Alan Murphy, managing director
78 million parts supplied
With a celebrated 50-year track record, Northampton-
based rubber and plastic moulding company Burnetts
Manufacturing is recognised around the world for
its technical expertise, product quality and exceptional service.
With the ability to design and mould products from many
different materials, Burnetts is the sole supplier for several
global corporations, moulding 78 million parts per year and
exporting to 14 different countries. For managing director Alan
Murphy, the challenge now is to build upon this success; 2018
will see the company invest in a new automotive production
facility to support the recent award of first-tier supply contracts.
We were established in Northampton in 1967, where we began manufacturing
rubber products in a former laundry building. Over the next 40 years, we went on
to develop silicone keypads for Nokia, produce battery components used aboard
the NASA space shuttles and develop an award-winning robotised moulding cell to
produce screwdrivers for Stanley Tools.
I joined Burnetts in 1998. I initially worked in logistics, but quickly moved on to
become production manager and subsequently managing director. The year 2006
saw us six months away from closure when our then owners decided to rationalise
UK operations. As part of this plan, all rubber moulding activity would cease,
but when the customers were consulted, the opportunity to save the business
»Managing director: Alan
»Established in 1967
»Based in Northampton
»Services: Rubber and plastic
»No. of employees: 69
»Turnover: £7 million
»Exports of 68 per cent
Highlighting best practice
materialised. I recall a meeting with
EnerSys, the world’s largest producer
of industrial batteries. I was pitching
to retain their business and making
assurances that they would see a
better Burnetts, more focused than
ever on delivering excellence. It was
at this point that I discovered that we
were the benchmark by which all their
suppliers were judged.
It was a similar story elsewhere, and
every one of our rubber customers
supported the plan to continue and,
now, 12 years later, those same
customers are working with us to
develop new products, reduce costs
and innovate. All of our customers
are global market leaders. They
are continually looking to push
product performance and reliability.
The forklift battery market is very
competitive, and, in the last ten
years, product warranty periods have
doubled. It is therefore satisfying to
note that we have consolidated our
standing in this global market, and
our acid-resistant rubber products
are now used by the two largest
companies in the industry.
We are somewhat unique when it
comes to offering customers the
breadth of materials we do. In 2006,
the company was once again focused
on rubber, with 24 employees and
sales of £1.8 million. By 2010, we
had expanded into moulding hard
and soft plastics; sales have since
grown steadily to £7 million. While
commonly associated with the battery
industry, we now have a balanced
portfolio of customers across a range
of industries; this has proven to be
invaluable. When the 2008 recession
hit, this diversity continued to deliver
growth with an upturn in demand
for hazardous environment seals and
gaskets. These same products remain
a mainstay for us; their unique fire-
retardant rubber is used in various
applications including the cable
sealing system installed on the Royal
Navy’s new tide-class tanker, RFA
We have also benefited from the
success of the UK automotive industry,
having been a second-tier supplier
since 2006. In 2017, we were finally
awarded first-tier status and 2018 will
see the business transform its facility
to capitalise on this opportunity. The
decision to invest in an automotive
production cell is integral to our
growth over the next five years.
While we have always held ISO 9001
quality accreditation, the transition
to IATF16949 will prove to be a
major challenge. The plan involves
45 moulding machines
represent significant
A dedicated and well-
trained workforce
delivering zero defects
All of our
customers are
global market
leaders. They
are continually
looking to
push product
and reliability
investment in premises, machinery,
recruitment, training and systems,
and our teams are committed to this
exciting development. The customer
is, of course, integral to these plans
and we are already working with
their engineers to develop modular
products for future platforms that
reduce weight and lower cost.
People and culture
A business is only as good as its
people; the hardest task for any
business is creating a dynamic and
capable team who both challenge and
complement each other while sharing
a common goal. We are proud to
have staff with over 30 years’ service
working alongside young, dynamic
people who are full of ideas and
embrace change. We have people
working towards NVQ qualifications
on modern apprenticeships, attending
external training courses on quality and
CAD/CAM systems while developing
their skills in our lean manufacturing
workshops. Ultimately, it is these
people who will shape our future; their
drive and enthusiasm are invaluable.
We are also keen to acknowledge
how changes at the top are driving
the business forward. In 2013, my son
Declan finally joined the company.
This was the culmination of a long-
held plan which saw him receive a
business degree and some invaluable
industry experience. As our commercial
director, Declan is changing the face
of the company, raising our profile in
multiple markets and generating real
opportunities while also inspiring the
next generation of our team.
We employ a culture of continuous
improvement and much of the
company’s growth has come from
developing products and processes.
We operate 45 moulding presses,
and have invested over £2.3 million
in machinery. This trend will continue
in 2018, with the investment in an
automotive facility and the arrival of
a high-tech camera inspection system
that will approve 18 million rubber
parts annually.
To be successful, a business must
choose the right partners, and we
have built up a strong network of
trusted advisers who offer invaluable
support and expertise. It is impossible
for a company of our size to be an
expert in every field, and we have
seen great benefit from working
with companies who can guide us
through R&D taxation, employment
legislation, patent laws, grants, energy
consumption, international law and
climate change levy to name but a
few. Working with the right people
has delivered enormous benefits.
A positive future
Delivering exceptional service remains
of paramount importance to our
strategic direction, and we will see
further investment in our people to
support our continued growth. Over
100 new mould tools will arrive over
the coming 18 months in support of
existing customers as we deliver on
our commitment to grow UK domestic
sales to £7.5 million.
We employ a
culture of
and much of
the company’s
growth has
come from
products and
One of 73 tools
manufactured in 2017