MANUFACTURING DEBATE: ‘How’s business?’ 10 bosses asked

Past Master Cutler David Grey talks advanced manufacturing. Mike Rigby, Barclays head of manufacturing, is left. Picture Chris Etchells.

Past Master Cutler David Grey talks advanced manufacturing. Mike Rigby, Barclays head of manufacturing, is left. Picture Chris Etchells.

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How’s business? That was the first question for those at the table – and with a huge range of backgrounds the answers were fascinating – and varied.

They also provided a snapshot into the economic health of manufacturing locally.

A Star debate on advanced manufacturing at the University of Sheffield's Factory 2050 boardroom. Picture: Chris Etchells

A Star debate on advanced manufacturing at the University of Sheffield's Factory 2050 boardroom. Picture: Chris Etchells

Verdict: Not bad, thanks.

Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre employs 560 across several buildings on the Advanced Manufacturing Park in Rotherham. It carries out research for paying industrial partners.

Keith Ridgway: “Business is very buoyant, our order book is full for the next two-and-a-half years and we’re advertising for 65 staff.

AESSEAL netted its 13th Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2016.

Keith Ridgway leads a tour of Factory 2050. Picture: Chris Etchells

Keith Ridgway leads a tour of Factory 2050. Picture: Chris Etchells

Stephen Shaw: “We’re doing OK business has grown in terms of turnover and profitablity throughout 2016.

Matthew Chenery looks after 40 manufacturing clients who bank with Barclays in Sheffield.

He said: “Firms are showing resilience in the face of unprecedented uncertainty. The outlook is more positive than people were expecting. There has been a shift in thinking away from the things they can’t control – they’re getting on with business.”

Newburgh Precision, based in Rotherham, is a contract manufacturer of high specification component parts and assemblies.

Vince Middleton: “Business is more positive than it has been for the last two years, but turnover and staff are down 50 per cent. Now we’re looking to recruit and reinvest. It’s been a tough two years, we have moved out of oil and gas and into defence.”

Barclays has a 27 per cent share of manufacturing sector businesses.

Mike Rigby: “Business was subdued last year due to significant macro effects such as volatility in foreign exchange.

“There’s a feeling that export restrictions are too far away to worry about and business will handle that when they get to it, and there will be some form of agreement.”

OSL Group is a conglomerate of manufacturing companies based in Sheffield

David Grey: “We have had a good year, with one small hiccup – Brexit.

“What happened is what always happens, people sit on their hands for a time and then carry on as normal.

“Customers still want products and at this stage there are no tariffs and no bureaucracy. They are buying because we have a commercial proposition they find attractive.”

British Steel was re-formed in June when investment firm Greybull bought Tata Steel’s long products business. It employs 5,000 people mainly in Scunthorpe, Teesside and Rotherham.

Gari Harris: “We are still battling headwinds in terms of the market but we have made money month on month – we made £4m last month and we have started to employ people again.

“We are building up and planning to hit the targets we presented to Greybull. But we have felt the impact of Brexit. We hoped to work with a Brazilian company under a partnership plan funded by the Horizon 2020 (an EU-funded scheme) but we lost out to an Italian company.”

Mark Webber: “We have three companies and it’s the first time in living memory all three have had overtime at Christmas.

“We make suspension components for the European truck industry, that has held up well, we have the highest levels of output for four years.

“Tyzack Machine Knives – 60 per cent is export to the US and December saw the first improvement in business for three or four years. US businesses like Trump, there is a feelgood factor over there.”

Adrian France: “We make high-pressure cylinders for oil and gas and defence. Turnover is down 50 per cent due to oil and gas and we are developing our defence work, that’s supporting the business at the moment. But we are in good shape, the first quarter of next year is looking strong.”