In the latest instalment of our ‘Transformational Leaders’ series, David Thomas, Partner in Berwick Partners’ Manufacturing and Engineering practice, talks to Gary Lowe, CEO of Bromford Group, to discuss the secrets of their success.
Formed in 2009 through the acquisition of Hampson Aerospace Machining, Midlands-based
Bromford Group has grown to become a leading supplier of complex close tolerance engine components, fabrications and assemblies for the global aerospace and power generation industries. Under the ownership of the private equity group Liberty Hall Capital Partners, the three recent acquisitions of Aerocision, Numet and Accrofab have added an international dimension and provided further manufacturing capability in India and the USA, to complement their three UK sites.
Servicing the world’s premier aero engine and industrial gas turbine programmes, Bromford’s multiple and highly complementary capabilities allow the delivery of specialist products to their customers with optimal cost, quality and delivery measures. The company’s prestigious customer base includes GE, Safran, Rolls Royce and Siemens.
Bromford’s progress has been built on understanding and exceeding the needs of its customers and investing in its people and equipment. Modernisation activity and investment has been fundamental to their growth.
What inspired you to choose a career in manufacturing?
It was my mother who first encouraged me. She said I needed a skill and that an engineering apprenticeship was the way to go. She even found my first job for me!
Would you make the same choice today?
Absolutely. I am passionate about making things and encouraging the next generation to embrace manufacturing and the exciting technology developments that underpin it.
How would you inspire people to choose a career in manufacturing?
I have my personal story and also that of many members of my team who have grown to be leaders in this environment. Manufacturing offers highly-skilled and well-paid work with a vastly improved brand image. Manufacturing is recognised in the UK as not being a ‘dirty industry’. We have a way to go before manufacturing is revered in the same way as it is in Germany, but a renaissance is definitely happening.
What are the do’s and don’ts of achieving transformational change?
It’s all about the people and culture – the culture must be right; the vision has to be clear and there needs to be decisive leadership at all levels ‘walking the walk’ around behaviours and values. Leaders cannot say one thing and do another.
What has been the key to growth at Bromford?
The change in ownership to a private equity company that understood the industry and was prepared to give the CEO space to build a first-class team.
What is the hardest lesson you have learnt?
When you know a member of the team is not bought-in to the culture and vision, do something about it quickly as it can become toxic otherwise.
What would your advice be for the next generation of leaders?
- Be visible
- You don’t have to prove that you are the smartest person in the room
- Don’t hide behind a laptop and emails – use data, but go and take the pulse of the operations, as you don’t get that from sitting in an office
- Be bold
- Get a mentor you trust
- Never stop learning
- Know when to move on and hand work over
- Keep breaking the glass ceiling; you can always do more.
What are the threats and opportunities of rapid technology change for UK Plc?
The threat is ignoring it and believing it won’t affect you. When introducing change, companies can underestimate the impact of bringing in new technology and try to do too many things at once. Project management is key; the learning point for me is that you can’t pile change on top of someone’s day job and expect it to work. You have to embrace change within the context of what’s required to ensure your organisation and its product remains relevant. Make the opportunities for new technologies to provide work for you.
Bromford, under Gary’s leadership, has developed into a world-class component manufacturer. He is passionate about his subject matter and demonstrates what can be achieved through the power of a focused and committed team. Visibility, vision, consistency of message and willingness to seek help are all characteristics of his leadership style.
David Thomas is a Partner at Berwick Partners, focused on supporting organisations with key leadership appointments within the manufacturing space.