Mark Asplin Whiteley

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Mark Asplin Whiteley'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 Mark Asplin Whiteley 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

Mark Asplin Whiteley, CEO
Art Deco bedroom,
Based in Whitby, North Yorkshire, Mark Asplin Whiteley
Ltd is a bespoke luxury furniture maker who has supplied
unsurpassed quality into the London and global bespoke
interior design market for over 30 years. Statement pieces,
furniture, kitchens, architectural joinery into listed buildings, yacht
furniture, architectural boxes and luxury wooden accessories: these
are just some of the bespoke items that they regularly produce.
Mark Whiteley, cabinet maker, master craftsman and CEO, writes
in the following piece about what is required in a business to
consistently achieve the quality that is demanded at the very top
of the market. Quality, he says, is key to long-term success.
I was privileged to be at school in the 1970s when woodwork and metalwork was
taught. Focus was on the tool and material dynamic – from doing this practical
work, intuitions were refined. By developing a ‘feel’ for the material, you could
quite literally sense when it called for cutting in the other direction. This early
knowledge was crucial to my choosing a career in fine craft. Rycotewood, near
Oxford, was the college of choice, to which the UK owes much of its success in
luxury furniture manufacturing over the last 40 years.
It is crucial for this country to realise that, by not valuing practical experience in
secondary schools and engaging in vocational training at centres of excellence, our
thriving creative industries could lose their pre-eminence in the world.
»CEO: Mark Asplin Whiteley
»Managing director:
»Established in 1988
»Based in Whitby, North
»Services: Bespoke Luxury
Cabinet Makers
»28 employees
»International Supply, fitted
and free standing.
Mark Asplin Whiteley
Highlighting best practice
Craft requires a state of mind that
is fully attentive; it requires, so to
speak, being ‘in the flow’. If you have
ever watched a craftsperson, there is
a certain peace about them: a total
psychological unity with their work.
Being reactive and responsive to the
material, while also having thought
through the construction, based on
previous experience, is what craft is
all about. It requires continuous and
considered sensing of the form and of
the design.
For a craftsperson to thrive, the culture
in the workshop must support the
maker to achieve his or her potential.
When one has twenty to thirty makers,
each with different levels of experience
and ability doing bespoke unique
pieces, the style of management
must fit this mix. The culture of
the workshop is about creating an
environment that celebrates quality
through creativity.
My management style is collaborative
and intuitive. I work from the premise
that it is impossible to micro-manage
everything with bespoke work. It is not
enough to trust them; I also have to
demonstrate that trust clearly to my
makers. Ex-joiners or makers straight
from college need basic experience.
To that end, I assign them to a team
leader who assesses them by gradually
giving them ever more complicated
tasks until they reach their limit of
comfort and competence.
Trusting the team leaders and
junior makers to make a myriad of
choices, with periodic checking by
management, instills a strong sense of
ownership. Competence throughout
the workshop rises as each maker
observes others’ work, others’
processes and the other makers striving
for quality. It is a self-improving and
self-perpetuating system that requires
little management intervention.
Confidence comes to the makers by:
allowing them to progress; trusting
them with arm’s length control;
adjusting their process through initial
discussion prior to making; and by
offering them the freedom to find their
own pace. Confidence comes as each
piece of work passes Quality Check.
Quality checking is the feedback
moment, before and after lacquering,
that elevates quality and allows the
opportunity for refinement and
The workshop is now only populated
by makers who are all working to the
same MAW ‘house’ standard. This is
why we have regular clients who can
then offer this assuredness of quality
to their own clients. Some businesses
claim to possess utmost quality, but
their standards of excellence may not
live up to this standard. At Mark Asplin
Whiteley’s, we only work at the luxury
end of the market which naturally
requires a constant adherence to very
high standards of quality.
Contemporary bar,
The culture of
the workshop
is about
creating an
that celebrates
With a workshop full of cabinet makers
who all read their own drawings,
do their cutting lists, machine their
components and do the veneering,
dovetail cutting, drawer making and
inlay work, there is inevitably friendly
competition. Craftsman’s pride is
an inherent characteristic in cabinet
makers, as well as having a creative
freedom to explore different processes
to achieve high quality. As long as
the quality is there, the only other
measure is efficiency. Those makers
who demonstrate the greatest levels of
efficiency and creativity are promoted
to the position of team leader
Cutting edge
A 5-axis CNC Router (a machine that
helps cut the basic template which
is then further refined by humans) is
now essential to maintain efficient
manufacturing processes, even in
a bespoke workshop. It takes the
drudge out of some of the tasks,
while also increasing accuracy. In
the current climate of uncertainty, of
keeping costs down, of responding
to reduced turnaround times and of
competing for work, the CNC helps
gain us much needed efficiencies.
Skilled craftspeople, linked with the
right supporting technology, is a
potent combination for a workshop.
Our cutting edge is the marriage
of the two: immense experience
in craftsmanship with up-to-date
machining technology.
Customer service
Quality making at MAW is backed
up by our unique customer service.
We visit sites or client offices to:
conduct initial consultations; perform
site surveys; provide estimates and
quotations from sketches or drawings;
and do the workshop drawing.
Wethen manufacture with a broad
variety of luxury materials, and wrap,
deliver and install using our own
makers, both home and abroad. There
are very few workshops that operate
to this level, but MAW has done so for
thirty years. Every step in the process
as described above, from inception to
sign-off, adds to the final definition
Our impact on the market
From being appointed Viscount
Linley’s workshop manager in 1986, to
setting up my own workshop in 1988,
I have set the benchmark for many
other workshops in terms of quality
standards and price. MAW continues
to innovate and inspire the field of
bespoke luxury furniture making by
continuing to embrace excellence in
craftsmanship. It is at MAW where
quality is fundamentally understood,
valued and evident in every piece
of work. No machine or mass
manufacture can hope to replicate this.
It is at MAW
where quality is
valued and
evident in every
piece of work
Contemporary kitchen in
Walnut, Country House

This article was sponsored by Mark Asplin Whiteley. 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