Milking Solutions UK

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Milking Solutions UK'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 Milking Solutions UK 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

Managing Director and Owner
Kevin Graham
One of the last machines
installed by Milking
Following a change to the distribution policy of their
main product, Milking Solutions Ltd had to undertake a
significant transformation. Whereas they had previously
focused on importing and distributing a particular milking
machine, they changed to become a manufacturer and
exporter, providing a direct supply of spare parts and additional
equipment. Despite these challenges, they now export to 40
countries around the world and achieve annual sales of over
£2 million. Managing Director Kevin Graham explains this
transformation and offers advice to other SMEs.
Milking Solutions Ltd is a small Welsh business and export champion based in
Monmouth, South Wales. We produce a vast range of spare parts and equipment
for milking machines, 76 per cent of which is exported to around 40 countries of
the world. Our business has continued to grow, even though the dairy industry and
the wider economic and political climate have been very challenging, and we have
achieved annual sales in excess of £2 million.
We were established in 2003 to import, distribute and support a particular
European milking machine brand in the UK market. In 2004, a bigger US
competitor acquired that brand and changed its distribution policy. One year
later, our import contract was terminated. This action was being repeated around
the world, with importers and dairy dealers being denied direct access to parts
»Managing Director and
Owner: Kevin Graham
»Established in 2003
»Based in Monmouth, South
»Services: Manufacturing
and supplying spare parts
and equipment for milking
»No. of employees: 15
»International company
working with around 40
countries across the globe.
Staff are fluent in English,
French, German and Italian
Milking Solutions
Highlighting best practice
At the time, we employed 16 people,
had a warehouse in Monmouth and
had two UK dealerships. Our main
supplier and one main market had
effectively been withdrawn. It was a
very low point for us.
Even in adverse situations,
opportunities arise. It was clear that
there would be many other companies
around the world in a similar position
to us and who now needed a direct
supply of spare parts and equipment.
So we developed a new vision to “fill
the vacuum”. The milking machine
brand may have been withdrawn
from the market, but we could see
that there remained a considerable
installed base without a direct supplier
of spareparts.
Reinventing Milking Solutions
Our first challenge was to survive and
then change from being a UK importer
and distributor to a manufacturer and
exporter. We developed a business
plan to build a catalogue of products
and find customers to buy them. Along
with funding, a whole raft of new
skills would be required, including new
product development, manufacturing
and language skills.
Finance for the new plan was raised
through Finance Wales, NatWest Bank,
the small business loan guarantee
scheme, an employee investor, Lloyds
Bank invoice discounting and my own
finances. Loan security was raised
against the Monmouth warehouse.
The new plan was very ambitious,
demanding high margins to pay off
loans and allow investment in product
development. We could see that
manufacturing, rather than buying in
products, was the only way the plan
was achievable while also enabling us
to supply parts that were not available
We decided that subcontract
manufacturing was the quickest
and most cost-effective way to go.
Thanks to our acquisition of important
rights, original spare part tooling and
commissioned additional new tooling,
products were produced correctly right
from the start.
Most companies in our position would
concentrate initially on their domestic
market before pursuing exports.
Although the UK market was initially
our strongest, we could see that
exporting would be essential to our
future business success. Because we
had borrowed heavily, we needed to
work fast to build a viable catalogue of
products, rebuild our UK market and
develop an export market.
France had the biggest potential.
We recruited French students to
work for us in their gap year or as
part of their overseas studies. They
were instrumental in developing our
French catalogue translations and
accompanied us on French sales trips.
We were also thankful for the ongoing
financial support from the Welsh
Assembly government for the many
international exhibitions we attended.
France is still our biggest market, but
our team members now transact in
and speak fluent English, French,
Milking Solutions’
exhibition stand at
EuroTier, Hanover 2018
We developed
a new vision
to ‘fill the
German and Italian with some Dutch
and Spanish. We often visit our
customers and prospective customers
in their own countries and regularly
attend trade exhibitions.
We are proud of what we have
achieved. Exporting and manufacturing
our own products have provided us
with long-term security, as we are not
dependent upon one supplier or one
market. We run a very successful small
business punching well above our
weight and provide an unequalled level
of service to our worldwide customers.
We have had to negotiate very difficult
industry, economic and now political
instabilities and uncertainties resulting
from Brexit. Past and ongoing support
from the Welsh agencies, including the
Accelerated Growth Programme, has
been a great help.
Our success would not have been
possible without the trust and hard work
of our employees. In the early stages,
loyalty was built by offering a stake in
the company in return for a commitment
to stay for two years. We now have
a committed, highly experienced,
knowledgeable and professional team.
The lessons I have learned
After 42 years in business, I am keen
to share my knowledge with other
small businesses. I strongly believe
that establishing a successful business
is dependent on having a good idea
and the right attitude. It’s not good
enough to work hard: you have to
work hard at the right thing.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but,
based on what happened at Milking
Solutions, I would advocate that other
SMEs avoid being dependent on one
customer, a limited market or one
supplier. Develop a strong vision and
convert this into a coherent plan. Don’t
stand still in business, as you can be
sure that your competitors won’t.
Whereas borrowing money is
sometimes necessary, I also advise
that businesses try to build up assets
that can be used as security. Make
sure you build a good relationship
with your bank, but don’t forget that
banks are commercial enterprises, not
A final word of caution: I believe that
many small businesses amount to
“too many hours with not enough
pay”. If you’re in that situation, it may
be better to get a job. However, I
accept that for some, me included, the
urge to go it alone is just too strong.
If successful, it can be immensely
We run a very
small business
punching well
above our
Products from Milking
Solutions’ wide range,
displayed at SPACE
Expo, Rennes 2018

This article was sponsored by Milking Solutions UK. 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 Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster