Martin Strutt believes there’s one thing that unites all manufacturers: a compelling need to make things better.
He says, “As manufacturers we tend to be restless with the status quo. We always see opportunities for improvement, and we want it to happen yesterday!”
Though he started his career as a production engineer and worked his way up to operational director at top companies, Martin found that his true passion for making process improvements was best served as a Business Consultant with EEF, delivering tangible benefit to manufacturers.
Martin entered the world of manufacturing as a production engineer at British Aerospace and then moved into line management with Hewlett Packard, part of the team that set up their Bristol operations. It was this experience with the leading electronics and computing business that provided the foundation for Martin’s understanding of good management.
“It was the best management training I could have received. They were very advanced in terms of thinking about ‘just in time’ manufacturing’ and the principles of continuous improvement, Lean techniques, and visual management that we apply today,” Martin says.
From there, Martin decided to apply the principles he’d learned on the factory floor to consulting with a variety of management consulting firms where he rose to become a Partner. This gave him exposure to a wide range of industries from automotive to food and drink.
He eventually ended up in China working with a UK-based electrical system supplier. His responsibility was to both help the company source Chinese-made products for their supply chain and to set up a manufacturing joint venture in Shenzhen. This experience opened his eyes to the challenges of international production and supply chain networks.
You can’t just take a European designed product and give it to a Chinese plant and expect them to make it cheaper.
“What I realised working in China was that they were thinking on a much grander scale. The government would build an industrial estate and a six lane highway to get to it at break neck speed – before they had even started operations,” he says. “I also realised they had a different supply chain with different products. You can’t just take a European designed product and give it to a Chinese plant and expect them to make it cheaper.”
In all his roles, Martin found the work most rewarding was driving change. That led him to work with EEF as Consultancy Director, heading up the Business Growth team as well as serving as Region Director for the South East. At EEF, he:
“Working with a wide variety of companies in different sectors lets me see the breadth of issues they face. Although the challenges seem complex on the surface, my job is to help them break problems down into manageable issues with the steps in place to make improvements,” Martin says.
Listen to Martin discuss the challenges and goals of the Fourth Industrial Revolution for UK manufacturing in the Be Business Ready podcast series.
One example is when Martin worked with a Tier 1 automotive supplier that was struggling to meet output and letting down their customers. Over the few months Martin worked with them, they were able to get the company back on target with improved quality and output rate. A few of the changes Martin helped implement included:
- re-organised a complex, functionally organised factory into customer-facing problem-solving units
- put a management process in place to run the plant more efficiently and manage performance more effectively
- developed a new customer communication system
- installed a framework that allowed their people to thrive, including moving existing staff into positions of responsibility
No matter the challenge, though, Martin says the hardest part is getting people to change. This is clear even when addressing a seemingly technology-heavy change, such as 4IR. Martin advises companies on how to ensure everyone from senior management to the shop floor understands why the changes need to be made, the role of the individual in achieving the desired results and what’s in it for each member of the team. It means creating a corporate and individual plan that enables business to embed important changes effectively and successfully.
Despite the challenges of change, Martin is optimistic about the potential for growth in UK manufacturing.
“Brexit is causing manufacturing alarm, because we don’t know what the future will hold. But whatever the outcome, it’s going to be that much tougher to sell products to Europe. The emphasis now has to be on making sure you’re lowering production costs and improving processes as much as possible,” Martin explains. “The industry has an opportunity with 4IR to make significant improvements when it comes to productivity. It’s going to be a series of small steps, but companies can’t afford to stand still.”
Contact Martin to talk about the change you’d like to see in your business.