As boss of Brompton Bicycle Co, 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.
Along with the founder and inventor, Andrew Richie, Will Butler-Adams 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 platform, Will outlines his vision – including further expansion into China (by not having patents), and Bromptons for hire in cities throughout the UK. 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.