Future is bright for Gloucestershire advanced manufacturing business

Engineering business Future Advanced Manufacture is targeting £10 million turnover. It’s at £8 million at the moment, so the goal is in sight, but judging by managing director Craig Peterson’s comments, £10 million is just a staging post for future growth ambitions in his rolling business strategy.

Future AM designs and manufactures innovative engineering solutions for customers, and the business operates in the fields of aerospace and defence, medical, pharmaceutical, space, power generation and oil & gas. In fact, less in oil & gas after Craig diversified the business last year in order to spread the risk. “Two years ago, 70% of our order book was in oil & gas. Now the spread of work is broader, and a good thing too after what’s currently happening to the price of oil & gas which I believe will eventually impact companies operating to support those industries. This also gives us a stronger platform so that when oil prices do rise we will still be in a position to support growth in that sector.”

Did he see it coming? “No. It was always part of the business strategy to remain diverse in our supply of high integrity products to a wide range of industries which allows us to absorb any downturn in a particular sector.” he says.

Craig really has worked his way up. He joined Future Advanced Manufacture in 1999 to work on the shop floor. He was promoted in 2004, and promoted again in 2006 to general manager. Two years’ later with support from Clydesdale Bank he embarked on a management buyout, finally completed in 2012. When he bought the business it was turning over around £4 million and most of its order book consisted of short-term research and development manufacturing which doesn’t provide for a healthy long-term order book.

Over the next few years Craig and his team set about shifting the product mix from 75% research & development orders and 25% repeat manufacture, to 70% repeat manufacturing and just 30% research & development.

“To do that we embarked on aerospace certification,” he said. “We also had a problem with logistics so we first expanded from three to five sites, and then later consolidated onto one site in December 2013 to improve efficiency. Now I wish I’d bought a bigger building as we are already on the look-out for more premises.”

In the last 12 months the business, based at Staverton near Gloucester, has signed more long-term agreements than in the 16 years Craig has been with the business and a large aircraft manufacturer recently made the business a partner rather than a subcontractor on a two year programme of R&D.

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So what is Craig’s secret? He doesn’t think there is one, but says that being entrepreneurial means adopting calculated risks to succeed. “We are dynamic. We look after our customers and I have complete confidence in my team. Having worked on the shop floor, I know that what I am asking my staff to do is incredibly difficult at times and without them the business is nothing.”

Craig takes strategic and calculated risks and sets the business to accommodate them. “I drive a series of financial models to help me assess the risk which have been put together by experts and I surround myself constantly with very clever professionals in areas in which I don’t fully feel confident.”