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On Thursday 8 November Opportunity Peterborough, held the first Peterborough Manufacturing Cluster event at the Kingsgate Conference Centre. This well-attended and lively meeting included local manufacturers, as well as partner bodies such as Cranfield University, Peterborough Regional College and UKTI. The meeting was the initiation of the cluster to build a practical network of businesses that can liaise closely for their mutual benefit by sharing knowledge and best practice, influencing skills, innovation, productivity, economies of scale (eg purchasing power) which all have a positive effect on the economic growth of our city. The event was kindly sponsored by the Greater Richmond Partnership (GRP) of Virginia, USA.
The meeting opened with a presentation from Barry Matherly, Senior Vice President of Business Development, GRP, who outlined the success of clustering in Richmond and in particular Advanced Manufacturing, which employs more than 30,000 people and is served by a number of workforce training facilities. More than 40 UK companies operate in Richmond including Rolls Royce, Admiral and Reckitt Benckiser, as well as Grantham-based BGB Innovation which Barry used as a case study to outline the obvious advantages of accessing such a large overseas market with 300m population and GDP of $15.3Tn. He went on to explain the various routes to the US market and how best to obtain the necessary business/legal assistance.
John Coubrough of the Manufacturing Advisory Service explained the new services available to manufacturing businesses – the delivery of strategic and technical support to SMEs to help develop capabilities and drive growth. He explained the client journey, delivery format, eligibility of companies & projects and grant guidelines.
Anna Lee, Facility Manager, Perkins-Sibaura Engines, gave a potted history of Perkins Engines [c2700 employees] as well as an overview of the stalwart 400, 1100 and 1200 series of engines and their applications. She explained that the ‘Order to Delivery’ value chain is influenced entirely by the Caterpillar Production System (CPS) and elucidated on how waste elimination, process improvements and people/quality/safety/cost targets in the supply chain, factory operations and distribution, are all accomplished. She also placed great emphasis on the importance of people in the business.
A workshop facilitated by David Marlow of Third Life Economics concluded the meeting. Delegates were asked to give some thought to how the cluster would work going forwards, ie opportunities and constraints, further collaboration, and involvement of the public sector. Many constructive suggestions were tabled and included extending the invitation to a broader audience; a dedicated website for the cluster; sharing apprenticeships and OP to act as a conduit in the initial stages of embedding the cluster.
It was very encouraging to see such a positive response to the idea of a Peterborough Manufacturing Cluster and Opportunity Peterborough has agreed to set in motion some practical steps to drive the cluster forward with the ultimate goal of the sector being industry led.