Phil Kite, MD Astrum (UK) with Lord Bates, Shadow Cabinet minister and Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party, at EEF's North East Regional Council.
I am the Managing Director of Astrum (UK) Limited, based in Stanhope, County Durham. We are an engineering business with a workforce of ~250 and operate in the Defence, Earth Moving, Intermodal and General Engineering business sectors.
In the Defence market we are a world leading designer and manufacturer of track systems and running gear for Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs). We also supply structural steel castings used in the manufacture of AFVs. For the Commercial sector we manufacture high integrity cast steel products and assemblies for the earthmoving, intermodal and general engineering market sectors.
My background was originally in finance, qualifying as a Chartered Accountant with Ernst & Young and I joined Astrum as Financial Accountant, becoming Managing Director in 1995. In 2006 I led a Management Buy Out of the business.
Everyone in manufacturing or business in general will say it’s challenging. Over the last two years we have seen each of the business sectors in which we operate effected by the recession. The challenge is to weather the effects of the downturn and make our business fit for the future, so we can immediately benefit when there is an upturn, i.e. plan for growth.
The UK needs manufacturing but not everyone understands why.
To me it is the foundations on which almost every other business is based! Unfortunately we have lost a lot of manufacturing offshore and it is no good relying on financial / legal businesses to prop up the economy as they will follow the same path. We need to encourage government to take action to retain and develop manufacturing in the UK.
For those businesses that adopt continuous improvement at their heart, who provide exceptional quality, service and delivery and have a competitive product or service, their future prospects are good. For industry as a whole confidence needs to return to the market place before things improve. That is why government could do more to encourage investment through improved capital allowances.
And as one of the largest employer in Weardale with over 250 employees drawn from the surrounding area, Astrum is also critical to the future of the local economy. The next government could make it clear manufacturing is key to the UK economy, including heavy engineering, and encourage schools to recommend manufacturing as a career!
Astrum (UK) Ltd