Could Labour under Corbyn be the natural home for small business owners?

November 18, 2017

Ibrahim Dogus, an entrepreneur and chair of SME4Labour, wrote this article as part of a series in the run-up to the Budget on November 22. Extracts:

Small businesses are the backbone of their communities and, as the best councillors and MPs know, their support is vital to making a difference on the ground throughout the country. However, there are still some people who see a contradiction between a person like me – a small business owner, employer and entrepreneur – and my solid support for the Labour and trade union movement.

The reality is, small businesses thrive when their communities thrive. They prosper in a strong society where everyone pays their fair share and we work together for the good of all. This is why I have never seen my own aspirations in isolation from wider society . . .

I founded SME4Labour in 2015. I know there were many other small business men and women, self-employed and freelancers who share our socialist values, and I want them to feel that Labour under Jeremy Corbyn is their natural home.

There is no contradiction between a desire for social justice, here and around the world, and a desire to build successful, socially-responsible businesses. And of course it is a two-way street. We will not win the next election without the active support of all sections of society, including the self-employed and small businesses.

SMEs are businesses with a turnover of less than £25m, fewer than 250 employees and fewer than £12.5m in assets. In Britain this accounts for 99% of the private sector, making up nearly half of private sector turnover, or £1.8 trillion. In total, SMEs employ more than 15.7 million people. 

These are the enterprises which provide local jobs, provide community facilities and pump wealth back into local areas.  It could be the takeaway industry, which I am keen to champion. But it could also be local hairdressers, motor mechanics, corner shops, cafes or laptop repairers. It could be the cutting edge digital companies designing new software or online retailers. It could be microbreweries or gin distilleries. Whatever shape or activity, these businesses are usually rooted in their communities, keeping the lights on late at night, and giving local people the chance to work. When it comes to politics, the people running these businesses should naturally gravitate to the Labour Party. They are the many, not the few.

We hear a lot about the “mittelstand”, the backbone of the German economic miracle. Here in Britain we have the “Brit–elstand” – the brilliant small and medium enterprises on which our economy relies. As Asia’s richest man Jack Ma has said, small businesses are to the economy what babies are to society. We need to invest in our small businesses just like we need to invest in our children. That is why at the election Labour pledged to:

  • Set up a national investment bank and regional development banks to help unlock £500bn of investment and lending, including from the private sector, to deliver the critical infrastructure and skills businesses need.
  • Reform government procurement to make sure that it supports good businesses and local industry.
  • Re-introduce the small profit rate of corporation tax and commit to no quarterly reporting for businesses below the VAT threshold, giving them the certainty they need to invest in their businesses.
  • Radically reform business rates to ease the burden on the traditional high street and town centres in an age of online shopping and to create a fairer system of business taxation for all.
  • Take action on late payment to prevent the exploitation of small and medium sized businesses to ensure every business, regardless of size has every opportunity to flourish.
  • Integrate our industrial strategy with our trade strategy so that they are joined up and complementary. Only by joining these two strategies together will we truly unlock Britain’s potential to create jobs, grow our economy and raise people’s living standards.

This adds up to an impressive offer to small business but could go further: the shadow minister for small business should be at shadow cabinet-level, not merely part of the shadow BEIS team.

SMEs are not just economically vital – they are the glue holding our communities together. If we are to change this country from the bottom up, we must do everything we can to support their development. Only then will we build an economy that works for everyone.  

 

 

 

b

Advertisements

Nov 1-2: Mechatronic Solutions launch the Podconnect at the NEC

November 1, 2017

We return to Mechatronic Solutions after this two year old post was selected by most of the visitors to this site last month – the majority coming from the United States.

A fact summary:

This company designed its first robot for the Morgan Matroc ariel assembly in 2000 and the  Kaizen workshop was developed in 2002, described on this site in 2015.  – see with Change Agent Andrew Thomas.

It now offers RoboPod, a standardised platform for robot applications that they say ‘represents a first in the industry’ used in these sectors:

and also automotive  aerospace, packaging, process automation and testing

Robopod have unveiled the Podconnect, an Automated Intelligent Vehicle (AIV) which – as its name suggests – has in-built intelligence and can operate autonomously. It connects machines and systems for ultimate efficiency: “Automated logistics and safe, efficient delivery of materials make the manufacturing environment work seamlessly with other functions”.

As well as these physical and logistical benefits, Podconnect provides detailed information back to managers; providing valuable statistics on performance, output, stock and flows. See a video here.

The Advanced Engineering Show 2017 is described as ‘The UK’s largest annual gathering of advanced engineering professionals’. It attracts professionals from across the UK and worldwide advanced engineering industries: including managers and directors as well as those specialising in fields as diverse as Research and design (R&D), Design, Test engineering, Production, Logistics and Procurement.

On 1st November, the 2-day exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham will see Mechatronic Solutions launch Podconnect AIV Autonomous Intelligent Vehicle plus a new Robopod brochure setting out information about the whole range. 

 

 

 

v


Top post: Mechatronic Solutions: Kings Norton Business Centre

October 25, 2017

Most widely read post last month with American visitors again topping the list.

Mechatronic Solutions, one of the UK’s leading providers of innovative automation solutions and systems integration services, has delivered over 400 projects during the last 25 years across a wide range of manufacturing sectors.

Extract from the article:

One of many advantages of moving to larger premises was adding a Concept Kaizen area to serve Mechatronic’s growing customer base.

Prototypes can be developed in this area and machines modelled in soft materials to provide an early realisation of the concept design being developed by Mechatronic engineers.

By improving standardized activities and processes, Kaizen (lit: ‘change for the better’ – continuous improvement), first implemented in several Japanese businesses after the Second World War and formalized by Toyota, is now used throughout the United States and known as lean manufacturing . . . Full text here: https://westmidlandsproducers.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/mechatronic-solutions-kings-norton-business-centre-birmingham/

Next post: the latest from Mechatronics

 

 

 

v


Avonstar of Digbeth: metal manufacturing

October 14, 2017

Make Works, an open resource where you can discover skilled manufacturers, tools and materials to make work with in your area, lists Digbeth’s  Avonstar – a ‘light’ engineering firm which has been providing quality service to its customers for over 20 years.

Avonstar’s skilled 30 employees can handle all types of metal construction and parts of construction and undertake work in all types of metal – including steel, aluminium and stainless steel.It offers powder coating, which contains no solvents and releases little or no chemical pollution into the atmosphere, unlike liquid coatings.

They work with a wide range of clients based in Digbeth, including arts organisations and individual creative practitioners.

The Avonstar website appears to be ‘under construction’ but the company has developed another remarkable site for an online trading store.

Avonstar Classics supplies a wide range of useful metal goods to customers in many sectors including city councils, education departments and the automotive industry, supplying

  • clinics and hospitals
  • kitchen departments
  • car accessories
  • campervan/caravans
  • gardening stores
  • sports departments (for rugby, netball, fishing and football)

 

To see their full range go to Avonstar Classics.

 

 

 

v


Berck of West Bromwich: worker-management co-operation, training and investment

September 26, 2017

Berck Ltd, a family-run company in West Bromwich, founded in 1947, took difficult decisions to weather the downturn following the 2008 economic crisis.

To reduce costs, the company chairman Brian Yates and the management team decided to cut 11 jobs in the firm, which employed 90 people (above). They also asked the remaining employees to cut working hours and they agreed to do this in order to help the company through the crisis. After applying for a bank loan secured against the factory buildings, there was still a question about Berck’s ability to pay its monthly instalments on the loan and the directors were asked to take a salary break of two years, and put in some of their own money.

These measures were successful and in 2015, Berck received a Made in the Midlands’ Manufacturing Achievement Award

Berck produces a wide range of precision components, including cabling and routing, brackets batteries, terminal contacts, in-tank fuel cell sensors, air bag technology, switching for dashboard systems, which are used in the majority of car manufacturing plants in the UK and overseas. Products are exported to China, Mexico, India, Brazil, Egypt, the United States, Dominican Republic and most countries in Europe. components. Berck also serves over twenty other sectors, including domestic appliances, home computers, alternative medicines, i.t networking and solar heating

Like many successful West Midlands companies covered on this website, they invest in training and new machinery.

Above: Joe Hickman, toolroom apprentice – more news of apprentices on their Facebook page.

Last year, Berck invested in a Nikon Metrology iNEXIV VMA-4540 CNC video measuring machine (below) to replace Mitutoyo Quick Vision Ace CNC optical coordinate measuring machine (CMM) and a Kemco manual touch-probe CMM to inspect sheet metal parts and tools. See the Nikon pdf.

The latest widely reported news is that in July this year, Berck acquired Walsall’s Fourjay, specialists in deep drawing. The staff from Fourjay will now move across to West Bromwich to join Berck’s 70-strong workforce. Darren Yates, managing director at Berck, welcomed the addition of people with a variety of new skills to their skilled workforce.

Berck will now be supplying the MoD with vital fuses for Typhoon Eurofighter and F-16 combat jets. May they be used only for defence.  

 

 

 

v


Metro and Redwood: new banks offering loans and savings accounts for small and medium sized companies

September 7, 2017

Metro Bank started operations in 2010. Its first branch in the West Midlands will be the flagship operation for the region.

Business Desk adds that Metro Bank is the UK’s first new retail bank in more than 100 years, providing both retail and commercial banking services. The four floor Birmingham operation will also be slightly larger than its other outlets, which typically create around 25 jobs.

The model is based on a retail format and located at the heart of the busy shopping area.

Its website says: ” We’ve built a different kind of high street bank. A bank with stores that are open when it suits you, 7 days a week. A bank where you can walk in without an appointment and walk out with a working account, debit card and all. A bank that tells you exactly what you’re getting, in language that actually makes sense. A bank that puts you first”.

*

Redwood Bank promises that its money is being invested in British businesses and our local communities

Redwood Bank, Britain’s newest business bank for SMEs, is open for business just over four months after securing its initial banking licence.

The FT reports that co-founder Jonathan Rowland said the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote would continue to restrict appetite among the mainstream banks to engage in commercial property lending:

“This is an ideal time to apply for a full banking licence; the major banks have not returned to anywhere near their pre-crisis business lending levels and the uncertainty caused by Brexit is likely to worsen the situation.” Mr Rowland helped to restructure and recapitalise Kaupthing Bank Luxembourg, a subsidiary of the Icelandic bank.

Gary Wilkinson, co-founder and chief executive of Redwood Bank, said: “We are delighted to be open for business so soon following the issuing of our initial banking licence. We aim to offer a real alternative for small and medium sized organisations, providing them with simple transparent loans and savings accounts, great service and a promise that our money is being invested into British businesses and our local communities.“

 

 

 

m


Arc Specialist Engineering Limited: Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Walsall

August 6, 2017

.

Arc Specialist Engineering Limited, formerly known as Bowman Birmingham Limited, is a group of steel processing businesses formed in March 2013 which manufacture and supply various specialist steel products. Its majority shareholders were Marc and Nathaniel Meyohas (Greybull Capital, a family-owned, family-run business, see its dealings with Tata, Morrisons and more). Over the years the number of employees has grown from 200 in 2013 to 500.

In July 2017 Mobeus Equity Partners backed Arc’s management team buyout and refer to a partnership with the Arc managers.

Its strategies: to differentiate services and find niche markets

  • As UK manufacturers facing overseas competition, the Arc companies look for manufacturers of products that won’t travel well, because items that are easy to dispatch overseas face competition with countries such as China, South Korea and Taiwan.
  • They have found that small-volume manufacturing accesses markets that larger competitors wouldn’t enter, such as the pre-coated non-stick bakeware market. Many bigger coil coating businesses are coating 100,000 plus tonnes of metal per year; while Arc’s subsidiary Cooper Coated Coil (below) coats just under 20,000 tonnes per year.

  • PVC window and door reinforcement products access markets which require lower run quantities, more frequent deliveries and more product variety than larger firms are interested in offering.
  • Because relatively small amounts are manufactured Arc’s companies are good at ‘changeovers’ – converting an assembly line or machine from running one product to another
  • Its system enables the managing director of each business to be close to customers and employees within the business, providing not only the product itself, but also knowledge, advice and an excellent service, building strong long-term relationships.

*

Over Greybull’s four years of ownership, time and resources were invested to turn Arc around. Andy Richardson, who leads the current management team, said: “The past four years have seen a transformation of Arc into a profitable growing business, with hundreds of jobs saved along the way, all made possible by much-needed investment in our manufacturing capabilities. We are immensely excited about the next stage of our journey, which would not have been possible without Greybull’s guidance and support. We are very grateful for everything they have committed to the business”.

 

 

 

v