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Ian Conetta Interviewed at South East Manufacturing Leaders Roundtable

Date: Mon 4th October 2021

An Optimistic Outlook

As the country opens up once more, thoughts now turn to the world post-COVID. For many sectors of the economy, this means pressing the re-start button following a period of steady growth for some, stagnation for others.

For many South East-based manufacturing businesses the world never really stopped as they remained open, stayed productive, diversified when required and ensured continuous service for customers.

Manufacturing businesses across the South East have risen to the joint challenges of COVID and Brexit and are embracing new ways of working and using digital technology to make themselves more efficient, more productive and more competitive.

Insider’s South East Manufacturing Leaders Roundtable brought together the heads of several manufacturing business to find out what day-to-day challenges they were now facing, how they have adjusted to new working practices and what their prospects were now we are coming through the pandemic.

How we managed through Covid

As a group of companies we’ve had different experiences at different times over the course of the last 18 months and it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster for all of them. But luckily none of them hit lulls at the same time so we’ve been able to manage things through the pandemic pretty well. One of our businesses, CSP, is a provider to the public sector and the NHS, supplying clinical and critical forms to hospitals all over the UK. A lot of commercial printers have really struggled during the pandemic but because of the diverse nature of the group we’ve been able to manage things and now Delga Press and CSP are both back to pre-pandemic levels of activity with strong growth potential.

Getting skilled staff

Recruitment remains an issue for us. Ours is an ageing industry in terms of workforces so we’ve looked at taking on apprentices but it seems younger people aren’t too keen to get their hands dirty in an industry like ours. At the start of the pandemic we picked up four highly skilled senior people who had left failing or failed businesses and they have really added value to the business. But getting lower skilled operatives in has proved nigh on impossible.

Investing for the future

At the beginning of 2020 we had the idea of launching our own label business and invested in machinery to set that up. At the same time we were offered a digital laser-cutting machine which was a massive purchase but has added a different USP to the group. And we’ve now made another investment in the press, so we now have a greater service offering than we had before.

Growth plans

I’m sure our industry will consolidate and contract in the next few years. In the next few months even I think we’ll see closures and these will provide us with opportunities for us to grow on the back of this and new work becomes available. We have some strong plans for 25-30 per cent growth in the next three years, especially with our geographical penetration of the UK with our NHS work. The investments we’ve made, the efficiency gains and the automation we’ve established in the business will make us fit for purpose moving forward. We’ve not just weathered the storm we’ve actually come out with some really strong growth plans and able to put in some investment into the businesses too.

You can read the full article on Insider Media Limited's website.

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