Wednesday 11 January 2017

2016 – A Year of Rewards, Reflection and a Referendum

A view from the boardroom

2016 was a year that many people will regard as not so much one to forget, as one to lock in a steel box, encase in concrete, and drop into the deepest trench in the Pacific Ocean. Indeed for fans of popular culture, and some political groups, last year was less “annus horribilis” as an annus exitiabilis which ironically works well as a description in both Latin and English. 

It is therefore reassuring for me that whilst it felt at times like the world was sometimes crumbling around us, Katronic has continued to grow and succeed. For all its glaring issues 2016 was also a year for looking back and celebrating a major milestone for the company. As has been well publicised, 2016 marked the start of our 20th anniversary year. By August I will have been with the company for 18 years and have been fortunate enough to share in the growth of the company from two people sharing a small office, to a global organisation with sites in three countries and an international distribution network. 

Reaching an anniversary gave us the chance to say thank you to both our staff, and our customers. Over the last 20 years Katronic have been lucky enough to be in a position to share the success of the company with the employees and their partners through rewards and trips. The very first of these was in 2004 and involved ten people, a cottage in Wales, amazing sunsets and quite a lot of alcohol. We have since had weekends in Yorkshire, Shropshire and Dorset with the previous highlight having been the 2006 ten-year weekend in Florence. The lucky survivors of this still talk about the activities, the great sense of fun and the notorious bar YAG! 

After a period of detailed planning it was decided that the venue for the 20th anniversary should be Berlin owing the role the city played in the genesis of Katronic. It was therefore with a sense of expectation and with the endorsements of older team members, that the staff from both the UK and Germany boarded planes and trains. The amazing weekend included city tours, games, dancing, a memorable bar on the roof of a multi-storey carpark and not forgetting sleeping in vintage caravans. By the time the visit ended with a bedraggled and sleep-deprived group sharing lunch in the Tiergarten in the centre of Berlin another rumpled page had been added to the biography of Katronic

Following on from the staff visit in May the next event in the anniversary celebrations was the 1st Katronic Distributor conference held in Stratford-upon-Avon in September. The two-day event brought together the company’s most successful sales partners for training presentations and social events. From the very early days of Katronic we have pursued a policy of growth through distribution and it was therefore a pleasure for me to be able to welcome 23 participants from 17 countries to join celebrating the 20 years of Katronic. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of such a successful experience marked with some great discussions, good camaraderie and a painted cow

As well as the two major events we have also implemented a series of ongoing marketing activities to promote both the company and our 20th anniversary. Every month we are conducting a prize draw from that month’s orders to win a quality Katronic-branded prize. So far we have sent gifts to the UK, Ireland and Germany with six more to follow. As part of a retrospective view of our 20 years we are also introducing a new “on the week” feature whereby we will post pictures from events taken from that week in the timeline of Katronic. 

In support of our other activities we have also created new marketing materials for use at exhibitions based around the “Keep Calm and Clamp-On” concept. These ideas include pop-up display banners and the collectable Katronic mugs and coasters. The innovative and subtle design of the mugs has made them very popular at the events we have taken them to. 

It would be impossible to review 2016 without considering a certain referendum vote in June. Katronic is staunchly pro-Europe and embraces the fundamental ideal of the free movement of people, goods and services. We are also pro-democracy however and the people have spoken. The most important thing to consider is that the UK is open for business. We should also trust that the interest of countries and companies in doing business with each other will be the driving force of future government policy. The ultimate outcome of “Brexit” is out of our control. We are going to do everything we can in order to support our customers, to improve on the products and services that we provide and to make the most of the present global trading conditions. 

One of the key factors in the success of Katronic has been its development of a close-knit hard working team of people from a variety of backgrounds and experiences. The cultural make-up of the company has also evolved with the expansion of the German office bringing new faces and new ideas. The UK and German offices have both been able to introduce new staff members in 2016 as part of our continuing growth. I was very happy to welcome Selina Birdi and Anne Windess (now Colston) to the company. Selina is working on procurement and supply chain management and Anne is an engineer who is the primary sales contact for our UK customers. Additionally to this she is also taking responsibility for our social media marketing. 

We also have a new face in Wernigerode with Michael Toben joining the team in a product support and certification capacity. With his help we will be able to open up new markets by improving our portfolio of product certification. His first day at work was an unusual one as he joined the other members of the Katronic team to participate in the “Harzer Firmenlauf” event. This is a running competition for local businesses where teams compete over a combined distance of 10 kilometres. In 2015 Team Katronic had been victorious in the mixed-team event, however at the second attempt the weather and a poor starting position prevented them from defending their title. 

As a company we try and actively promote teamwork, and support causes championed by any member of our staff. In 2016 the company helped to highlight the charity work done by Dr Mario Farrugia as he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for Zoë’s Place Baby Hospice. Everyone then worked together in November and December as we carried out a collection of food and clothing for the Coventry Open Christmas shelter. The result of these efforts was that we were able to deliver 132 kg to the project supporting homeless and needy people in the Coventry area. 

Last year did not just introduce new people, but also new products. In July 2016 we launched the new KATflow 210 flowmeter into the product range. The new meter was conceived through the feedback of our customers and is intended to provide a new approach for our instruments. The KATflow 210 is a portable unit but is for longer term use where the standard battery capacity would not be sufficient. Furthermore, the flowmeter has a robust and watertight housing designed to allow the device to be used in harsh environmental conditions. For more information on the KATflow 210 click here

2016 also saw the expansion of our global sales network with Katronic forming new relationships with several companies. In one year we have added partners in Australia, Austria, Ecuador, Finland, Hungary, Israel, Malaysia, Oman, Poland, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States. Where possible we have tried to visit these companies in an effort to support them with training and customer presentations. In the most recent of these Kirsty Hammond flew to Ecuador to meet our new distributor Direct Market where she conducted successful trials on several different applications. 

The company would like to thank all of the staff, both present and past for the tireless work in making the company the success that it is. 2017 promises to be an exciting year for the company with the purchase and development of a new home for Katronic being a major plan for this year. We look forward to future growth, new opportunities, and the inevitable party when we join together for the 30th anniversary. 

Andrew Sutton – Managing Director, Katronic Technologies