The Manufacturer Top 100 2021 alumni Katy Davies is incredibly passionate about manufacturing across its vast range of industries from food production to engineering. Katy is constantly enthralled by how her teams capture customer requirements, create an engineered solution and build it from a seemingly benign array of components and materials into something beautiful and functional that you may see or use every day! She is so proud to be part of the manufacturing sector and her aspiration is to use her love of enabling great people and what she has learnt from her career in finance, food & agriculture, aerospace and lean manufacturing to lead a great manufacturing business that similarly inspires others about what can be achieved behind those roller shutter doors.
Click here to view the video of the full Top 100 interview with Katy Davies.
What is your role at CamdenBoss?
CamdenBoss is a company based in Mildenhall in Suffolk. We design and manufacturer electrical mechanical components, connectors, and plastic enclosures, largely for the electronics industry.
In terms of our enclosures, we have both standard enclosures which we tend to injection mould, and they are sold into large distributors and OEMs. On the other side of the coin, we have fully custom plastic sheet fabricated enclosures for a wide range of customers and industries, largely related to the electronics industry.
What is a managing director? I guess it’s the ultimate leader of the company. First and foremost, I try to ensure I have a crack team of the best people I possibly can, make sure they have everything they need to do their jobs and are fully enthused and motivated to get behind me and my vision and mission, which is world domination ultimately.
What does it mean to you to be part of the Top 100?
It’s incredibly flattering to be a part of the Top 100. I’m really honoured to be nominated, particularly by peers in the industry. Having the chance to meet some of the other members of the Top 100, reading their stories and learning how they’ve got to where they are really shows the manufacturing is an illustrious gang of people, from a range of sectors, who are all doing wonderful things. So, I couldn’t be more flattered and incredibly proud of myself, and the rest of the Top 100, in all we’re doing for the manufacturing industry.
What do you think are the key attributes which led to you being nominated?
I think the basis for my nomination was around the fact that I’m nothing if not enthusiastic and energetic about all things manufacturing. We’re really trying to do some interesting and different things here at CamdenBoss because we’re all about collaboration and trying to think about the manufacturing industry in a modern way, which I believe captured the attention of some of my peers, as well as their support, which I’m really grateful for.
What do you find most inspiring about working in manufacturing and when did you realise this is the career for you?
I struggle to understand how people can’t be inspired by the manufacturing industry. I’m slightly obsessed by the fact if you were to visit any industrial estate across the UK and lifted up the roller shutter doors, you’d see some incredible components being manufactured and designed for a range of industries.
Here, on our industrial estate in Mildenhall, we supply into a range of sectors, some cool products facilitating other people’s really cool tech. Around the corner we’ve got some people making security devices for military vehicles and race cars for customers all over the world – and this is just what we’re doing in a small part of the world in Suffolk.
I’ve always worked in different sectors in and around manufacturing and always been fascinated by the potential of things we can create. It’s probably not been a conscious decision to end up in manufacturing, but it feels like where I’ve been led.
Who or what has been the biggest influences on your career in manufacturing?
The biggest influences on my career in manufacturing would probably be all the different workforces that I’ve had the pleasure to work with over the years. For instance, when I worked in aerospace and defence, I learned more from the guys in the hangers than anybody.
I also learn from my workforce here every day. They teach me something new and interesting, be it about them as people or the processes that we do. It really comes down to the people that I’ve come across in the manufacturing industry, be it workforces or the fascinating customers and suppliers that we work with.
What’s the biggest challenge you have faced in your career so far and how have you overcome it?
The biggest challenge that I’ve faced in my career has to be when I moved out of finance about five years ago. Moving from a finance role to an operational, transformational role was tough and felt like a really big challenge. How did I face it? I think I’ve got a bit of a mantra in life at just being brave, remembering that I had people around me to help, making sure I was listening to what was going on around me and learning from it too. I don’t think you can go wrong if you do all of that.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in manufacturing during your career?
The biggest change in manufacturing has undoubtably been over the last two years due to the pandemic. Compared to when I started my career in manufacturing to where we are now, there seems to be a bigger focus on innovation and of course sustainability.
We talk a lot about the importance of a meaningful people strategy in manufacturing now compared to a couple of decades ago, so it feels like a different place and spirit that we’re driving nowadays.
What are the biggest challenges that are facing manufacturing as a whole and how are you and your company seeking to address this?
I think the biggest challenges we’re facing right now in the industry are around people strategy – skills, recruitment and growing our own workforce.
In terms of what we’re doing at CamdenBoss, we’ve invested heavily in our people strategy. I’m very lucky to have a fantastic head of HR who is bringing on board and investing in those early year careers.
We’re trying to raise awareness for manufacturing to be an option in schools, we’re investing heavily in apprentices and we’re now proud to say that were a member of the 5% Club. We currently have eight percent of our workforce in ‘learn and earn’ type arrangements and we’re looking to grow that.
In terms of sustainability, being totally honest, we’re right at the start of our journey here at CamdenBoss. We’re currently doing a lot of data capture, looking at how we can improve some of the obvious things. We moved into a new facility in June last year and we looked at what we could do as part of that move, and just how we can operate everyday tasks in a more sustainable way. We’re at the start of that but it’s an exciting time to be approaching it.
Can manufacturing learn anything from any other sectors? If so, what?
Manufacturing has lots to learn from other sectors, and equally other sectors have lots to learn from manufacturing. We can look to any other sector at some of the hot topics that we’re talking about right now and learn so much from them because everyone is coming up with some really innovative ideas in their own area.
What sort of growth/change has your company implemented/gone through over the last 12/18 months and how has this been managed?
We’ve been on a change journey since I started at CamdenBoss (which was one week after the UK went into a national lockdown – almost two years ago). We’ve done some pretty incredible things in that time – we’ve completely restructured most of the business, we’ve moved sites and consolidated two sites into one. Plus, we’re about to introduce more capability.
We’ve started a people strategy which is incredibly strong and I’m extremely proud of, and we’re doing much more community engagement. All bets are off with COVID so you’ve got to adapt and change or your not going to survive, so in terms of business performance, we’ve seen a bit of a dip but overall we’ve stayed pretty strong and pretty resilient.
What do you think will be the long-term legacy of this current period of unprecedented change with the manufacturing sector?
The pandemic has already had a huge impact, but I think it’s going to leave an indelible mark. It has changed the game for everybody, regardless of sector. It’s not just manufacturing that’s been affected by the pandemic. On many levels, I’m hoping that the change that we’re seeing now is going to stick and we’re going to see a fundamental shift.
There is a better and more meaningful focus on diversity in the workplace now, and there’s a massive focus on reshoring supply chains back to the UK. It feels like we’ve really got the wind in our sails and I believe it’s our responsibility as manufacturers to capitalise on that and show off what we can do in the UK, the quality that we can offer, and the fact that we do make stuff, we’re very good at it and we should be proud of that fact. I’m hoping that those two massive changes will be permanent and that we won’t shrink back into old habits.
What advice do you have for any younger people who are considering a career in manufacturing?
First and foremost, as manufacturers we need to get over the image we have of working in very hard, dirty and dusty environments. The advice I would give to young people is go and have a look, do a factory tour, speak to people that you may already know in manufacturing. The range of careers on offer are huge, and we’ve got so much to offer, from warehouse people, to production staff, and all of your normal corporate functions, so there’s a whole range of stuff to get involved in.
More manufacturers are talking about being lean and innovative. That’s what we do so it’s really a place for young people to use their creative spirit. In terms of diversity in the workplace, we now have a much better focus on neurodiversity and gender diversity. My fun fact about CamdenBoss is that we’re currently running at just under 55% female, which is incredibly unusual for a manufacturer… but it shouldn’t be. So a manufacturing site is not quite the old-fashioned place that you think it might be.
It is just as exciting to work at a manufacturing company as it is to work at a place like Google – it comes down to the passion for what you do. Manufacturing is a great place to be creative in a massively exciting and growing industry.