Inspiring the future leaders of manufacturing
Stuart Chambers is one of the manufacturing industry’s leading figures, with a global reputation for business, training and teaching excellence. We look at how Stuart has gone from apprentice engineer to academic and business leader, responsible for moulding future manufacturing stars.
Having graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering, Stuart started his career as an apprentice with Rolls Royce Aerospace. He subsequently worked in the steel industry as a production manager, before becoming factory manager of one of the UK’s largest pre-cast concrete factories and then general manager of a specialist building material manufacturer in Devon. It was this varied industry experience that inspired his next move into postgraduate study.
“During my fifteen years in industry I was often frustrated by the short-term, reactive corporate culture I experienced,” said Stuart. “This was a factor in my decision to study for an MBA. I felt that there must be a better way to run businesses and develop teams.”
Whilst studying, Stuart made the decision to redirect his career. On completion of his course he began teaching and researching manufacturing strategy – a career that he now has more than 25 years’ experience in.
“Excellence in operations and process management is a vital ingredient of sustainable success in almost every enterprise,” added Stuart. “Having experienced the disadvantages of having virtually no training or education on these subjects during my own industrial career, I was keen to help others in the sector gain the necessary insights, skills and techniques to help them manage and improve processes.”
For several years Stuart travelled throughout the UK, USA and Canada helping boards of international manufacturing companies develop five-year plans, whilst also teaching MBA and executive courses for Warwick Business School and collaborating on several leading operations management textbooks. In recent years, his work has expanded to encompass the services industry, providing consultancy on process improvement and waste reduction.
Over the last four years Stuart has worked primarily with Johnson Matthey, a FTSE 100 company and global leader in sustainable technologies.
He and his long-standing colleague Mike Hopkins, a specialist in leadership and communication skills, have created the unique Global Manufacturing Leadership Programme to develop Johnson Matthey’s ‘high-flyer’ young scientists and engineers into future leaders of global manufacturing.
“Over a 12-month period, 25 people are taken abroad to four different Johnson Matthey factories for eight days,” added Stuart. “It is a highly interactive and hands-on period of intensive training and education in a full range of operations management skills, combined with group and individual leadership development. The delegates are briefed on improvement projects – a bit like on ‘The Apprentice’ – and they have 24 hours to come up with a solution and present it clearly to local management, overcoming any communication issues. We coach and mentor the delegates throughout the process and to date they have identified and implemented potential savings worth millions of pounds; often increasing capacity without capital investment.”
“Each visit abroad also includes a charity day,” added Stuart. “During one visit to India delegates spent a day at a school for deaf teenagers who were involved in sewing and embroidering leather goods. They helped improve the production process, making the facilities safer, which the staff and students were delighted about and the delegates found very rewarding.”
According to Stuart, there is no other course quite like this in Europe. Its uniqueness lies in its combination of technical manufacturing skills coaching with an unusually high proportion of leadership skills training and mentoring, which is aimed at developing behaviours, attitudes and charisma. The course was recently named as runner up for the prestigious Engineering Employers Federation Innovative Education and Design Award.
As if he wasn’t busy enough, Stuart’s ongoing venture is the restoration and conversion of a 15th century barn in Ashburton, which he and his wife Jane are converting into a five star three-bedroom thatched stone holiday cottage, using salvaged local materials.
This new project along with the recent incorporation of his company Operations Leaders Ltd, are just some of the ventures that Mary Jane Campbell and the Simpkins Edwards team have advised Stuart on over the past 10 years, in addition to preparing his annual accounts and personal tax return.
“Mary Jane always provides incredible, speedy advice and recently gave me very clear insight on whether our holiday cottage project would be a good long-term financial investment. Once we’d made the decision she also advised on how to minimise our tax liability,” commented Stuart. “Simpkins Edwards is the most helpful accountancy firm I’ve ever come across.”
So, what does the future hold for Stuart?
“Operations Leaders Ltd is passionate about offering our successful formula to help develop young technical and operations people into tomorrow’s great leaders. There are already some fantastic operations here in Britain and we’re confident that we can once again be a great manufacturing nation if we inspire the next generation and give them the tools to succeed.”
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