Seminar Components

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Seminar Components'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 Seminar Components 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


Steve Hale, managing director
Motion seating solutions
Seminar Components designs and manufactures lift and
recline mechanisms for seats sold to the healthcare
industry. Located in Swansea, south Wales, the company
is the UK’s sole designer and manufacturer of these bespoke
mechanisms catering for a wide variety of users – even for ultra-
heavy individuals weighing up to 70 stone. It sells its products
to upholsterers in the UK and Europe to complete the finished
seating purchased by care homes, hospitals, local authorities
orindividuals. Steve Hale reports on the progress he is making.
Having started life as a subcontract component manufacturer, supplying parts
to the likes of then British Rail and Land Rover, we have faced many changes in
a tough industry of tight margins and ever-cheaper imports. The then-owners
– my father and uncle – took the business in a new direction by designing and
manufacturing its own products in the healthcare furniture market. Through the
late 1990s, this business grew and expanded its product range as it identified
opportunities in the healthcare industry against a backdrop of an ageing
population and a drive towards independent living.
As Seminar became established in the industry, my father and uncle recognised
that it needed to continue to evolve and put in place a succession plan. In
2011 I became the third generation in the family to take charge of driving the
business forward. With a background in engineering and business, and having
spent 11 years working for the large manufacturing and engineering business
Caterpillar, I felt I had the necessary experience to add value and take Seminar
»Managing director: Steve Hale
»Established in 1974
»Based in Swansea, south Wales
»Services: Design and
manufacture of articulating
seating systems for the home
and healthcare industry
»No. of employees: More than
»Accredited to ISO 9000:2015
»Exporting has grown to
comprise 15 per cent of
turnover in two years
Seminar Components
Highlighting best practice
I began by carrying out a
strategic review of the business,
since identifying the strengths
and weaknesses was central to
establishing a forward strategy. A
key decision was to implement some
new more cost-competitive product
ranges to fend off competition from
cheap imports, while maintaining
key advantages such as short lead
times, the ability to offer variety and
customised solutions, and ensuring
that the quality and reliability of the
product wasn’t compromised.
The introduction of these new
products played a role in more than
doubling the turnover of the business
to its present £8 million. We expanded
the factory from 25,000 square feet
to around 40,000 square feet by
taking on additional rented industrial
space, and the workforce grew from
around 40 to over 90 people. New
equipment and machinery was also
purchased including a laser cutter,
computer numerically controlled
press, robotic welding and many
other new, more productive machines
to boost manufacturing capability.
To back up the wider product
range and greater manufacturing
capability, the company’s previously
in-house-developed manufacturing
computer system needed replacing
as it struggled to cope with the
ever-increasing demands placed on
it. The result was the installation of
an end-to-end enterprise resource
planning (ERP) system. This ERP
system has promoted further
efficiency improvements, but, more
importantly, forms the keystone of
future developments towards a more
efficient factory capable of handling
greater variety and volume.
Stepping into an SME from such a
large multinational was quite a big
change. I had moved from a complex
multi-layered environment to one
where I had to wear multiple hats,
from keeping a complete handle
on all the finances, knowing how
every pound is spent, to dealing
with the customer issues, product
development, manufacturing processes
and strategic planning, all the way
to operational management. Being
creative with solutions, and having a
flat organisational structure and an
open and positive attitude to change,
is essential to getting things done.
Precision engineering for
high-quality solutions
Heavy duty solutions with
lift capacity of 70 stone
Being creative
with solutions,
and having a
structure and
an open and
positive attitude
to change, is
essential to
getting things
Much of the transformation of the
business over the past five years has
taken place against a backdrop of
tough economic conditions. As a
business that has traditionally imported
its motorised components from the
continent, but with its customer
base in the UK, the rapid changes
in the value of sterling against the
euro following the Brexit vote had
a negative impact on profitability.
However, we had already identified
the natural market in the EU as the
demographics are very similar. Over the
past two years the company has taken
on some significant export business,
rapidly growing to around 15 per cent
of turnover, reducing the impact of
currency fluctuations.
The future of the company is clear.
We have always been a company that
innovates, and this will continue as
we offer new solutions and are always
looking to differentiate ourselves from
the competition. Working with our
customers is key as we identify new
opportunities and ways of creating
solutions for people with seating
needs. We have a clear product
strategy with enough in the pipeline to
continue to launch new solutions over
the next five to ten years.
In a move that highlights our
commitment to British manufacturing,
we are in the process of identifying
new premises in the local area,
increasing our footprint to over
50,000 square feet with the potential
of adding more as needed. We have
always been in close control of our
supply chain, buying local where
possible and making sure we can react
to changes in demand to guarantee
continuity of supply. We want to
ensure we get the company’s roots
deep into the local area, employing
local people, building and maintaining
our manufacturing base here as
much as possible. We have a great
university in the city and have recruited
engineers from there in the past.
We want to continue to do so in the
future as we look to increase the
capability of our people to meet the
challenges we will face. One of those
big challenges is how we adopt new
technologies to ensure we drive our
productivity. This will be key for us;
we are able to compete today against
cheaper imports due to the way we do
business. If we can do that better in
the future, we can all help secure our
and the company’s long-term future.
One of those
big challenges
is how we
adopt new
to ensure we
drive our
Automation providing
consistency and productivity
New technologies enable faster
product development and bespoke


This article was sponsored by Seminar Components. 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