Founder and Managing Director of Westbury Control Systems, Glynn Westbury, offers a personal retrospective of his business, triggered by an interesting, but unexpected return to the shop floor.
2020 – Not a year to celebrate
Last year, we had all of the best intentions to celebrate Westbury’s 20 years in business. Perhaps on the shop floor a celebratory run out to the cake shop, followed by the probable promotional push to demark over two decades of successfully trading as a British manufacturer. Disappointingly, it never happened and was certainly not to be, given the lockdown and the encroachment of all of our lives, which included our workplaces.
Humble beginnings: we rarely had time for photography back in the 1990’s – but that is me (an accidental ‘selfie’ of sorts) on the left, peering into a machine on site. My small team and our staff room are shown on the right.
Facing up to the challenge
Running a manufacturing business is never easy and always challenging: then all of sudden it became a whole different ball game back in March of last year. As the founder, and MD I sought strength from my own experience [as an apprentice from the 1970’s, to eventually starting my own business – Westbury Control Systems] to cope with the challenges which we all faced. Being the son of a builder, you learn to be resilient and struggle through – relying upon old-fashioned stoicism which appears to be sadly lacking in some quarters these days.
Big machines, big contracts: building control panels and systems for a global customer in the quarry sector laid the foundations for the business and success to come.
‘The Westbury Boys’: many of which are key people still to be found on the shop floor today. Although, as the times have changed, the old school banter and tomfoolery have been toned down somewhat!
The ‘Westbury Way’
At the time, on the cusp of lockdown, and having just received a substantial and valuable order for the business, it was vital that we responded with due diligence and professionalism – the hallmarks, as many of my staff call it, of the ‘Westbury Way’. It perhaps sounds egotistical, but it’s not; rather it encapsulates our team’s approach, setting ourselves apart from others and arguably justifies our longevity. Back to the task in hand: with only one thing for it, to literally roll up my sleeves and make a return to the shop floor. At first, some members of the shop floor staff were apprehensive looking at me as a possible hindrance rather than a help, some even jovial giving me a mixed reception. From the start, it quickly became apparent that I was going to enjoy my debut as a veteran control panel builder returning to ‘the pitch’. But could I deliver? Did I still have good enough form with my hands-on skills? In brief, as some of the rust wore off, here and there, the adrenaline took over and everything began to come together nicely. It soon transpired the boss could still cut it where it all began on the workshop floor.
Setting the standards early on: if it looks right, more often than not it is right! Despite the passing of the years, a Westbury control panel is still built to the same exacting standards, which we established when we first set out.
All hands on deck
Building in batches – our preferred approach – meant that we organised ourselves accordingly, including other management staff, like my Op’s Director, Paul Knott, (even drafting in his wife to make up the shortfall in staff) into an effective production line. Following a ‘point-to-point’ wiring scheme that we developed a few years previously, in an effort to standardise our best practice, we managed quite competently, to build a suite of panels simultaneously, to a very high standard and importantly to a deadline, under exceptional circumstances.
Our move to Narborough, Leicestershire in 2013: it allowed us to expand, modernise and focus our set up to ideally serve OEM machine builders. Fortunately, with the right people and processes in place, we have been able to cope very well with the challenges of trading during a pandemic – and have even added to our customer base.
With the benefit of hindsight, I now consider the whole episode as a great achievement, which for me personally, was not only an interesting trip down memory lane but it also offered a valuable opportunity to reconnect with the business I founded 20 years ago. A stint ‘back at the coal face’ did me no harm, in fact as my father would perhaps argue “a world of good” as it offered an up-to-date first hand insight into working practices, processes, efficiencies and so on.
I’d like to think that I could do the same in another 20 years, but I’m a realist! Although, I have every intention of having a long and enjoyable life, and optimistically hope to look back on at least another decade or perhaps even two, leading Westbury to continued success. (GW, Feb 2021)
For more information about control panel manufacturing and engineering at Westbury.