Image Above: Dan Smith, technical director at Twinfix
A glazing manufacturer, supported by Made Smarter, has embraced a new approach to leadership during the coronavirus crisis.
Forced to close or reduce operations in factories and offices, owners and senior managers involved in the North West digital technology adoption pilot faced their toughest test as they figured out how to restart, reassure their uncertain workforce and customers, and recover.
Dan Smith, technical director at Twinfix, a glazing and canopy manufacturer based in Warrington, revealed that changing his approach to the new needs of his workforce and business is helping navigate the impact of the pandemic.
Agile leadership, flexibility, transparency, open communications and being receptive to learning from others have proved vital new tools for the future.
Smith is part of the second cohort on the Made Smarter Leadership Programme, which had to switch online with virtual tutorials to give leaders a strategic view to support the adoption of hi-tech and digitally-based manufacturing techniques into their own production processes.
He said he has benefited from the peer-to-peer network.
“SMEs tend to operate in an isolated bubble, and as a leader, you can often feel like you have no one to turn to,” he said. “The fantastic thing about the Leadership Programme was that it forged an impressive bond of trust between the cohort early on, which meant I felt I could talk about the company and our challenges openly. I believe that during the crisis we stayed in touch more than I suspected we would, talking about the challenges and sharing ideas about how to navigate it.”
Donna Edwards, Made Smarter programme director, said: “From the start of the pandemic Made Smarter has been in regular contact with leaders across the region offering support and advice. Our conversations revealed some striking changes in the traditional norms, attitudes and behaviours that guide leaders.
“They have demonstrated agility and adapted to an unprecedented and emerging situation to ensure people and plants have remained functional. New flexible approaches have helped individuals and teams cope with the intense challenges to their daily and working lives. In many cases they have used the pain to change longstanding practices and find better ways of doing things. At the heart of this need for change is technology, which has proved invaluable in allowing manufacturers to work remotely to maintain operations and communications and prompted SMEs to accelerate and broaden their adoption of digital tools.”
It isn’t just SME leaders who have experienced lightbulb moments during the pandemic.
Glyn Jones, chair of Made Smarter’s North West adoption steering group and BAE Systems’ delivery director for the Tempest programme, said Covid-19 challenged long-standing paradigms in his business.
He said: “Covid brought a huge amount of focus, energy and some amazing innovation to get the business back on its feet.
“Things we previously thought impossible were achieved in the space of weeks and whilst it was challenging both personally and professionally for a lot of people, we saw some amazing things happen.
“In the past 25 years I have led many different teams and I have never experienced anything like this, but it is often at times of great adversity that people’s leadership skills come to the fore. I am sure many of us have seen that in the past few months.
“There is no leadership book on how we deal with a situation like this, so being open to learning from each other adjusting our approach is vital.
“We will continue to face challenges for a long while yet, but we must find a way to harness some of positive changes, embrace this new attitude and new ways of working rather than simply going back to the way things used to be.”
Registration for the next Leadership Programme starting in October is now open.
For more information or to apply for your place visit www.lancaster.ac.uk/lums/madesmarter