With networking events and trade shows two a penny, TM asks why some companies are supporting the Global Manufacturing Festival in April. Chief executive of award winning manufacturer of mechanical seals AESSEAL, Jonathan Wilkinson, tells us.
As managing director of a £135m engineering company with global customers, Jonathan Wilkinson has more than networking events and trade shows on his mind. But Rotherham-based AESSEAL is a perfect name to endorse Sheffield’s big manufacturing networking event in April. It is a global, award-winning manufacturer, a good example of a “local-global” success story that has helped to make the Sheffield City Region stand out as a region.
Nevertheless, supplying to the oil and gas, energy generation and chemical sectors, AESSEAL’s is not a natural fit for most of the four themes of GMF 2013: aerospace, medical, nuclear and renewable energy. TM asked:
Why is AESSEAL supporting the Global Manufacturing Festival?
Jonathan Wilkinson: “There is a strong and proud tradition in this region for manufacturing and we’re coming to show we support that. We’ll get some good press from our stand, I hope. It’s important to meet people and make them aware of why you are here, running this business.
“We’re hosting a factory tour on April 19 – we do about 150 tours a year, we’re keen to show people what best practice is. People are keen to look around a facility like ours and first-timers find its often a million miles from what they expect from a typical manufacturing company.”
You arrange 150 factory visits a year. What demographic are your visitors from?
“Professional peers but we also host school visits and are keen to get more young people exposed to engineering.
“Local schools and universities provide a good pipeline for AESSEAL employees, because of the history of engineering in the region. We’d certainly not turn away candidates from outside the region, but yes this is fertile ground.”
“The Festival coincides with Made in Sheffield and Get up to Speed, a big youth engagement event, so there is a big youth pull here in April. It is very important to show young people there are interesting careers in growing companies in this region and across the UK.”
AESSEAL is sponsoring the GMF. How do you assess the return on investment?
“Sometimes it’s difficult to quantify in financial terms, to compare for example the return on print advertising in targeted publications versus sponsorship of an event like the Festival. I can’t give you an absolute ROI.
We also want to be good corporate citizens, investing in people and the community is a big part of what we do as a company in this region. It’s part of being a business of a certain size in this region and your corporate social responsibility.
“It’s sometimes tough to assess the value in supporting these events, but it pays back in intangible as well as tangible ways.”
Jonathan Wilkinson, CEO, AESSEAL
Products: Mechanical seals and support systems
Markets: Global. Oil and gas, chemical and pharmaceutical, pulp and paper, mining and minerals, biofuel and more.
Turnover: £134m in 2012
Ownership structure: Private and one-third owned by investment group 3i.
Factory tours: 150 per year
AESSEAL has won a string of business awards. Highlights are the IMechE MX Award for Overall Manufacturer of the Year, and in 2009 the equally coveted UK Excellence Award from the British Quality Foundation, that followed a 25-day audit. It is a sponsor of the Global Manufacturing Festival 2013.
AESEEAL is running a factory tour on April 19th – enquiries to [email protected] at the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.
What is the recipe for your success and what is your latest news?
“Customer service. We make very high quality components so our engineering fundamentals are strong but if your customer service is the best in the industry, you will win business.
We acquired AV Technology in Manchester in January for an undisclosed sum. It’s an engineering consultancy that provides condition-based maintenance services, about £6 million turnover, that is well aligned with our core markets and customers. This will improve our service offering.
And we’e recently moved into the Caribbean market for our core products, which is exciting.
“In 2012 our turnover was £134m and we are on track for £150m this year.”
What does the Global Manufacturing Festival need to do to succeed as an international event?
“It needs to ensure that more companies in the region participate in some way in the Festival. The message needs to demonstrate that this is about exports, that the GMF can increase your export volume. It must show others that its here to increase business for local companies through successful cooperation with other companies in the region and internationally
It is not a truly international trade show yet but if the right companies support it, that will come in time.”