Meet The Manufacturer Top 100 2019 Exemplars – 3: James Grainger

The Manufacturer Top 100 is a project that showcases the most dynamic leaders, young pioneers and unsung heroes working in UK manufacturing, all of which have been nominated by their peers.

Among the Top 100, however, our judging panel chose 20 individuals for special recognition. We call them ‘Exemplars’ – those who have exemplified remarkable leadership, daring or innovation within their respective field, and who set the direction of travel as we head into the new decade.

James Grainger, Executive Director, Grainger and Worrall

James Grainger
James Grainger, Executive Director, Grainger and Worrall

“Long-termism, investment in emerging technologies, and integrating those technologies and our people to create amazing metal shapes that our customers want, that’s the difference.”

James Grainger, Executive Director of Grainger and Worrall, tells an amazing story of ambition, inspiration, and being terrified at some of the decisions being made in hard economic times. It’s a humble and engaging story of building a family business, incorporated by his grandfather and his brother-in-law (Worrall), developed by his father, and now expanded and run by James with his brother’s Matthew and Edward.

So, what’s the secret? “Adapting to change and not getting complacent,” says James. “Getting out there and seeing the world, learning how the best companies in the world are doing things, what their different approaches are, and how they are motivating their team. Pitch yourself against the best in the world and focus on being better than them.”


We learn from our mistakes and we battle on because we were always hardworking, very focused and competitive


There is a difference to running a corporate PLC, to building a micro business, to James’ mature and growing family-owned mid-sized businesses.

“The transition from a big small to a small big company creates many challenges, in creating strong systems to replace corridor conversations, providing team members with progression paths, and creating a profile for the best place to work. It’s is a great challenge to have,” he said.

GW is now employing 700 people, with £70m turnover, and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10-15%. They were first to bring CT scanning and 3D sand printing into foundry commercial applications, supply the F1 teams, hyper and performance cars, the ever-expanding electric vehicle segment and commercial markets.

The Manufacturer Top 100 Logo 2019 - For Use in Slider BarCelebrating seven years of inspirational industry leaders

Launched in 2014, The Manufacturer Top 100 publicly recognises the most dynamic leaders and innovators in manufacturing.

Published by The Manufacturer, in partnership with Cranfield University, one of the country’s top centres of business education, the project is helping to dispel widely-held myths that vibrant manufacturing in the UK is a thing of the past.

Click here to make your nomination for The Manufacturer Top 100 2020, and to download a copy of the 2019 publication.

In 2016, joined by like-minded companies, GW created a collaborative training school, enabling a further entry route to their engineering business whilst supporting the local community.

“When you become the largest engineering employer in the region, a provider for hundreds of families, there is a corporate social responsibility. As a family-centric business, with myself, my brothers and our families living locally, we support our friends and town with the same long-term approach that we approach our business. You can enjoy both an international and local relationship.”

James’ grandfather could not have known that he had started a family tradition of industriousness and determination that would pass to his son and from there to his grandson.

“We learn from our mistakes and we battle on because we were always hardworking, very focused and competitive. We got that culture from my father to say, ‘right, go and get stuck in, find a solution, find a way’. My son, Alex, has been involved for more than 10 years now and is picking up the reins as he goes along.”

In their own words

What is your favourite engineered/manufactured product?

The F1 engine. From the late 90s it was a V10 naturally aspirated engine with 1000hp. Today it’s a 1.6 V6 hybrid twin turbo. Lap times are faster and fuel is reduced by half.

Please give one interesting fact about yourself that not many people know.

I recently started paddle boarding and sometimes I stay on it!

If you weren’t in manufacturing what would your dream job be?

Growing the family business is the dream job – it’s a way of life

In 2018, Grainger and Worrall saw its groups’ overall turnover soar to £8m when the company transitioned from complex, low-tolerance machining support, to work directly with OEM customers, delivering precision machined parts for customers all over the world – Diversification sees UK casting maker boost turnover by £8m

The Manufacturer Top 100 is produced in partnership with Cranfield University – one of the country’s top centres of business education, and low-cost talent partner, Trust Hunter Ltd (Hunter).