David Lockett, 44, general manager of Huco Engineering Components

Where did you finish your education and with what qualifications?

City University: BSc Engineering; Middlesex University: MBA

What was your first job?

Marine fuels and lubricants sales with Chevron Oil.

What are your company’s main areas of business?

We manufacture and distribute components for precision motion and power transmission.

What do you find challenging about your job?

Competing in mature, highly competitive markets with increasing customer demand for service and downward cost pressure.

What are the biggest changes that you have noticed during your career in manufacturing?

The revolution in IT and communications has changed the way everything is done. Marketing, product design and development, manufacturing, sales and accounts: everything is dependent on computers – and, of course, it is still changing.

Do you think that manufacturing receives the recognition that it deserves from Government and the general public?

No. My impression is that our competitors in mainland Europe receive more support from government, whether direct or indirect, and enjoy higher public esteem.

How would you describe the current climate for manufacturing business in the UK?

It is very tough. Just to survive you have to be lean and flexible and to really prosper you need a very positive customer-oriented culture. It’s not a particularly original idea but you really have to get into the habit of delighting the customer.

What will have the biggest impact on manufacturing over the next 10 years?

Still IT and communications. We have yet to see the full effect of the internet – already we are receiving orders from places we had previously never heard of. Without our website our information would not have reached them and they would have trouble reaching us. And this is only the beginning.

The pressure is for manufacturing to become ever-more nimble and flexible. Flexible manufacturing with fast set-up times and hence short lead times means better service with less working capital tied up in stock and work in progress. I expect customers in the future to be able to place their orders online and receive direct shipment from the end of the production line, eliminating delays and reducing cost.

Will there be a substantial manufacturing industry in the UK in 20 years’ time?

UK manufacturing has been reducing as a proportion of the economy for decades. We’ve lost out to competitors, sometimes because of economic factors outside our control but also because of bad marketing.

If the UK is to have a substantial manufacturing industry in the future, companies need to focus clearly on their products and markets. They have to pick their target sector, understand the global nature of their market and design innovative products which fit that market. Then they have to set out to be the best in their sector. We have some good examples in this country – JCB and Dyson spring to mind. These are the kind of companies which will keep British manufacturing alive.

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