A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by MelbaSwintex'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 MelbaSwintex 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, MP
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles, MP

PLHarrison, finance director
Traffic management
MelbaSwintex is a market leader in manufacturing plastic
moulded products for the traffic management sector.
The company was established in 1982 and has since
grown to employ 150 people from its one factory in Bury,
Greater Manchester. The company’s exports rose 41 per cent
from £2 million to £2.9 million in the past financial year, with
exports accounting for 76 per cent of the total sales growth of
the company. This article focuses on how this was achieved and
what else the company is doing to make itself more competitive
in world markets, co-authored by the board of directors, on
which sit JG Dawson (managing), PL Harrison (finance), P
Hyman (sales) and S Todd (purchasing).
Establishing presence
Our range of products includes road barriers, road cones, traffic signs and speed
ramps, with over 80 per cent made from recycled plastic. Besides exporting
directly, our products are sold to other UK companies who then export them. For
instance, we have worked with the Red Cross and Oxfam on providing facilities in
The success of the export drive over the past three years has been achieved
through working closely with the government’s UK Trade and Investment (UKTI)
and Greater Manchester Business Growth Hub. Through their help we managed to
focus increased resources into products geared for the export market. We have also
»Managing director: JGDawson
»Finance director: PLHarrison
»Sales director: PHyman
»Purchasing director: STodd
»Established in 1982
»Based in Bury, UK
»Services: Manufacturer of
plastic moulded products
principally for the traffic
management sector
»No. of employees: 150
Highlighting best practice
benefited from their assistance in web
designing and translation aimed at
overseas customers.
Previously we had relied on exporting
products made for a British market.
This approach had worked well, but
we felt that a cap had been reached
and, indeed, our export sales were
falling. We have also had a major
presence in western Europe for years,
but have managed to spread our reach
geographically, particularly into eastern
Europe, the Middle East and the USA.
This was achieved by:
1. Recruiting a Polish agent familiar
with the traffic management and
plastics sector in eastern Europe
2. Working with a UK customer who
wished to set up a subsidiary in the USA
3. Attending international trade fairs
4. Scouring competitors’ websites
overseas and distributors of products
that we either make or could make
with little effort
5. Taking advantage of the fall in the
pound to offer more competitive prices
6. Taking more time to visit existing
customers overseas to see what else
we could be selling to them
7. Branding our products as British and
therefore of a reliable quality
8. Obtaining necessary quality control
approval in overseas markets
Always on the lookout for
Even within western Europe we felt
there was scope for a major overhaul
in approach. We relied too much on
a small number of distributors who
wanted exclusivity to sell our products
in their country. We have broken with
this model and now trade with a more
diverse customer base, which includes
the likes of Spain and Germany.
The company has also been successful
in repatriating manufacturing work
previously done in the UK or being
made overseas on behalf of British
companies. We set up a trading
moulding division three years ago
to take advantage of the skill base
of our employees and the suite of
machinery we have. The injection and
blow-moulding machinery we have
can manufacture many more products
than those used solely for traffic
Reshoring work has the advantage for
our customers of:
1. Faster supplier chains
2. Less currency risk
3. Higher quality (in most cases)
4. Closer control over the production
5. Tighter laws over intellectual property
The home of
We have
succeeded in
winning work
that was
produced in
China and the
We have succeeded in winning
work that was previously produced
in Germany, China and the USA.
The product range is enormous,
among which is included temporary
paving for outdoor events, barriers
preventing pirates seizing tankers in
the Indian Ocean, fencing feet for
steel barriers, watering cans, and
floating docks for yacht marinas.
From a standing start three years
ago we are now achieving over £2
million of income from this source. It
is scarcely an exaggeration to say that
the market has within it unlimited
opportunities for us.
The state of the sector
Reshoring has a massive potential to
rebalance the UK economy, particularly
in traditional manufacturing areas
of the country like the North West.
Indeed, this was recognised three years
ago in a report on the repatriation
of UK textile manufacturing, issued
by Greater Manchester Combined
There is pressure on the whole
of the plastics sector to reuse
plastic products wherever possible.
Ourapproachovermany years has
been to recycle wherever possible. We
now use over 1,000 tonnes a month
of recycled material, which is having a
major impact on helping to reduce the
volumes that the UK exports overseas
now that the Chinese have decided to
restrict imports of pre-used plastic.
In anticipation of leaving the European
Union we are sourcing more of our
material within the UK and reducing
imports from our previous European
suppliers. This protects us from
currency fluctuations and the unknown
tariffs that may be applied in future.
With a focused approach on exports
and adequate resources both
internally and through government
assistance, the UK’s small and
medium-size businesses should be
able to achieve significant growth
in international markets in the years
ahead. Regardless of political tumults,
we will ensure that continuing in
this direction is a top priority for us,
with a view to achieving yet more
growth. Business, after all, is all about
navigating around difficulty and
Our approach
over many
years has been
to recycle
80 per cent of our
products are made from
recycled plastics

This article was sponsored by MelbaSwintex. 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