After such a positive experience at DIY Kyoto in June, it was great to spend time with a different type of business on Wednesday. Ashley Anderson, based in the West Midlands, is a manufacturer specialising in mobility furniture, and all the company’s products are handmade in the UK. The business employs just over 40 people.
During the day I was briefed by the company’s directors about their plans for the future, and I then worked alongside different members of staff in the production and customer-service units. I saw the creation of one of Ashley Anderson’s recliners, from cutting the cloth through to the assembly of the finished unit.
Afterwards I spent time with the customer-service units to see their role in handling incoming marketing calls and the processing of orders electronically and through their contact centre.
My main observation from the day was that there is still a strong appetite and interest in making things in this country, across management and workers. And manufacturing that closely targets its customers and is constantly innovating can prosper in difficult markets.
I fully recognise the importance of manufacturing, and its role in achieving a balanced economy in the UK. Working with businesses such as Ashley Anderson, the government wants to create a supportive environment for growth that will encourage innovation, exports and business investment. The UK has a wide variety of manufacturers and they often combine manufacturing with services, in a way that defies the narrow statistical approach taken by government previously.
In just my second day of work experience, I again saw that businesses face a wide range of regulations and that they urgently need us to reduce that burden. It has inspired me to renew our efforts to tackle regulation and has given me the confidence that the direction we are taking is the right one.
The UK has great ingenuity and capability in manufacturing. I was impressed by the pride shown by all of Ashley Anderson’s staff in the quality of what is being produced. This was clear from the shop floor right up to the board of directors.
It is vital that we provide the right conditions to ensure that UK manufacturing succeeds in the globally competitive environment. Spending a day with Ashley Anderson has underlined my belief that we have so many great small businesses in this country, and they need government to provide the right environment for growth.
Mark Prisk is the minister of state for business and enterprise.