Claire’s Speech at the Chamber of Commerce Networking Breakfast

12th October 2010

Leigh Technology Academy, Dartford

We have all heard it said that “money makes the world go round” well I would like to challenge this…

I believe that it is “Engineering that makes the world go round”
2008/2009 saw the biggest slump in the UK and world economy post world war II.  The effects of the so called ‘credit crunch’ were felt across the global markets and the pinch here in Britain was somewhat catastrophic – in some way every single person here today whatever your age, profession or social status will have been affected by the down turn in the economy.
Since the 1980’s the growth in the financial and service sectors within the British economy was phenomenal – business management, information technology and banking offered attractive perks and lucrative salaries.  Careers in these sectors were not only deemed fashionable, but they were also well respected.

However the bubble burst, boom time was over and we watched helplessly as our economy and creditability as one of the worlds most powerful nations crumbled around us.
Two years on and the UK economy is improving however not without a struggle, there is the looming threat of the heavily reported double dip recession and the huge black cloud of Britain’s astronomical debts, estimated to be upwards of  billions of pounds!!!
Every day we watch the news and read the papers; the political parties are pointing the finger of blame and laying their claims as to what went so terribly wrong.  However, what are we, as a Nation, doing to move forward? To rebuild our economy? And strive again as one of the worlds leading figure heads?
The million dollar, or should I say the billion pound question……
This brings me back to my point… I believe that it is “Engineering that makes the world go round.”

A nation dominated by ‘finance and banking’ saw the economy come to a near standstill as the credit crunch took hold… it suddenly seemed that money could not make our world go round.  So perhaps now it is the turn of the industrial sector to get the economy back on track. There is great speculation that countries who ‘make things’ are in a better position to weather economic instability compared to those, like us who don’t regard manufacturing and other industrial professions highly enough.
If Britain’s industrial sector could once again boom perhaps this would re-cement stable foundations on which our economy as a whole could stand upon and be rebuilt to a greater height and strength than ever before.
Throughout history countless British engineers have helped shaped the world we know today – one whom I am sure you are all familiar with is Isambard Kingdom Brunel – famous for his work on projects including the Great Western Railway and the Clifton Suspension Bridge (in Bristol).
Through the likes of Brunel, Britain was respected as an authority on engineering… Fundamentally the Industrial Revolution, our contributions to science and engineering and our enviable reputation for the manufacture of high quality products… is what made Britain Great.  From this we were a wealthy nation financially, but also rich in skills and knowledge.
During my lifetime however, the British engineering and industrial sectors, in particular manufacturing have been rapidly declining.
I am here today to tell you about my experiences as an Engineer and help open your eyes to an exceptional and exciting world hidden in the shadows of the glamour of a career in the media or the sophistication and finesse of those working in the financial sector.
Many of you here today are young people beginning your journey and making choices that will influence the rest of your life; whether you are deciding on your GCSEs or looking ahead to college and university courses or vocational qualifications, there is a pathway into engineering.  It is an industry accessible to everyone.

However also here with us today, we have business people from a wide cross section of industries and professions – I also have an important message for them…
Firstly, I suppose to many of you it might seem strange for a woman to be standing here talking about a career in engineering.  I believe that this is a myth we need to expel; what is your first image when you here the word engineer? Heavy lifting, oil, grease and fixing cars?
Much of the engineering world is a far cry from this and being an engineer does not automatically have the prerequisites of needing physical strength that is naturally attributed to being a ; there is a much bigger part of engineering that is greatly associated with maths and science related skills – but for the less academic don’t let that scare you off!! There is scope for those more artistically minded, the creative flair that these people have is required for the design side of engineering, not to mention those with a practical mindset and common sense, who are good with their hands, needed for solving real life engineering problems.
Engineering is a combination of logical thinking and commonsense combined with an inventive imagination….

On leaving school I studied for a Masters in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Surrey, I have now taken the reins at my family’s manufacturing company, AR Engineering Industries.  We are a small business located just up the road in Wilmington and serve industries including aerospace, automotive and utilities. These industries are all very high-tech and exciting and although we all use aeroplanes, cars and boats, engineering can also be found a lot closer to home… our clients’ also include the local butcher, gardeners, golf club and the Parker pen company. Yes that’s right – a pen company, everybody here will use a pen today I am sure!!
Suddenly now can you see that engineering is all around us, literally everything we touch and use has been influenced by some form of engineering.  This school building has been engineered – the design and structure and everything it houses, including the chairs that you sit on.  Everyday in the news we hear stories – the latest developments for Lewis Hamilton’s F1 car, the construction of the London 2012 Olympic sites and today the rescue effort for the trapped minors in South America – all of these are examples of great feats of engineering.
When viewed like this perhaps the importance of engineering becomes more apparent – engineering affects our environment – our health – our lifestyles – it affects us everyday.
I am passionate about engineering – beneath the geeky exterior it is an exciting and dynamic industry, ever changing and evolving with technological advances, every day is different and offers new challenges and best of all it is rewarding – as an engineer you can see your achievements, you can stand back and think I helped to make that, I helped get those wheels turning, that plane flying or that building standing….
So why is it that in recent times the engineering industry and engineering as a career has not been fully supported, encouraged and respected by our government and the culture of Britain today?  Why is it that people are not interested in working in engineering when it has so much to offer?
If we can find a positive out of the recession, there is now a realisation of the value that skilled industry sectors have in the economy.  Gradually the focus is being put back on sectors such as manufacturing, and in particular the smaller businesses who are in essence the smaller cogs that keep the larger wheels turning.

Recently under a scheme supported and funded by the Government, AR Engineering has recruited two manufacturing and engineering apprentices, to whom we will provide vocational training, whilst employing them and they will be gaining hands on experience in order to develop and nurture their interest to become engineers.  This is a great contribution to the planned growth of our business whilst valuably supporting and encouraging people to enter into the industry.  So far the scheme has been a great success and it is something we hope to continue with for years to come.  Many other companies are again looking towards apprenticeships to help bring the skills back to the ground level of companies, so rather than just being the high-end management executives, we have home grown skilled work forces who can manufacture and produce high quality British goods.
So you guys deciding what subjects to study and what career path to follow – have you even considered engineering?  Maybe you’ll spare it a second thought now?  And whether you want to head off to University and follow the path I have taken, or opt for the practical hands on approach the door to engineering is reopening wider than ever before….
But this is where my message can reach out to all of you, I truly believe engineering and industrial sectors to be the key to the revival of the UK.  But to thrive we need your support.  We need to make better use of our own skills and resources and what industry does remain today, in order to help flourish again tomorrow.
Buying cheaper imported goods on a cost basis is often the easiest and in some ways the most logical option, in the short tem – however at what cost is this to our future generations? This is an important question we should ask ourselves.  Last year Britain’s manufacturing output was approximately 13 % lower than 2008 – the fastest fall since 1948, when records began, this imply job losses and money being spent abroad to procure these items.
It would be an unrealistic idealism to say we should manufacture everything in Britain and buy only British products, however little by little if every person made one or two small changes to their lives and the products and services we buy, in order to support a local business or a British company perhaps we can all contribute to help rebuilding our economy and to once again help make Britain Great……next time you see ‘Made In Britain’ on one of the labels in front of you…. Think twice.

So with the government finally getting back on side, its now your turn; I hope from what I have said today you can see that we can all make a difference to help with the regeneration of this great nation…. Together let’s get our world turning again…. Return to our industrial roots and our engineering heritage and set the wheels in motion to manufacture our way back to our former glory.

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Ops Director Guest Speaker at Chamber Breakfast

Thames Gateway Chamber of Commerce

Operations Director, Claire was invited by the Chamber of Commerce to speak at their recent Networking Breakfast.  As well as the regular chamber members, the meeting was also open to the Young Chamber.  The Young Chamber is based at The Leigh Technology Academy in Dartford and gives the pupils the chance to get involved with the local business community.  With three main specialisms for the school being Business and Enterprise, Sports and Technology, Claire took the opportunity to talk about the valuable contribution the engineering sector can make to the UK economy.  She specifically focused on highlighting the benefits of working within the industry and the opportunities there are for young people.  In view of the fact AR have recently recruited two apprentices this was a hot topic and was complimented by the following speaker Sonia McCluskey of Springfield Education & Training.

On display at the event was the work of a number of teams from the school entering into the Young Enterprise competition – a scheme that gives teams of pupils the opportunity to set up a company and under the guidance of staff and volunteering business people – Claire was particularly interested in this having been a runner up in the competition some twelve years ago.  The technology and engineering students who are part of the Green Power Challenge had their work on display and also showed Claire around the excellent technology and engineering facilities at the school and told her all about the exciting ideas they have for the design and build of this years car to race in the competition.

The event was a great success and was well attended by both pupils of the school and a variety of local business.  Claire received a lot of interest with regards to the talk she gave and was delighted to be given the opportunity to share her experiences as an engineer and inspire some of the budding talents at the school.

Lynne Johnson (Business & Enterprise Teacher Coordinator of Enterprise KS4 and KS5 at Leigh Academy) and Slyvia Meade (North Kent Young Chamber Coordinator) organised  the event, and Megan Moles Chair of Young Chamber gave the vote of thanks, along with Frank Green, Chief Executive of the Academy.

Getting your small business website online

Building a WebsiteWhether you have a single holding page with only the most important information displayed or a huge database driven, online selling machine, if you are not represented in some way on the internet you are missing a huge opportunity to both secure new business and serve your current client base.

On the way to finally commissioning a company to build our website we experienced a massive learning curve and now have the benefit of looking back on what we did and seeing where we went wrong as well as what we did right.

Before you do anything
1. Write a brief.
Be very clear about what you want your site to do. The best way to do this is to write a brief. Believe me; a few hours spent at this early stage will save 10 times that further down the line by avoiding multiple redrafts and changes. The less time it takes for a designer to produce a site, the more money it will save you.
If you have a well prepared document laying out everything your designer needs to know it will make their job a lot easier. It also gives you some kind of ‘bottom line’ to compare to the work you receive to ensure you get exactly what you ask for. With that in mind you should keep the document, or at least a portion of it, active to reflect any changes from the brief that you decide on with the design team.
I got some really useful information on writing a brief from the Knowledgebase

Choose your designers wisely.
There are a huge amount of companies out there who want to design your website. Your budget will inform who you go for but try not to let it dictate it. Paying peanuts quite often get you monkeys.

Look at their portfolio
They should have links to other sites they have designed clearly visible on their site, if they don’t…what are they hiding!

Ask for recommendations
Ask other local business owners who they employed. A good recommendation is the most valuable information you can have.

Check out the ‘competition’
If a design firm has already designed a site for somebody in your industry, chances are they will already have knowledge of what you do. Obviously you don’t want them passing on the intimate details of your business to another company though, so look at site for businesses that are not in direct competition to you or that serve a different part of the country.

Meet them face to face
I would avoid securing this kind of supplier over the phone or email. It is important to get a feel for the person who is working for you as the chances are you will be in contact with them regularly to get updates and to make changes. You must be able to get on with them.

Design firm or marketing firm?
We decided to go with a marketing firm in the end as, after talking to them, we realised we wanted a firm that we could use further down the line, when we could afford it, to carry out broader marketing projects for us. If you go to a design firm that is what you get. That is not a bad thing at all if all you need is to get your site up and running but from the research we carried out we believe that a marketing firm will have a much better idea of how your site should look in order to appeal to your specific market.

Get it in writing
If you can, agree a fixed price. This may mean you agree to a certain amount of pages, certain specific content and the amount of drafts you see before the site is finished but it gives you the security of knowing exactly how much it will cost you. Put everything you discuss in an email at the end of every telephone call or meeting.

During the design process

Communication.
This is probably the most important thing. Stay in regular contact with your designer as if they are heading in a direction you are not happy with you can put them back on track before it is too late. Put your comments in an email. Even if you have a phone call to discuss how the site looks follow it up with an email and be very clear about any changes you want. That way there can be no excuse if you are presented with things you did not want or are not correct.

Seek other opinions
While carrying out a project like this it is easy to become blind to the changes that are taking place. Get your friends and colleagues involved and ask them to tell you what they think. It is pretty likely that they may have some great ideas or spot mistake that you miss.

Once it is finished
Keep it up to date! People will not take you seriously if the last photos you posted are from a year ago and you still have a ‘Merry Christmas’ banner up in August. If you are going to take on the day to day maintenance of your site you must ensure that the company you use had a good CMS (content management system). This allows you to go in make changes to pages. You must make sure they give you proper training on how to do so, don’t let them give you the password and leave you to it. It is highly advisable to build in an hour or two of CMS training into the price you agree.

Having been through the process and ending up with a fantastic site we are confident that if you follow these pointers you will not be disappointed, of course, if you have anything further to add please leave a comment or email me at info@ARdelivers.com

Let Us Make Britain Great Once More

Recently AR Engineering Industries held an event to mark some major events in the organisation’s development. However, for us, it was not only a celebration of our own achievements but a chance to raise awareness of the state of the British Manufacturing Industry and build support for its revival. It is not just down to big business and multinational corporations to turn around the steady decline of, what was once, our most important industry but every small business has a responsibility to do their bit to encourage the growth that is so badly needed.

Claire Cooper MEng, Director of AR Engineering industries made a speech which summed this up. Here it is in full.

What do Isambard Kingdom Brunel, George Stephenson and Sir Frederick Henry Royce all have in common?

Correct; First they are all Engineers: Brunel best known for his work on projects including the Great Western Railway and the Clifton Suspension Bridge in (Bristol), Stephenson is renowned as “The Father of Railways” and Sir Frederick was one of the founder partners of the prestigious Rolls-Royce car manufacturers.

The second striking similarity is that they are all British.

They could not have known the influence that their life, their passion and engineering genius would have had on shaping Britain and the world as whole, and these are just three examples of the many Engineers that we can be proud to call British.

Worldwide, Britain was respected as an authority on engineering. Fundamentally the part Britain played in the Industrial Revolution, our contributions to science and engineering and our enviable reputation for the manufacture of high quality product is what made Britain Great.

Throughout the later part of the twentieth and to date practical engineering and manufacturing within the UK has been rapidly declining due to a number of factors including the fast-growing developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, and China, and our own educational focuses shifting and along with sociological changes within our own community forcing trends to move away from hands on practical trade work to what has been portrayed as the more ‘fashionable and glamorous’ world of computing, banking and management studies.

No discredit to any such industry, however it seems that the bubble burst, boom time was over and our economy came crashing down around us… now we are not here today for a political debate or an analysis of the country’s economical position in the global markets… but we are here to learn about how one small business is fighting its corner not only to ride the storm of the recession but to enter into the next economic cycle stronger than ever before. I believe that if engineering and manufacturing could once again thrive within the UK, and if as a nation we were to revert back to our industrial roots, the economy as whole can flourish once more.

Engineering is the cornerstone of the modern world; and recognising this, A&R draws on this legacy to make a difference.

A&R Engineering (as we were formerly know) was founded 16 years ago by my Father, Alan and his business partner Roy, much of their success was as a result of work within the automotive trade. However due to the gradually changing demands of our client base it was decided that our skills and expertise could be applied wide spread beyond just the automotive industry – aerospace, defence and utilities to name just a few all demanded the high levels of quality and precision that is intrinsic in all of the work carried out at A&R. As Roy retired in 2004, the Cooper family – Mum, Christine, Brother, Daniel and I made up the A&R Partnership with Alan. Following my Graduation from the University of Surrey with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering I joined the business to play and active part in the everyday operations.

Over the past two years there have been some significant changes in the trends of our Client relationships and then of course came the ‘Credit Crunch’. For several months like most businesses we sat tight, we reduced costs, enhanced our efficiency to optimum levels and quite simply crossed our fingers. We ticked along, but this is a dangerous game and provides no sustainability or security for the future. After a careful review of the business it was decided that the only way to ensure longevity for A&R was to take action and not become the next victim of the dwindling economy.

Today is a celebration of the journey we have taken over the past 6 months. Most significantly you will notice we are now AR Engineering Industries Ltd.

We have worked on compiling a comprehensive business plan and marketing strategy to help move us forward and grow and develop.

We have the solid foundations of a great team of engineers with a wealth of experience and knowledge in the field of engineering and manufacturing working together alongside valuable members of support staff.

We utilise the latest technology and equipment to ensure efficient and cost effective solutions to any engineering problem, we focus on the provision of quality in every aspect of our business.

Last year we were awarded our Certificate of Approval for our ISO 9001:2008 standard Quality Management system – a great achievement for a small company and a clear demonstration of the standard to which our services and products adhere to.

Today on display you can see our new website and Company Literature, there is a demonstration of our CAD CAM software, and we also have a small selection of some of the components and items that we can manufacture – however we are not limited to what you see here…. Not just a cheesy cliché but a genuine belief that ‘nothing is impossible… it’s just waiting to be engineered!’ Our technical guys are also here so please have a chat and find out a little more about what AR do, and perhaps what AR can do for you. Yes we work within the high tech aerospace, utilities and transport industries, but engineering is part of our everyday lives – and we can meet your everyday requirements – recently we have made components for the local butchers mincing machine, we sharpen and maintain blades for a number of tree surgeons and printers, as well as our neighbours’ gardening tools, we have designed and made a fridge opening aid for the frail and elderly… the possibilities are endless.

However, today is not only a celebration for AR Engineering Industries, but also I would like you to recognise this as a representation of the importance and significance of the small to medium enterprise in today’s society. SMEs such as AR can offer many advantages over larger faceless corporations – we can offer a personal service, we can have the scope for flexibility to accommodate your needs and can be dynamic and responsive because you can deal directly with us and our engineers – no call centres or electronic voices to decipher your problems, just real people and real engineers.

The SME or local business is a great contributor to the economy as a whole – but to thrive we need your support – and this is also prevalent beyond manufacturing and engineering. Buying cheaper imported goods on a cost basis is often the easiest and in some ways the most logical option – however at what cost is this to our future generations? This is an important question we should ask ourselves. Last year Britain’s manufacturing output was approximately 13 % lower than 2008 – the fastest fall since 1948, when records began, current indications are that this downward trend is set to continue – this would imply job losses and money being spent abroad to procure these items.

It would be an unrealistic idealism to say we should manufacture everything in Britain and buy only British products, however little by little if every person made one or two small changes to their lives and the products we buy in order to support a local business or a British company perhaps we can all contribute to help rebuilding our economy and to once again help make Britain Great.

Recession A Time for Growth and Development

News ShopperThis article, written by Claire at AR Engineering Industries, appeared on the News Shopper business pages.

At a time when most businesses are rationalising their operations due to the current economic climate at AR Engineering Industries; a family run precision engineering, machining and manufacturing company based in Dartford, Kent; we decided to not sit back and become the next victim of the UKs dwindling economy.

As an SME and with extremely limited resources formulating a new marketing strategy for the company – an activity not within our past scope of operations – was no mean feat. With so many options available and budgetary constraints a significant consideration, careful choices had to be made and our actions meticulously planned from the outset.

The main purpose of the ‘Re-Launch’ project was to ensure that our company was no longer invisible to the industry and potential customers – an issue many SMEs face.

After much consideration it was decided that our key areas of focus were to be; an enhanced company image and logo, a website and new company literature. Alongside this we took proactive measures in the promotion of our business from attending networking events, use of services such as Facebook and Twitter in addition to formalised tele and email marketing campaigns.

The above was all made possible through use of the services offered and advice from several key organisations: The Manufacturing Advisory Service, Business Link Kent and The Thames Gateway Chamber of Commerce. They offer free and part subsidised support and utilise government funding specifically allocated to SMEs – much of which, like us at AR Engineering, similar business’ are unaware of. As a result of the support of the above mentioned organisations and the commitment of the AR Team to the implementation of not only the new marketing strategy but a transformation in the fundamental way the business operates we are steadily moving along the pathway of transformation from traditional old school dirty engineering work shop to innovative and forward thinking engineering company of the future.

In the grander scheme we envisage that if other similar companies follow the proactive route to success and sustainability that not only the British Engineering Industry will once again be able to thrive but as seen historically, it will also support and boost the economy as a whole.

To celebrate the achievements and the journey we have taken over the past 6 months we are holding a re-launch event on Tuesday 23rd February; for details please email info@ARdelivers.com or visit our website at www.ARdelivers.com. If you wish to find out more about our story and information regarding the resources and advice we utilised please contact us.

Business Blogging From Scratch

Shout about your Blog!After spending a lot of time and money on a new website the last thing you want is for it to sit there not working for you. The only people who are likely to see it are the friends, family, suppliers and customers that you send a link to but all those people know you exist already. You want your website to reach a larger audience.

After an extensive search, my sister and I eventually found a company to take on the project of designing the website for our family business, AR Engineering Industries (a process which will be the subject of a later post on this Blog). Three months after we found them (SEA Ltd, an extremely helpful company) we thought, “Our site looks brilliant…but who is going to look at it?” Search engine optimisation is a time consuming business if you wish to attempt it yourself and an expensive business if you get somebody else to do it. However, if you are willing to dedicate an hour or so a week to it, keeping a Blog it is a highly effective, free way of generating traffic to your site.

The more links there are to your website the better. Search engines like to see other people linking to you particularly from sites that are reputable or highly regarded in their field. However in the absence of links from recognised sources why not create your own? Writing a Blog is a good way of doing this. It enables you to write about your own business or industry in a way that may be interesting to others who may then click though to your site.

There are a few key points to consider when writing a Blog:

1. Be Interesting
I found a very useful article on the Blog for web marketing company Hubspot.com (6 Eye-Catching Content Ideas For Your Business Blog) that I found very encouraging as it confirmed a lot of what I already thought. They say that,

”the success of a Blog article also depends on how you tell your stories, or methods of narration.”

This is very true, you may be an expert in your field but who wants to trawl through boring facts and figure displayed in an even more boring way. It has to be interesting as well as informative.

2. Be Helpful
A large number of people searching the web are in need of some kind of help. If you can write a ‘how to’ guide, or offer advice about problems you have encountered in your industry you are more likely to be found and the people who find you are more likely to share your Blog with others.

3. Keep it Short.

According to useit.com, Jakob Nielsen’s Website,

“On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.”

So according to that figure you may not get as far as reading this line. Remember, the idea is to get people to visit your site so get the main points in the Blog article then refer them to your site for further reading, maybe a downloadable document? Even better, offer personal help. Which leads me to…

4. Keep it personal.

People like to think that another human being has written what they are reading, often it will help a person to connect to a subject as you are writing about a problem that they are also experiencing. Read what comments people post. If they don’t agree with what you say, politely find out why. Maybe they can help you? What about inviting people to contact you for further help and advice?

5. Promote your Blog.

You should actively try to get your Blog seen by as many peoples as possible. You can register with Blog directories, offer links in comments sections on related Blog postings (only try to do this if you feel you can further somebody’s experience, nobody likes to be hijacked!). If you want some more in-depth advice on the subject read ‘Branding 101: How To Promote Your Blog Like the Big Guys Do’ by Leo Babauta on http://www.writetodone.com. This is a fairly comprehensive guide that deals with everything from content and structure to targeting particular audiences and sending out a consistent message.

6. Be Committed

Of course, do not expect to publish one post on your Blog and suddenly see the hits on your website go through the roof. Like all aspects of creating web traffic it is all about showing up. You have to be committed. I am under no illusions that this, my first post on the AR Blog will make a massive difference to the amount of people that see our site but we all have to start somewhere.

The more attention you pay to all these things the more likely you are to be found, and in turn send people to your own website. The goal is, of course, to increase your business’ profits by getting them to engage with you and then buy from you but along the way you may be able to help other people. By being a reliable helpful source of information you build respect, which is something that no amount of profit can buy.

I am not an expert on this subject, I just happen to have picked up some useful tips while trying to help my own small business. I have been lucky enough to meet many people on the way that have helped me so I would like to pass it on. If you feel like I can be of any more help to you please contact me at Daniel@ARengineeringIndustries.com and I will get back to you.


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