Despite UK productivity appearing to be lagging behind most of the G7 countries last quarter and capital investment in the manufacturing sector slumping 24% below pre-crisis trends, Midlands manufacturing is still seeing trend bucking growth.
The Made in the Midlands industry forum met at Minster Micro in Kidderminster this month to check on the health of the sector in the Midlands with some of its members. “We’re still seeing our customers experiencing almost unprecedented growth as they continue to win orders they can’t turn down” commented Susan Marlow, Financial Director at Minster. “We hosted the forum to gain insight into the story behind the success of the ‘Midlands engine’ to get a steer on how firms in the region are strategising.”
For some, it seems breaking away from short term parts sales into more of a service mindset which seems to have been one such strategy for Intec Laser. Head of Sales & Marketing David Wheatley said; “More and more customers are looking for a complete solution, not just part of a process – our response is to handle the whole network supply chain on behalf of the customer and as a result our group have just had the best three months in our history”. The story is similar for Cannock based Aluminium Ingot Manufacturers Norton Aluminium; “We’re seeing production tonnage up by 30% this year, our USP remains the high quality of material that we’re able to produce, as a smaller proportion of our market requires such high quality material we are looking at a huge diversification strategy to capitalise” commented Norton Aluminium Managing Director Andrew Fogarty.
The past 24 months for one participant has been particularly ground breaking as Rugby based Assembled Electronics Solutions has managed to double its turnover through product innovation culminating in the launch of a new division launched this year. “Electronics go into everything and we feel we could collaborate with most firms in this forum – our company growth is very exciting – a lot of the opportunities lie around ‘the internet of things’ in industry. We realised an electronics company shouldn’t be selling into other electronics companies, but finding problems in other sectors with an electronics based solution – we’re particularly interested in creating mandated technology where customers would simply have to buy AES” said Managing Director Nigel Maris.
Technology has certainly been a game changer for solving customer problems and the power of communication through the internet was echoed by sentiments of Minster’s Managing Director Nick Marlow; “We had an instance last week where we telephoned a customer to inform him his factory computer system was about to fail and we had a team with him on site before anything went wrong. He was really impressed as this meant that he didn’t lose any down-time and therefore there was no financial impact on his business”.
The Made in the Midlands forum rotates around member premises and positions company owners and managers into an environment where they can share market intel and best practice. “Research from Birmingham City University this year showed that manufacturing and engineering is behind half of the region’s economic output, so it is no surprise to see our firms yet again riding above the national trends and softening we’ve seen in 2015 reflected in the latest PMI data” commented Made in the Midlands Chief Operating Officer, Charles Addison.”