Hinge benefits: Brompton’s ebullient MD is pedalling the maker of the iconic folding bike into the 21st century.
The Brompton Bicycle company doesn’t bother much with marketing. It doesn’t need to. Its iconic folding bikes spread the word far more effectively than any carefully conceived advertising campaign. And as anyone who travels regularly on the UK’s city streets will testify, the firm’s elegant mode of transport appears to be growing in popularity.
Much of the credit for this goes to the company’s ebullient young managing director (MD) Will Butler-Adams who, since joining in 2002 and taking over from the firm’s founder Andrew Ritchie as MD in 2008, has seen production rocket from 7,000 to 30,000 bikes per year.
It’s a success story that’s been pounced on by a government increasingly keen to talk up the value of the UK’s manufacturing sector. Vince Cable and Nick Clegg kicked off their recent manufacturing summit with a visit to Brompton’s West London factory, and Butler-Adams himself has become a regular fixture on industry panels and think tanks aimed at stimulating interest in engineering. After a few minutes in his company, it’s easy to see why.
Joining the firm as a new products manager in 2002, Butler-Adams was shocked to find an operation that, despite making a profit, was apparently stuck in the 1950s. ’I’d worked for Nissan,’ he said. ’I’d studied engineering and I knew what world-class manufacturing was. I came here and thought “oh my God”. I just couldn’t believe that this kind of thing existed. It looked like a warehouse – there was no sign of any manufacturing going on.’
MEng in mechanical engineering from Newcastle upon Tyne University, UK, and Universidad de Valladolid, Spain
September 1997 – January 2000
ICI/Dupont, project manager, PTA Plant, Teesside
Project manager for all Minor Mechanical Projects across two £175m
COMAH plants. Took part in three plant shut downs and successfully delivered more than $1m (£620,000) of projects
Dupont, plant engineer, PET Plant, Teesside Responsible for the total maintenance of a £60m polyester plant
Joined Brompton Bicycle as new products manager
Became engineering director for Brompton. Promotion to the board enabled him to have a greater influence over the strategy of the business. This has included setting out a five-year business plan to increase efficiency and capacity
Became managing director of Brompton