I give to young people that I take to network at schools and careers events around manufacturing, is that it is a career that you can step into one department and go into any other, as long as you are up for the challenge and you want to develop, grow and have an exciting career.

There’s more of a diverse opportunity to develop your career and I’ve seen apprentices start in manufacturing that have become team leaders, group leaders and managers of the future. I’ve also seen people go into quality purchasing and even HR.