Press Releases

EEF Manufacturing Conference 2017

Most of you that know me are aware I don’t really do politics, but I make an exception one day a year for the EEF Manufacturing Conference. This is always a great insight into how global economic and political trends will impact the future of Manufacturing in the UK. Some of the key themes remain the same with the Skills Shortage in manufacturing remaining one of the critical issues for growth. A bit disappointing that this has been a recurring theme for over ten years with no real evidence of a strategy to resolve it.

Brexit of course was also high on the agenda. The Rt Hon John McDonnell MP commenting that the vote for Brexit was a clear vote for change and a symptom of the dissatisfaction and alienation many feel regarding the current political and economic landscape.

The Rt Hon Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy focused heavily on the Industrial Strategy Paper. He emphasized the need for businesses to work with his department to make the Industrial Strategy a success. The only slightly challenging question that Clark faced was regarding the ‘deals’ being discussed with the automotive manufacturers – the response was unfortunately but expectedly vague.

Alison Rose, CEO Commercial and Private Banking, Natwest noted that their had been no real decline in investment and financing following Brexit. She also commented that whilst the economic forecast is bleak those companies that will weather what is to come are those that are taking action and progressing and not remaining stagnant and paralysed by uncertainty i.e. manage what you can but keep moving forward.

As always Martin Wolf of the Financial Times brought a serious but light-hearted look at the current economic forecast and how this may impact manufacturing. This is without a doubt the most informative and useful parts of the conference so a little disappointed he was reduced to being part of a panel discussion. However his ‘six’ minutes were worth the train fare!

The key elements that came from this were:

  • A large fall in currency will lead to increased inflation
  • Real income is set to decline which will likely lead to reduced consumer confidence.
  • Productivity rates – UK continues to lag behind the world and has recently dropped further. Since 2007 all measures have shown stagnation
  • Whilst the UK is the fastest growing country in the G7 we still lag behind globally

The panel discussion on Where Next for Manufacturing in the Global Economy did raise a good point that the lack of investment in capital equipment could be due to the perception that the cost of investment is so much higher than the cost of labour. We have historically had access to low cost labour – but as this is about to change Manufacturers may invest more in automation and therefore improve productivity levels.

So what are the best companies doing? The panels response was clear – they are addressing and controlling issues that they can. Developing a good understanding of hedging and developing an awareness of the impact of currency fluctuations.

Wolf was clear that he does not believe there will be any agreement on a post-Brexit plan or strategy which will lead to further uncertainty.

There was a great discussion from the Heads of Siemens and Nissan in the session on Making Britain the Best Place to do Manufacturing. Juergen Maier of Siemens talked of their plant in Congleton as being one of the best in the world due to a culture of continuous improvement and Lean. Whilst Colin Lawther of Nissan expressed their commitment to purchasing more in the UK to rectify their currency imbalance which is excellent news for the UK Supply chain.

Changing customer demands was also raised as one of the key drivers in future growth. Lawther from Nissan noted that customers used to go to the dealer seven times before buying a car, now due to social media and available information they go once. He believes as manufacturers they need to be in a position to forecast accurately what people are going to buy. He was also quite clear that productivity whilst a useful measure is not necessarily the most important when considering future growth.

So in summary, the key points:

  • Skills shortage still a major concern for Manufacturers
  • Real income is set to decline which will further reduce consumer confidence.
  • Productivity rates remain stagnant and one of the worst globally.
  • Brexit – unlikely to be any resolution in the short term but to survive essential that companies manage what they can and have a clear growth strategy that they can control.
  • The larger manufacturers will be looking to UK supply chains to rectify currency imbalances.
  • The government is seeking engagement of manufacturers in the Industrial Strategy.
  • Politicians never disappoint in their ability to avoid answers!

For a summary of the key points of the Industrial Strategy visit


New partnership to support UK Manufacturing

The Manufacturing Institute and Onsite Insights have today announced a partnership which will benefit the UK manufacturing industry.  The organisations are committed to the expansion of the already successful national visit programme to encourage the adoption of best practice and lean in organisations across the UK & Europe.  An increase in visits will benefit UK industry as the visits provide an opportunity to see first hand how successful organisations operate, to steal with pride ideas and solutions to common business challenges.

The visit programme was founded in the 1980’s by the Government as part of the robotic grant scheme. It’s early years saw engagement primarily from the manufacturing sector but over the years this has diversified – visitors now come from the service and public sectors.  The programmes best practice sites are predominantly still manufacturers – as it is easy to see process improvement when applied to a line or production area. By encouraging the sharing of innovation and best practice between organisations, the programme aims to supports the development of world class practices in the UK.  

The Onsite Insights programme already includes award-winning organisations such as Siemens, Fujifilm, Vale, Mars, Toyota, Milliken, Mitsubishi and Princes Foods.  The new partnership is aimed at increasing the number and therefore availability of these visits to companies across the UK.

The Manufacturing Institute is an established presence within the Manufacturing sector providing support to a wide range of businesses and sectors through its extensive training and charitable activities.  The Make It challenge and FabLabs have driven awareness of manufacturing across communities in the North of England.  

The partnership will also see these charitable activities being extended to the South of England, where Onsite Insights has a strong presence.

Ailsa Carson the Programme Director of Onsite Insights commented: “this will bring an exciting new chapter to the visit programmes development, leading to improved access for businesses across the country, a wider selection of company visits and the continued sharing of great ideas between companies.”




Ailsa Carson

Programme Director

Onsite Insights Limited

Phone: 0783 222 3453





Onsite Insights – further information

Contact: Ailsa Carson

Phone: 023 9246 8978




The Manufacturing Institute – further information

Contact: Mark Leeson
Phone: 023 9246 8978



OI&TMI logo

Mars – More than Chocolate!

Best known for its iconic Mars Bar, Mars the Company is so much more than that. It’s biggest selling products is surprisingly Pet food (they own the well-known brands of Pedigree and Whiskas). Along with other household names such as Dolmio and Uncle Ben’s and the more recent acquisition of Wrigley’s, Mars has become one of the world’s largest food manufacturers and the third largest privately owned company in the US.

I have been lucky enough this year to visit two of the Mars Manufacturing sites in the UK, as part of the Onsite Insights visit programme which these programmes support. The first was to Mars Drinks in Basingstoke and the second to Mars Chocolate in Slough. What struck me at both was how engaged and passionate about the company they work for every employee was.

Every Martian (a term they like to use about themselves) appears to have a true commitment to the company and a desire to stay for life. Whilst on the visit we met a third-generation team member and apparently, this isn’t unusual. The free chocolate and pet-friendly perks may be part of it, but I believe it’s definitely more than that. It is, I believe because they feel valued and are truly engaged in the goals and aspirations of the company. This is no mean feat in a world of constant change, transient labour and short-term careers.

The Mars Culture is underpinned by their five guiding principles – Quality, Responsibility, Mutuality, Efficiency and Freedom. It is clear to any visitors that these aren’t just words on the corporate wall, they are integrated in all key decision-making throughout the sites.

Mars is quite a private company and not just in terms of ownership. They rarely open their doors to the outside world, but that doesn’t mean they are not involved in both local communities and charities that are important to them. The company employs over 72,000 globally and with a turnover of over $33 billion is a force to be reckoned with. To the outside world, the Mars family are reclusive, however to their employees they are regular visitors to the sites. They engage and clearly nurture the family-owned environment that was created by their Grandfather Frank Mars Snr.

Career progression may be one of the reason Mars has so many lifers, the diversity of the company’s brands and business means there is opportunity for advancement and fresh challenges. They actively encourage cross-divisional talent movement. Structured peer reviews and appraisals ensure that each employee has a clear understanding of their own direction and contribution to the company. The company also funds personal development for each of its employees and has a strong mentor programme.

Engagement doesn’t stop on retirement either, one of the fabulous initiatives we saw on the visit to Mars Chocolate was a comments wall contributed to by previous site managers and employees who are periodically invited back to see how the site has developed. This struck a chord with all that visited. It demonstrates a truly inclusive culture that cares deeply about the wellbeing of its current, past and future employees.

A commitment to quality and continuous improvement is what you would expect of a food factory and the Mars sites are no exception. Both factories demonstrate excellent levels of lean and visual management. Lean tools, good work flow, Kanban systems and standard operational procedures are evident and there is clearly a commitment to review and challenge manufacturing processes. New automated packing equipment has removed much of the manual handling at Mars Slough, and whilst highly complex, has removed many of the previous health and safety hazards associated with repetitive manual handling.

Health and safety has always been an important driver in operational improvement, and a continued focus on this has seen dramatic improvements at both sites. Their approach has been to systematically review hazards and Near Miss activities, and implement corrective procedures as required. Simple and logical yet still missing in many manufacturing sites.

The suggestion scheme for improvements at Mars Drinks is a simple T-Card system in each area of the factory where employees raise suggestions, they are approved, or declined and actioned as appropriate. Again, simple but effective. This visual system is reviewed weekly by line managers and it works. No huge reward system, yet sufficient suggestions to know that this approach works.

And Mars continues to grow, they are innovative in their products, smart in their acquisitions but most importantly they genuinely care about the health, well-being and engagement of all employees.

Our next visit to Mars Drinks in Basingstoke is on 24 May 2017

Mars - more than Chocolate!

Ten Steps to Lean Maintenance

Many organisations that have been implementing Lean for decades are only now giving maintenance the attention it deserves.

Ten Steps to Lean Maintenance


When Lean Works

Engaged, motivated and inspired are just some of the words used to describe the team at Entek International (“Entek”) in Newcastle by recent visitors.

When Lean works


Why Lean shouldn’t always begin with 5S

Agfa Graphics in Leeds have taken an innovative and less well travelled approach to Lean , find out how:                                        Why Lean shouldn’t always begin with 5S


Southern Manufacturing Conference

Ailsa Kaye Director of Onsite Insights presented at Farnborough on the topic of ‘What Makes a World Class Organisation’. After surveying our Hosts they identified 10 key characteristics common to World Class companies. See Ailsa’s presentation


MP joins Onsites visit to Pfizer

On 17 September 2014 Pfizer’s packaging and supply site based in Havant, Hampshire were pleased to host the Rt Hon David Willetts MP and senior managers from other UK organisations to share how they have become specialists in the packaging and supply of temperature sensitive medicines within the Pfizer group. The visit was part of the Onsite Insights visit programme which exists to encourage the sharing of innovation and best practice between companies. Onsite Insights, whose head office is based in nearby Hayling Island organises one day visits to the best companies across the UK.

Ailsa Kaye, who founded Onsite Insights 10 years ago said she “was delighted to welcome David Willetts to this visit at Pfizer, who have been a host on the programme for over five years. It is such a great example of UK manufacturing success and a site transformation story. As we are a local company it is even more significant for us as we are also within Mr Willetts constituency.”

Pfizer Havant packages and supplies life changing medicines to over 120 destinations across the globe and is home to one of the fastest packing lines in the pharmaceutical industry, the site covers 17 acres of land, employs 270 staff and processes in excess of 60 million doses a year. An impressive achievement resulting from a long-term commitment to continuous improvement, and developing a customer focused culture which is agile and responsive.

During the visit attendees had a guided tour of the business with Pfizer providing detailed presentations on their approach to strategy, operational excellence, cold chain distribution and supply chain management.

“Pfizer are clearly an inspirational company, they have created a vision that all employees could buy in to, relate to, and remember,” comments Ailsa Kaye. “We are grateful that such a leading company is willing to share its ideas and inspire others.” Visitors were unanimous in their praise for the site.

Onsite Insights was founded to encourage the sharing of innovation and best practice between UK companies. In the last ten years over 10,000 people have attended visits across the UK. Host companies include both large multi-nationals such as Mars, Toyota, BAE Systems, Jaguar Land Rover, Milliken, Fujifilm and Mitsubishi Electric as well as award-winning SME’s such as Double H Nurseries and Silent Gliss. These companies have one thing in common – a commitment to continuous improvement and a belief that sharing best practice helps themselves and others improve.