Mike InterviewMike Boswell, BPF President
Mike Boswell, Managing Director of Plastribution, is the new President of the BPF. Succeeding outgoing President, Philip Watkins, after two years in office, Leanne Taylor caught up with Mike to find put more about how he intends to build on the successes of his predecessor, his own plans going forward and the changes that are afoot for the industry.
LT: Congratulations, Mike. Firstly, President Watkins's strategic paper, 'The UK Plastics Industry: A Strategic Manufacturing Sector', raised and highlighted some pivotal points for the industry. How do you intend to build on this?
MB: I think Philip has done a fantastic job and I think his strategic paper has been an excellent foundation for the industry. It has certainly raised its profile across the manufacturing sector and particularly with Government, so it’s a great platform. I am certainly hoping to build on a lot of the key aspects that Philip has raised, brought forward and highlighted, so my Presidential theme includes some more of the same, plus some new initiatives as well. The challenge now is to try to represent the whole industry and make sure all our members get value from the organisation and what we do.
LT: Do you feel like the response from Government has been good in terms of the issues raised and highlighted by Philip during his Presidency?
MB: I certainly think we have done a fantastic job of highlighting the importance of our sector. I think that one the issues we face is that our industry is primarily composed of SMEs, so I think to get that profile at a higher level is often quite challenging. However, I think getting high profile individuals, such as Vince Cable, to recognise what a significant part of UK manufacturing plastics is is absolutely fantastic and that’s the sort of message we need to push forward so we can ensure that we get the support to grow our sector.
LT: What in your opinion are the key issues and challenges that members would like to see addressed and acted upon?
MB: I think right across the industrial sector still we see that finance is a key theme, in terms of both availability and cost of finance. There is clearly also a lot of concern surrounding training and making sure that we have that resource available. One thing I would say is that in the plastics industry we find a highly investable industry, one that already demonstrates itself as being very adaptable to the economy and one that very supportive of other industries, including automotive and aerospace. Therefore, I think one of the things we have got to do is promote the investability of this industry. The hurdles to creating jobs in terms of capital commitment are very reasonable when you compare them to other manufacturing industries, so I think we are in a great position. We have obviously got to push those things forward and make sure we are at the front of the pack and that we’re in the minds of Government when they are looking at policy and, therefore, will continue to support and develop the manufacturing sector.
LT: In terms of a world stage, can the UK stand up against both European and global competitors?
MB: I absolutely think that’s 100 percent the case. We’ve got a very sophisticated manufacturing industry and some excellent areas of competence in both standard and high-tech manufacturing. I think in the last few years, and certainly following the economic crisis, we’ve seen a re-valuation of Sterling versus other key currencies, including both the Euro and the Dollar, and that’s really made the UK competitive again from a manufacturing viewpoint. As we all know, we’re seeing re-shoring of production and hopefully we’ll see more of that happening going forwards. So we’re in a great position to support and develop our industry.
LT: Do you think the strength of the British brand is a contributing factor to the competitiveness of the UK industry?
MB: Absolutely. I think we have seen an enormous resurgence of the British brand and I think also it goes beyond just the brand, it goes into the confidence in the ethics and standards that go into British manufacturing as well as the corporate compliance and I think that’s absolutely vital now. When we look at international companies focusing on the value of British brands I think they understand that part of that is what they are manufactured here, by British people and that brings a whole unique aspect to it.
LT: Do you think that price, therefore, is becoming less important as the focus turns to quality?
MB: I think that’s a key point of differentiation and one that we could continue to emphasise. Hopefully people will consider that British manufactured good are added value and that we can continue to achieve premiums across a full range of products.