Meet the sponsors...
Kate Hartigan, managing director, Schaeffler (UK)
Why are you backing the Best Factory Awards?
As a UK subsidiary of an international manufacturing group, we're focused on process improvement and, through our products and services, we seek to bring improvement opportunities to our customers, so they can maximise plant uptime and productivity. Some of the best manufacturing companies in the UK are involved in these awards. We attend the awards ceremony and take this great opportunity to invite our customers as well. Not only is this a hugely enjoyable and fun day, it also allows us all to see how those companies that have reached the finals perform at the highest levels, with an openness and willingness to improve that goes right through the organisation. I love the enthusiasm these organisations show for what they do.
The awards have such a high profile and are a showcase for UK manufacturing at its finest, which is why we are sponsoring the Best Process Plant award for the second year in succession.
What is the best business advice you've ever received?
It has to be to listen to your customers. Very often, companies will focus on their products and assume that people want these. In practice, you need to understand their business and current application needs, and ensure that what you are offering is right for them.
Being a Tier 1 and 2 supplier as we are, we have to get close to the customer and give real value for money within that partnership. To achieve that, you have to get deep inside the organisation and know what they are doing.
Which manufacturing company do you most admire and why?
We have many companies among our customer base that are leading edge and, regardless of size, have world-class processes and products. In terms of lean manufacturing and continuous process improvement, Johnson Controls is one great example. Every aspect of their business is subject to control improvement, every single day, at every level within the organisation, in an extremely competitive market. That makes them a stand-out company.
What makes British manufacturing great?
There are so many excellent manufacturing companies in the UK, yet the importance of the industry in terms of GDP has been declining for the past 30 years and the sector has lost so many jobs as a result. It's a shame to see what has happened to heavy engineering, for instance. There is nothing quite like the sheer scale of a steelworks, for example, with the furnaces in action and vast machines everywhere. It's still something I love to see up close when I step inside a factory.
Our traditional heavy engineering may never return to what it was. But, if manufacturing in general is able to stay ahead of the game by engaging closely with customers – something a remote site in China is rarely going to achieve – we can create stability and a strong base for the future.
If you could bestow one gift on UK manufacturing, what would that be?
That the people responsible for the decision-making of this country get some real long-term insight and understanding of manufacturing industry and how important it is to our future. I don't think anyone should be allowed to stand as an MP before they have spent three years out in the wider business world, gaining practical exposure to industry and its needs, so they understand exactly what the issues are. Government is making many of the right noises now, but it's still more words than action, so we need to keep the pressure on.
Schaeffler (UK) Ltd
Schaeffler (UK) Ltd
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