Westwood Works 1903-2003
It is worth reviewing what Augustus Muir says in his “History of Baker Perkins” about the work of the Future Development Committee, set up in November 1954 to – “investigate every factor that might affect the future of the company”:
“Their scrutiny bore upon all the industries served by the company and many others outside its accepted range. The paper work was heavy, inevitably so, and today the files of documents drawn up with such care are among the most dramatic reading in all the company’s archives”.
NOTE: Here, Muir has the advantage over us in that the "company’s archives" were not preserved when Westwood Works was closed in 1992. We can only assume that the task entailed a very significant amount of research into markets, competitors and industry sectors as well as comparisons of the relative position of Baker Perkins within these areas. It is therefore of interest to note that Urwick Orr, who, in the mid 1960s, were advising the company on its re-organisation plans, commented:
“Due to the non-acceptance of this function by the line management and after the Future Development Committee ceased to operate in 1961, the Market Research activity ceased to operate in 1961 and was disbanded in 1962”
A short time later, in August 1967, J.F.M. Braithwaite wrote to his fellow directors:
“...... the company is extremely deficient on information in many vital areas of operation on which to take decisions. Whereas several views were expressed that it was a pity we abandoned market research a number of years ago, we definitely need it now for the whole business. This function should be organised outside the trading divisions”.
This call to arms had an effect as Urwick Orr were able to comment in 1968 –
“We have noticed a change in management’s attitude towards marketing. Most managers now concede that the marketing approach has something to offer. However, many managers still have only a rudimentary knowledge of the subject. Even so, we would emphasise the need for fundamental education within most of the subsidiary companies. The objective should be directly allied to the subject of market standing. Executives must realise the importance of markets and segments, comparison of competitors’ activities, customers’ and users’ needs and to be able to know how reliable the data that they evaluate can be”.
It is noticeable that Urwick Orr mentions many times in its reports the confusion that existed at the time between "marketing" and "selling" - describing most "marketing" functions in group companies as being overly selling orientated.
Recognition of the need to have an appreciation at all levels of the business of the importance of efficiently marketing the group's products was met in 1970 with the appointment of D.T.L. Rettie to the parent company board with responsibility for group marketing. Mr Rettie resigned in late September 1970 and, shortly after, C.R.A. (Bob) Senior's appointment as group marketing manager was announced.
In 1971, it was decided that – “A more formal international marketing information system will be established through a small but full time Marketing HQs structure – BAKEMARK), BISMARK and CHEMMARK”. See also History of Baker Perkins in the Bakery Business and History of Baker Perkins in the Chemical Business.
NOTE: the use of the term "Marketing Headquarters structure" did not imply that these would be Baker Perkins Holdings functions. The following makes this clear:
"Recognising the need to gain a greater understanding of customers' real needs and to more closely focus resources on the group's targeted markets, BISMARK, the first of three industry marketing headquarters was created in January 1970. This was developed out of Baker Perkins Ltd's biscuit division, which had been formed in 1966 and it recognised Baker Perkins Ltd's key position in the manufacture and sale of biscuit machinery. BISMARK's role was to act as the central point to co-ordinate the marketing work of regional offices of Baker Perkins International that sold machinery to produce biscuits, and of group companies that made and sold that machinery. The function of Bismark was an advisory one with the object of improving the quality, strength and profitability of Baker Perkins' worldwide biscuit machinery business. Five assistant sales managers, each with two sales assistants were each allocated to an overseas area and a section of the UK biscuit industry and, on the technical side, six process controllers dealt with day-to-day technical questions but also performed a marketing function by collecting and analysing information as to the kind of machinery which customers needed. BISMARK was housed in some temporary offices located behind the Apprentice School at Westwood.
CHEMMARK, a similar organisation to co-ordinate the marketing work of group companies making and selling chemical machinery, was formed in May 1970 and was headquartered at Baker Perkins Inc's factory in Saginaw, Michigan. The co-ordination of marketing of bakery machinery posed different problems. With no dominant manufacturing centre – bakery machinery being made in Peterborough, Saginaw and Melbourne, Australia – BAKEMARK was constituted as a committee under the chairmanship of A.I. Baker, having no permanent staff, and with the other members drawn from the senior staff of relevant operating companies”.
Soon after J.F.M. Braithwaite’s August 1967 note to the Board, a Market Research Unit was established as part of Baker Perkins (Exports) Ltd, with Peter Braithwaite and Alan Vickers. The Unit was transferred, along with the rest of Baker Perkins International, to Group Headquarters in Peterborough in 1971. As the name implies, the unit was set up to carry out market research exercises on behalf of the operating companies. The first projects tended to dwell on the technical details – how many more ovens would be sold if they were shorter, wider, longer or painted a different colour? How many plants was such and such a customer going to buy in the next five years? It was soon realised that although the operating departments might well like to know the answers to such questions, it was not, in fact, the information that was needed. The fundamental question should have been – what is happening to the product that our equipment manufactures?
The Unit discussed the aims of the project with the relevant operating company (or companies) and used its "independent" status to plan a series of interviews with a representative cross-section of the relevant sectors of the industry – not merely with a representative sample of current Baker Perkins customers. At least as much effort was put into determining developments – impinging on both end-consumers and manufacturers - in the socio-economic, political and legislative climate in which the market sector operated as was put into interviewing current manufacturers of the targeted product. This was considered particularly important in the food industry where the main driving force is the end-consumer - a notoriously fickle decision-maker.
Field studies required the Unit to arrange its own itinerary - appointments with key people in government departments, trade associations, retail chains, ingredient suppliers, etc., as well as senior executives of manufacturers who might or might not be current Baker Perkins customers. Customer interviews were carried out alone to protect the results from bias and to ensure that the Unit’s activities did not affect any relationship between the customer and the company’s sales organisation. Not being seen as part of the sales force also enabled the interviewer to ask questions that in other circumstances might have been considered commercially sensitive.
The Market Research Unit carried out projects in most of the market sectors served by Baker Perkins and in many parts of the world. Not all resulted in a recommendation that Baker Perkins should invest further in that market place. One project that did confirm an opportunity for the company was carried out in the USA and Europe in 1973/1974 and investigated the market for snack foods and snack food machinery – see History of Baker Perkins in the Snack Food Business.
“Selling” the results of the market research was not always easy. Dick Preston, who joined the Unit in 1973, and had by now seen market research from both sides – as a user in an operating company and as a provider of research findings – recalls:
“One of the reasons why the use of market research as a concept took some time to become accepted in parts of the group might have been that, at first, some sales people appeared to find it difficult to accept that it was not necessary to have been trained as a salesman before one could have an intelligent conversation with a customer. It was not unusual to return from carrying out some market research to be told by senior Divisional managers that the information could not possibly be true because - "He would not have told you things like that - he wouldn't even tell me and I have been dealing with him for ------ years". When I responded by asking if the manager had ever asked such questions, the conversation tended to peter out”.
Another project looked at the market in a European country for equipment supplied by a Peterborough-based division. It was suggested at the project briefing that there was no need to interview the division’s agent in one particular part of the country, despite this being in the heart of the industry, as he was considered to be the best agent they had, turning in a regular number of orders each year. The agent was interviewed and it was discovered that such was the volume of available orders from that region that the agent merely took enough business every year to pay for heating his swimming pool and then relaxed. Clearly, making an independent assessment of the market could pay dividends.
It became clear that specific market research field studies, carried out at perhaps in-frequent intervals, would not meet the information needs of the operating companies. Efforts were made to work with the Divisions to set up a regular flow of timely and relevant market information, based, at least in part, on making more effective use of the vast amount of information already existing within the company. Much of this was already costing a considerable sum each year in the form of the wide range of trade magazines, newspapers, etc. to which the company subscribed. Adding this to the day-to-day intelligence obtained by the sales force would provide valuable insights into trends in the marketplace and, because of its source, should be readily accepted across the organisation.
Accordingly, the Market Research Unit set up a computerised marketing intelligence data-base system from which was generated the “Yellow Peril” – a digest of relevant information under the headings of “Industry”, “Customers”, “Competitors” and “World Environment”. Market trends were identified by recording items of like information from across the industry, region or world. The “Yellow Peril” – printed on garish yellow paper to ensure that it was easily seen in crowded in-baskets – was circulated monthly to all parts of the group.
|An example of one of the early "Yellow Perils".|
|A Group Marketing Seminar|
During this period, Bob Senior organised a number of in-house seminars to spread the marketing message. These were addressed by Don Thain, a Canadian management consultant and attended by senior managers from across the group.
The Unit also began to be used to train people who would later be transferred into operating companies as a marketing resource. A number of the people recruited through this route, some of MBA calibre, later attained significant positions in the group, among these being Paul Abbott, Rex Gibson and Ron Sicouri. Much use was also made of under-graduates of relevant disciplines on work-experience projects to ensure that the Unit’s thinking was kept up to date.
Some of those who passed through the Department are shown below. Unfortunately not a complete list - some of the short term members (work experience people and some on Project Trident) have not been identified.
In March 1986, a Teaching Company Programme was set up with Professor Steve Parkinson of Henley, The Management College (later with Bradford University) to look at aspects of Marketing, both at Westwood and at Stoke. The Bradford/Marketing TC Associates were: Adrian Wright, Phillip Walker, Nimet Hirji, Julian Ransom and Huw Thomas.
In February 1974, with the formation of Baker Perkins Chemical Machinery Ltd., (See History of Baker Perkins in the Chemical Business), C.R.A. (Bob) Senior – the then group marketing manager - was appointed chairman of the new company and relocated to Saginaw. Stephen Hargreaves had been appointed group Planning director in 1973 and the MRU now reported to him.
The operating companies were by now beginning to commission or carry out market research projects and customer satisfaction surveys for themselves. One significant example was the systematic use of structured market research in North America by the printing machinery business in which the performance of BBPMC compared with that of its competitors was measured on a regular basis. (See History of Baker Perkins in the Printing Business).
By the middle of 1975, the breadth of activities carried out by the Unit had grown to the extent that its name was changed to one considered more appropriate to the direction that the Unit was taking.
The massive change in the UK’s competitiveness from the inflation and exchange rate appreciation resulting from the discovery of North Sea Oil in the early 1960s and the rapidly changing world economic situation brought about by the OPEC crisis of the early 1970s brought into focus the need for the company to be aware of how these changes might create both threats and opportunities in its chosen businesses. The Unit undertook the task of interpreting the mass of available economic data and converting this into periodic bulletins and presentations.
A key part of this was calculations of the Apparent Real Perceived Price of the group’s products as seen from the customer’s point of view. Trends in competitiveness charts, taking into account relative inflation and relative exchange rate movements, were circulated and used to set targets for cost-reduction exercises at operating company level. Periodic presentations on the world business environment were given to the Holding company board and to operating company management and this work led inevitably to the Unit being involved in:
During this period, a Teaching Company Programme in Marketing was set up in conjunction with Bradford University. See also The Teaching Company Scheme.
One of the graduates who contributed to the development of Group Marketing Services from 1984 onwards was Alison Edyvane who recalls:
“When I joined Group Marketing Services in 1984, I become part of a small core group of graduates who diligently scanned the trade magazines and newspapers each day for key snippets of information to produce the “Yellow Peril” (see above) and also undertook market research commissioned by the various divisions of the Baker Perkins Group. My main role was to add this information to a small but growing electronic database of knowledge with appropriate indexing terms added to allow quick and easy search and retrieval. In those days, computerisation was in its early stages and we had one ageing computer about the size of a filing cabinet. Thanks to static electricity, it used to crash whenever Dick went near it, and finally expired totally about a year after my arrival! A proper state-of-the-art IBM AT PC took its place together with a database software product called CAIRS developed by the Leatherhead Food Research Association. After a few days training, I was tasked with setting up and maintaining a more robust and reliable database which could be used for ad-hoc market research queries and, of course for generating the monthly “Yellow Peril” report. As with all computer projects (to this day) we had our teething problems and everything took longer than planned but eventually we were up and running efficiently and the database continued to be used until Group Marketing was disbanded following the merger with APV.
I was also responsible for computerising the production of the “Real Effective Exchange Rates” reports – quite a challenge, as I had never used a spreadsheet before. However, with much help from the user manual we got there and were able to generate a regular report based on published relative exchange rate updates.
Overall I remember my time in Group Marketing as challenging but also rewarding and very enjoyable and I learnt skills which have stood me in good stead over the remainder of my career.”
1985 brought more significant changes. Stephen Hargreaves retired as group planning manager and Group Marketing Services became part of the new group innovation team under J.C. (Charles) McCaskie. This team acted in a co-ordinating role across the group in planning, technology management, systems management and marketing.
By 1985, Dick Preston was Group Marketing Manager and the appointment of marketing managers in operating companies had proceeded apace. Work on supporting the development of marketing activities in operating companies continued until 1987 and soon after the merger with APV, Group Marketing Services was disbanded and its role devolved to operating companies.
The task of Group Marketing Manager was continued at APV’s London HQ until the end of 1994.
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