Clifton Rubber Co

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Clifton Rubber Co's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Clifton Rubber Co is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Ben Burton, operations director
Clifton Rubber’s technical rubber mouldings
are used in a wide variety of applications
Clifton Rubber was established in 1973 by Brian Burton,
the current managing director and co-owner. Over the
past 45 years Brian has successfully guided the business
from its (and his) humble beginnings to an established name in
our mature industry. The business made gains on the market in
terms of growth mainly through acquisition of other similarly
aligned companies and through the development of new
production methods. Like most SME start-ups, however, it
faced many challenges and periods where survival consumed
all available resources. Here to discuss more elements of this
journey and how the company operates is Ben Burton, the
operations director, himself.
We are one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of rubber and polyurethane
components, supplying many world class manufacturers in various global industries
with components tailored to meet their specific applications. We operate six
core manufacturing processes from our 45,000 square feet Cambridgeshire
»Co-owner and managing
director: Brian Burton
»Established in 1973
»Based in St Ives,
»Services: Manufacturer of
rubber and polyurethane
»No. of employees: 40
»Certified to ISO9001:2015
»30% Export sales
Clifton Rubber
»Rubber moulding
»Polyurethane casting
»Rubber Roller Covering
»Rubber Gasket Cutting
»Rubber Extrusion
»Precision Engineering and Toolmaking
This range of production competencies and resources provide our customers with
an all-encompassing manufacturing solution for their rubber and polyurethane
product requirements.
Highlighting best practice
Having spent my life in and around the
company, in 2011 (aged 27) I made
the decision to leave a career in the
City and join the family business full
time. While the business had survived
many challenges and grown to a
reasonable size, both Brian and I were
in agreement that change would be
required in order to move the company
to the next stage of growth.
One of the first tasks was to establish a
shared vision. Through introspection, we
determined that the vision – to be one
of Europe’s leading manufacturers of
Rubber and Polyurethane components
– had always been inherent. This
shared understanding of our direction
afforded us the ability to agree on
six objectives which would move us
toward our goal:
Invest in the team:
To achieve our
vision, we needed to have skilled and
committed people in the right roles
within the company. We therefore
agreed upon a programme to
develop talented people from within
the organisation, and bring into
the organisation the right people
where there were obvious gaps. We
invested in training in the form of
toolmaker apprenticeships, various
technical courses and I undertook an
Exec MBA at Cranfield University.
Devolve decision making
: It would
have been difficult to develop the
business from a phase of content
survival to a phase of successful
growth with a single entrepreneurial
leader having to make all micro
decisions. Spreading the decision-
making burden between Brian,
, the management team and
throughout the company meant
increasing collective engagement
and motivation at all levels of the
organisation, all while freeing
valuable time to enable Brian and
to focus on the entrepreneurial
aspects of business growth.
Manufacture the right products with
the best quality
: The historic global
trend of offshoring manufacturing
meant many of our high-volume, low-
complexity projects were moved to
lower cost manufacturing economies.
We therefore had to adapt our
product offering, focusing more on
our ability to produce quality rubber
and polyurethane components which
required more engineering capability
and were not viable to source from
Rubber moulded discs
processing household
waste at a recycling
We manufacture
customer bespoke
polyurethane components
Vision to be
one of
of Rubber and
cheaper economies (when the landed
costs were taken into consideration).
Target growth in “new to us”
: While we were an
established name in our UK markets,
it was necessary to develop our
export business to enable growth.
Logistically, the EU market was the
easiest option due to the low barriers
to trade (location, tariffs, language,
etc.), but we also targeted other
English-speaking economies, such as
the USA and Canada among others.
Implement best practice
manufacturing principles
: To improve
our ability to deliver quality products
on time, we had to improve our
production philosophy. Investing in
the re-organisation of some factories
and implementing various well-
known waste reducing techniques
such as 5S enabled us to produce
better products more efficiently.
Better utilise our existing production
We developed own-
branded products such as wear
parts for agricultural and recycling
equipment, offshore pipe-laying
rollers and bowls green ditch
liners. These branded products are
manufactured using our existing
manufacturing resources. By offering
these in addition to the customer
products we could increase revenue
without investing in new capabilities.
Since we established these objectives
in 2012 we have grown our turnover
by over 30 per cent while maintaining
sustainable profitability – the business
is achieving successful growth. There
are, however, obstacles ahead.
Brexit has undoubtedly affected
our trade with our biggest export
market. The issue hasn’t affected our
soft relationships with existing (and
potential) customers, nor has it affected
the demand for our export products.
Indeed, many customers are sympathetic
to the referendum outcome. The biggest
problem is the uncertainty regarding
additional costs and logistical obstacles
involved in any future trade agreement,
which would disrupt the smooth supply
chain we currently have in place. This is
the barrier to new work. We have seen
projects lost because of this uncertainty,
as have many of our exporting
customers in the UK. It is important that
this issue of uncertainty is addressed as
swiftly as possible to enable us to carry
on our plans for growth.
Our family business is now in transition
to second generation leadership. As I
take on more and more of the day-
to-day management of the company,
the business models, best practice and
personal development learnt during my
MBA must be put into action. However,
implementing best practice with limited
financial resources is challenging. To
fulfil our plans for growth, we must
maintain our ambition to achieve our
defined objectives within our financial
capacity. Our ability to achieve these
objectives would be assisted if the fiscal
reins were loosened, enabling our cash-
thirsty business to invest our limited
cash resources to fund our growth
– something that would ultimately
increase public fiscal revenue in the
long run.
Moving forward we will endeavour to
achieve our vision and look forward to
targeting yet newer, more ambitious
ones in the future.
We have grown
our turnover by
over 30 per cent
profitability –
the business is
Ben and Brian Burton
inspecting production
from the company’s
latest polyurethane
processing equipment

This article was sponsored by Clifton Rubber Co. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister