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Brimful of passion for engineering, Will is helping to revive UK manufacturing prowess. Brompton design, produce and distribute 50,000+ folding bicycles each year from their London factory – with half the 1200 parts made onsite. Exports account for 80% of sales. With cycle hire stations, Brompton Junction stores and retailers in 44 world markets, they continue to explore new markets and innovations from the addition of electric motors to the connected bike. Riding onto the stage, Will explains his belief in ‘built-out’ obsolescence.
As boss of Brompton Bicycles Ltd, Will Butler-Adams is helping spearhead a new surge in British manufacturing. His company design, produce and distribute over 30,000 folding bikes each year from their UK factory – with half the 1200 parts in every Brompton made onsite. Even in the current economic climate, they are enjoying exponential growth.
Along with the founder and inventor Andrew Richie, Will has taken the company from a cottage industry to a rapidly growing international brand - by combining expert engineering with a very genuine passion for the product. He sees it not as a leisure item, but as urban public transport.
Brompton operates in a similar way to specialist car manufacturers. The R&D department works tirelessly on both small, mechanical details and big ideas like a ‘smart’ battery-powered model. They also launch new colours and offer customised options, with the minimum of marketing.
In presentations Will explains his belief in ‘building out’ obsolescence: owners fall in love with a product designed to last a lifetime. As a result, rather than suffering the frustration of having to replace something, they promote sales by using social media to tell friends how wonderful it is. Riding onto the conference stage, Will outlines his vision - including further expansion into China, Bromptons for hire in cities throughout the UK, and exploring the widely overlooked opportunities for digitally connected bikes.
Alongside his Brompton mission, Will is one of the champions of the ‘Make It In Great Britain’ campaign and a trustee of Speakers4Schools. He believes we are still capable of manufacturing excellence, and argues that with investment and encouragement our export market can produce real growth. His own overseas customers account for 70% of sales.
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Bounding onstage, you'd be forgiven for thinking you're watching a cross between Boris Johnson and Willy Wonka (minus the Oompa Loompas). But there's more to WBA than meets the eye. As he extols the virtues of British engineering, you feel a sense of pride - not just about where we've been, but where we're going. Maybe the future of manufacturing isn't so bleak after all! JLA Agent Siobhan Jackman
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