Contracts Engineering

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Contracts Engineering'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 Contracts Engineering 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

Troy and Catherine Barratt
own and manage Contracts
Engineering Ltd
From prototype and value
engineering to batch manufacture
In 2012, Troy and Catherine Barratt purchased a small
and steady 20-year-old precision engineering business in
Sittingbourne, Kent, and concentrated on the compelling
growth opportunities they could see. With significant annual
investment and capital expenditure, they have turned
Contracts Engineering Ltd around, increased turnover
two and half times and now employ 32 people. Contracts
Engineering’s recent success is testament to a two-part
thesis that Troy and Catherine operate by: they believe that
manufacturing is coming back to the UK, and that bringing
an unprecedented professionalism and focus on investment
to companies within the industry provides significant
opportunityfor growth.
After the initial period of investment and reorganisation, the company has reached
a place where it is two and a half times the size it was six years ago, and now has
a strong professional management team. We are now at a point where we are
prepared for further accelerated growth.
Our work is primarily grounded in sheet steel and aluminium design support,
fabrication, manufacture, assembly and packaging. The range of our
manufacturing includes street furniture, supermarket checkouts, hard landscaping,
industrial machinery, food-processing machinery and construction-related products.
We service both high-volume batch manufacture and high-specification project-
»Co-owners: Troy and
Catherine Barratt
»Established in 1989, with new
ownership in 2012
»Based in Sittingbourne, Kent
»Services provided: Design,
support, manufacture,
fabrication and assembly of
steel and aluminium products
»No. of employees: 32
»Accreditations: ISO 9001:2015
»Member of EEF, including
regional advisory board
and the economic policy
Contracts Engineering
Highlighting best practice
»2.5x increase in turnover
»3.0x increase in operating
»Operating profit margin up
2.5 per cent
»50 per cent increase in
»Doubled shifts resulting in
16 hours of production a
ȣ650,000 invested in
machinery, software and
»Customer-focused key
performance indicators
Quality, delivery,
communication and investment
Our company-level key performance
indicators (KPIs) are entirely focused
on customer satisfaction; specifically
they are minimising external quality
control issues and maximising on-
time-in-full (OTIF) delivery. We have
increased our OTIF by over 35 per cent
since acquisition, and we now have
fewer quality issues a year even though
we are two and a half times larger.
Bringing a professional approach and
mindset to the company has been
beneficial – delivering the right product
on time goes a long way to ensuring
strong relationships withcustomers.
This is no easy feat, however, and
we have invested over £650,000 in
the business to support our strategy.
New machinery, ERP and CAD/
CAM software has enabled us to
deliver effectively, efficiently and
professionally for large-scale projects.
Our largest single investment has
been in a fibre-optic laser cutting
machine which we bought in 2017
to replace an old model. This reduced
electricity requirements by 70 per cent
and regularly runs 24 hours a day,
shortening lead times. We have also
increased laser utilisation by 25 per
cent since 2012. In 2015, we achieved
ISO 9001 status and recently extended
our scope to include designsupport.
As part of this process, we have also
invested £75,000 in software and
training. Our employees are a huge
part of our success; getting the right
people and focusing on their training
and development is one of the most
important factors contributing to our
success. We are running our third
training programme, having focused
last year on lean manufacturing.
This year, four members of staff are
studying for their NVQ in leadership
and management, and our operations
director, Ross Campbell, is studying for
his level 5 diploma in management.
At the beginning of this year, we
introduced a firm-wide employee
profit share programme.Our profit
share programme is tied to our KPIs
and operating profit, so we are all
aligned with meeting customers’
needs to ensure the long-term success
of our business. Ross Campbell has
been instrumental to our success
and oversees all purchasing and
production. We are also fortunate
to have an active and engaged
investing non-executive chairman,
Mike Blenkinsop, who was previously
CEO of a 170 million turnover
Investment in state-of-the-art fibre-
optic laser cutting machine
Stainless steel food-
processing machinery
Our company-
level KPIs are
focused on
Partnerships with customers
With our commercial background, Troy
from private equity and myself from
commercial sales and strategy, we
place a real focus on strategic business
development. We receive customer
referrals and actively look for new
customers to ensure steady expansion.
We have developed deep partnerships
with our existing customers, too: we
join them for meetings with their
clients, invest in new machinery to
support their sales growth and, in
many cases, we ship directly to their
clients using our customers’ packaging
and forms. We have become fully
integrated into many of our customers’
supply chains.
In early 2017, we purchased equity
in one key customer. Since that
investment, we have supported their
growth by increasing production
capacity, developing a detailed
business development strategy
and working with them on future
We are starting to see manufacturing
making a return to British soil. We have
been able to demonstrate that, with
volume, we can get close to prices
offered overseas, while providing
higher quality and shorter turnaround
times across the board. Reshoring
will be a particular area of focus for
Landscape of uncertainty
The drop in the pound following
Brexit has helped us win work from
Asian and European competitors; the
important thing for us, however, is
zero-tariff trading with the European
Union. While our customers are all
UK-based, a large number export and
the EU remains by far their largest
Moving forward, we aim to remain
well informed during this uncertain
situation. Membership of the EEF and
its economic policy committee has thus
far provided great value and insight
into Brexit, along with other key issues
Upward trajectory
We are so proud of Contracts
Engineering’s journey thus far. We
have a wonderful team of highly
skilled, engaged and motivated staff
who fabricate and manufacture
products for a growing and varied
customer base. We are achieving
our original thesis: we are part
of the predicted return of British
manufacturing and have focused
on the customer, which has in turn
brought success and growth.
Going forward, we are concentrating
on maintaining this upward
trajectory. Building on the successful
foundation we have created since
buying Contracts Engineering in late
2012, we are preparing for a period
of annual double-digit growth. We
plan to move into a larger factory in
2019, establish more partnerships
with our customers and focus on
further reshoring manufacturing
We have
become fully
into many of
our customers’
supply chains
Advanced welding
equipment has
increased welding
capacity and
shortened lead times
We invest in machinery
to support customer

This article was sponsored by Contracts Engineering. 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