Manufacturing Growth Strategies Event: A Strategy for Success

By Made In Group
schedule18th Mar 24

In a testament to the resilience and innovation of Yorkshire's manufacturing sector last week, Made in Yorkshire convened a Manufacturing Growth Strategies event, expertly hosted by Clarion and supported by Partners PR. The gathering drew a distinguished group of more than 50 industry leaders and stakeholders from across the county and beyond.

The event showcased a series of strategic visions for navigating the complexities of the evolving manufacturing landscape.

Bringing together the Yorkshire manufacturing community

The attendee list was extensive and varied, with representation from the widest range of sectors. Before the formal part of the event, delegates networked over breakfast and conversations flowed. From food to fuel, from clamps to cell management, from robotics to radio frequency, all things manufacturing were on the menu.

Making things happen for companies that make things

The event was hosted by Richard Moran, a corporate finance lawyer with over 25 years' of experience. Richard works with a wide range of clients on mergers and acquisitions, private equity and debt transactions and management buy-outs and heads up the manufacturing team at Clarion, as well as being their Senior Partner. Clarion is renowned as one of the most agile and innovative law firms in Leeds, and it showed.

Richard explained: “I'm the head of the manufacturing team here and I'm delighted that manufacturing is the largest sector within Clarion, which is something we in the manufacturing team here are extremely proud of. You make things, we make things happen, we feel that's a good alignment.”

Embracing connected technologies to reshape industries and transform cities

The first speaker was Mike Wilkinson, Senior Director at Schneider Electric. An industry veteran with more than 30 years’ experience, who has been with Scheider for the last 14 years. Mike provided a helicopter view of the macro issues the is observing in manufacturing.

Schneider, a global organisation with a local focus, has made significant investments in manufacturing and supply chain localisation, particularly in the UK. The company is investing in transforming its Leeds site, which currently employs around 500 staff, with plans to ramp up recruitment significantly over the next few years.

Schneider also prioritises research and development, investing 5% of its revenue back into R&D to launch new products and stay ahead of the market. Mike emphasised the importance of digitisation and electrification in driving change and sustainability efforts. Schneider is working with clients to implement renewable energy solutions, microgrids, and energy storage to optimise energy usage and reduce costs.

Mike also shared how the concept of smart cities and smart homes is gaining traction, with a focus on integrating renewable energy sources, battery storage, and electric vehicle charging. He explained: “In the new world it's very much around creating a smart city approach. We’re seeing that in the States where people can build a house and they've got battery storage, photovoltaic charging, electric vehicle charging, and they create their own power hub. They're able to use the power that they need, whatever they do, they can store or send back to the grid.”

Nothing is permanent except change

Steve Crown, Clarion’s Business Development Director was next to present. Steve works with manufacturing clients on strategy and market segmentation.

Steve emphasised the importance of understanding external and competitive dynamics, continually innovating, and making strategic choices to drive growth and success in the manufacturing sector. He also highlighted collaboration as a key factor in overcoming constraints and achieving mutual benefits.

Steve referred to a quote from the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus: “Nothing is permanent except change.” Steve explained that he couldn’t resist the temptation to include the quote because he believed it still holds very true today but he also posed a question for the audience: “Is change a threat, or is it an opportunity? I hope everyone in the room will see it as an opportunity and not a threat.” Steve’s message was very much that he and the team at Clarion are here to support their manufacturing clients, come what may.

The importance of using strategic communications as a key tool to navigate change and add value

Another Made in Yorkshire patron, Karen Tinkler from Partners PR took centre stage next to outline five steps to make sure manufacturers’ communications support their growth strategies. Karen provided an overview of her role as co-owner of the firm and shared her pride that Partners PR had recently been awarded the Good Business Charter.

Karen explained how the majority of their work involves helping manufacturing companies use PR and communications to attract talent, build value, and navigate change. She pointed out that communication is often overlooked or not maximized in change management, but it can add significant value.

“Something I see fairly often as an area that's often overlooked in change management is communication, or if it's not overlooked it's certainly not maximised. There are so many ways that communication can add value when you're looking at change or evaluating different strategies in a business. There is a lot of value to be had from it.”

Karen set out the case for manufacturers to make communication strategic plans and understand their target audiences, both internally and externally, at home and overseas. She explained how knowledge is power.

Igniting success

Karen handed over to Fiona Conor, Managing Director of Trust Electric Heating, who gave an overview of how the company has pioneered unique marketing approaches, igniting success in the electric heating sector.

Trust Electric logo

Fiona explained how she transitioned into manufacturing from a sales and marketing background but how she harnessed her skillset to develop a strong marketing strategy, ensure strong growth and revenue generation. She discussed how audience and consumer behaviour are changing, with increased use of smart devices and mobile technology.

She also highlighted the significance of having a well-designed and optimised website as a primary sales tool, utilising a focus on search engine rankings and customer reviews.

Other themes Fiona covered included personalisation and targeting different audience segments for effective advertising, and testing concepts, using buyer personas and customer avatars. The importance of embracing social and video content was also front and centre.

Fiona and her team are focused on rapid growth from a standing start as a new entrant to the market so the emphasis was on working smart as well as working hard.

Customer-first is Fiona’s mantra: “For me and my journey, I have to begin with the end in mind and that is my consumer.”

Home is where the heart is

Richard McLoughlin, Head of Power at Keighley-based Teconnex was next to speak. Richard leads the growth and development of a business unit developing and manufacturing new energy storage solutions for renewable energy systems.

The company’s roots go back to the 1950s and it remains family-led, and family-built to this day. 25 years ago, they were a £10 million business. Seven years ago, they were a £30 million business and in 2024 they hit £100 million.

Richard discussed the company's history and growth, highlighting a shift towards diversification due to market trends. The company's success in reducing emissions in internal combustion engines led to a focus on making clamps and serving aerospace. The company’s recent efforts to expand into energy storage, particularly alternative technologies, such as sodium batteries, demonstrates a forward-thinking approach to sustainability, energy efficiency, and collaboration with external partners.

Richard also discussed internationalisation efforts in China, Mexico, Romania, and India, which were primarily driven by strategic decisions and Brexit considerations. The challenges of sourcing materials from China and the potential of sodium technology were also discussed.

Home is where the heart is for Richard and Teconnex though: “Out of the thousand-plus employees we've got in the business, about 500 work in Keighley, so we're the largest private employer in the town, which we're really proud of. What we are trying to do as part of the diversification strategy is take the more commodity-based parts of our business and move them to those offshore locations while keeping Keighley as the engineering hub.”

Unique organisation, unique culture

Andrew Whitwell, Managing Director at Labman Automation Ltd, a leading designer and manufacturer of custom laboratory automation and robotics based in Stokesley, North Yorkshire was next to present. Andrew provided an overview of a unique organisation with a unique culture to match. The location of Labman’s facilities in rural North Yorkshire means there is plenty of reasonably priced space, so much so that the site has its own squash court, but it also provides challenges of attracting recent graduates to work in a rural location.

Andrew gave a snapshot of the open culture of the business: “We encourage people to cross-fertilise ideas. We encourage people to join meetings of any sort.”

He was frank about the challenges of finding the right talent with the right skills in a highly technical area. He discussed the need to have a strong presence at university careers fairs to meet the best candidates face-to-face. He touched upon the struggles of navigating an education system that doesn’t always prepare students for the workforce.

Andrew concluded by discussing the evolution of automation technology and the need for specialised machines tailored to specific tasks within a production line.

Planning to succeed

Up against a packed agenda, Richard did a skilful job of summarising the themes raised by the expert speakers. He emphasised the importance of planning for the end and starting early to achieve successful succession in manufacturing companies, highlighting too the importance of understanding the drivers and considering the various options when planning for succession.

Richard reminded the audience of the need for expert advice and engaging with stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition, with good planning leading to various opportunities and strategies, such as employee share options, that can enhance value and achieve the desired end game.

Closing thoughts

Jason Pitt, Made in Group’s CEO led the final session of the day, talking attendees through the newly published, hot-of-the-press Growth Survey findings. Jason explained that the survey findings captured the responses of 111 companies from across the manufacturing sector, with 83% of respondents in these companies being at director level.

Jason summarised the findings as follows:

In the last 12 months, 27% of businesses responding experienced high growth (of 20% or more), 20% had moderate growth, and 20% had low growth (10% or less). Additionally, 14% of businesses remained static, while 12% contracted. This indicates a significant growth trend in the manufacturing sector.

Expectations for the next 12 months are even more positive. 36% of companies predict high growth, 39% expect moderate growth, and only 16% anticipate low growth or below. This suggests that companies are exceeding their own expectations and are optimistic about the future.

Some factors that are hindering companies from improving their production and efficiency include power-related issues and succession planning. Interestingly, around 36-37% of companies are actively engaged in succession planning, which is a noteworthy finding. Overall, there is a strong sense of positivity and aspiration among businesses.

Audience response

Made in Yorkshire prides itself on delivering high-quality events and networking opportunities that get attendees thinking and talking with their colleagues. Networking opportunities abounded at the event, providing attendees with a platform to forge new connections, cultivate partnerships, and explore potential synergies with the potential to propel their businesses to new heights. The buzz of conversation and exchange of business cards in the room bore testament to the vibrant ecosystem of collaboration and innovation that defines Made in Yorkshire's manufacturing community.

Manufacturing Growth Strategies Audience

Event feedback for attendees included:

“I found it such an insightful event. The speakers were extremely good. I particularly enjoyed Schneider Electric's talk. It’s interesting to learn how the whole business ecosystem is going to change to become more self-contained in terms of energy. It has a big impact on where I see the security sector going as well, being more macro, more self-contained.” Luke Appleby – Equilibrium Risk

In conclusion, the Made in Yorkshire Growth Strategies event was not just a gathering of industry leaders; it was a testament to the resilience, ingenuity, and collaborative spirit that define Yorkshire's manufacturing landscape. As the industry charts a course towards a brighter and more sustainable future, the event stands as a source of inspiration and a catalyst for transformative change in the region's manufacturing ecosystem.


Chat with us!

Live Chat

Welcome to our microsite, please tell us your name, company and email to chat with a member of the team.