South Yorkshire based businesses CQ Strategic Marketing, Agemaspark and Airmaster are all celebrating milestone anniversaries this year at 10 years, 20 years and 30 years respectively. They took part in a roundtable to discuss how doing business has changed during that time.
The panel was Chaired by Caroline Broad of Clarion Solicitors.
Paul Stockhill managing director at Agemaspark, a precision engineering company responsible for catering for all types of manufacturing. With products featuring as far as the International Space Station down to rice crispies, Paul discusses the importance of a skilled workforce.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE SECTOR/INDUSTRY?
I have been lucky to have spent my 50 years across many different businesses in various roles, starting all the way back in school with metalwork and woodwork – back then the health and safety wasn’t quite what it is now, so we were allowed to get stuck into the machines and things like that. I started as an apprentice toolmaker at Crompton Parkinson’s and worked my way up before leaving and becoming self-employed. 20 years ago, Agemaspark was born, and we have manufactured products for the international space station, put parts on Mars, and we even export to China.
WHAT IS IT THAT HAS KEPT YOU IN THE INDUSTRY?
The technology in my industry has gone from people using their hands and making patterns to computers, with everything being constantly updated. Technology has allowed us to be extremely productive in the way we work, especially at Agemaspark we rely on such technology for one-off problem solving across different sectors – our award-winning conformal cooling process is a great example of this for improving cycle times and production. Recently we also introduced 3D metal printing which has revolutionised our processes. I hope to continue to see the same level, if not more, innovation over the next 20 years as I have at Agemaspark.
HOW DO YOU GROW THE BUSINESS, FACE CHALLENGES AND CONTINUE TO PROMOTE THE SECTOR?
Communication between all sectors is paramount for us, the local government have been very active in supporting local businesses – we had essentially no break between Brexit and the pandemic, so we were hit with two major events for manufacturing within the same time frame. Supply chains have been very difficult to manage, so we have had to rely on getting out there and finding out where else we can source and find the right solutions.
FUTURE-PROOFING THE BUSINESS
We’ve had an apprentice scheme in the business for the last 20 years as we saw there was a huge skills gap in engineering particularly. The majority of our staff are under 30 years old and then we have others that are over 60, with nothing really in the middle, so we are facing a problem in a few years once the older generation in our team begin to retire. The apprenticeships, combined with new technology allow us to bridge that gap, with the older generation sharing their knowledge. From a business perspective, with the apprenticeship scheme, we have virtually no staff turnover, they’re all of a similar age so they have a lot of similar interests. For us, it’s never the same thing every day – you could be working an aircraft engine or products for rice crispies – so the diversity helps our apprentices to learn far more than they perhaps would elsewhere.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE OF THE SECTOR HOLD?
I think we’re at a stage now where people are looking at ways to create a sustainable future for all our young people. You must look at the bigger picture, it’s not just solar and wind power, it’s all of the small changes that make a big difference. For example, if we can take 20% out of a cycle time for one product, multiplied by the millions of products that are produced daily, that has a huge impact. We must look at these gains which will help us to control the future of the planet.
To read the full article in October’s unLTD Business magazine please visit: https://unltdbusiness.com/
To watch the video of the discussion, visit: