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  • Writer's pictureBarry Michael Aldridge

A Flotec Story | Innovation in Motion

In January 2020, Barry Michael Aldridge joined Flotec Industrial Limited as its Head of Marketing. In this feature, Aldridge explains the reason why and the appeal for doing so.

“In December 2019, I saw a marketing vacancy at Flotec and was incredibly interested in the opportunity.

I knew Flotec’s Business Development Manager, Maria Smith from the rail scene and contacted her to find out more.

It transpired that the current marketing person, who I knew of and had met at various networking events, was returning to the education sector and so the vacancy had arisen.

I applied for the role and in January 2020, attended an interview with Managing Director, Julian Davies.”

“It all felt very natural and organic. I had already made my mark in the rail sector, was well known both in industry and the media and knew of Flotec through my meetings with Maria.

Important to the role, I was a fully chartered and Fellow member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and so, had earned my stripes within the marketing profession.

Julian and I spent a good three hours talking about all things rail and sharing ideas as to how the marketing opportunity could take shape.

Opportunity being an important word. Julian asked me about my career history and if Flotec was a short-term plan.

I was honest in explaining that I had undoubtedly had an eclectic work life with a lot of moving around throughout many different organisations and industries.

Some of it planned and some merely side-stepping potential redundancy.

Whilst my past had helped to build a diverse range of experiences, I personally felt as though Flotec was a long-term vision.”

“In Flotec, I saw a world full of exciting opportunities. Having been given many false promises in the past with education and access to career development being denied, Flotec presented me with a blank canvas to make the role my very own.

What I found incredibly intriguing was Julian’s philosophy and strategic thoughts on growing market share for the rail facet of the business.

The plan being not to replace like-for-like worn parts but more, to design and engineer original and innovative solutions to truly resolve issues and ease pain points for Flotec’s rail clients.

From a marketing perspective, I really liked the concept, with the business model being very much a ‘push’ strategy.

January 2020 witnessed me arriving at Flotec during arguably the strangest time in modern history.

Shortly after joining the company, COVID 19 began exerting its formidable force upon the world.

With it, COVID brought a great deal of uncertainty and for me, came at a time when I was settling into a new job and making friends.

Prior to the first official lockdown, business decisions had to be made about such things as furlough and remote working.

What gave me a positive vibe about the company was how democratic the decision making was. Actions were not at all forced onto the team but underwent a fair voting process.

I believe this democratic methodology to be the underpinning of the Flotec culture and its now, employee-owned status.

Despite the pandemic’s epic and relentless global disruption, Flotec flourished.

I feel incredibly passionate towards SMEs and their ability to react and respond quickly to any given MACRO event.

Flotec is a shining example of a small to medium enterprise being agile enough to weather the COVID storm.

Swift changes were made to ensure the business continued trading in a COVID safe manner with those who could, working from home.

Albeit remotely, Julian provided me with a substantial amount of product training, ensuring I had the adequate knowledge to market Flotec and its product portfolio to maximum effect.

The training highlighted precisely how innovative Flotec is, with the engineering solutions being provided, helping to keep rail assets moving to optimal efficiency.

First up on the learning agenda was the Bluestripe EPDM coolant hose and its unique selling points.

A major market differentiator being a resistance to electrochemical degradation which is responsible for destroying standard EPDM hoses from the inside.

Bolstered with additional benefits, the Bluestripe hose is proven to be ten times more resilient to water permeation than silicone hoses.

When used with the PowerGrip clamps the hose is reliable for over 750, 000 miles of engine use and provides a leak free solution.

I also discovered how the PowerShrink control box had been designed, engineered and manufactured to simplify and make more accurate the fitting of the PowerGrip clamps.

Next on the educational itinerary was the hydrostatic hose range and coupling products.

Prior to the COVID lockdown, Julian had discussed with me a desire to ‘white label’ the hydrostatic product with a personalised Railtec brand and that work had already started on this venture.

Diversification had been made with the acquirement of a range of train fleet battery charging units.

The product which really caught my imagination was the variable pitch fan which effectively eliminates ‘return to idle’ engine issues for DMU trains.”

Important to me, is being able to tell a story and Flotec doesn’t disappoint.

From its people through to products, company structure and culture, there is always content on-hand for me to communicate.

Despite numerous lockdowns and remote working, 2020 was a year of learning about the business, its people, and product offering.

Re-assuring was Julian’s long-term vision, with an understanding that the global pandemic would come to an end.

Whilst industries such as aerospace were suffering, the UK government pledged to keep the rail network operational, allowing goods and key workers to reach their destinations in a safe and timely manner.

The Flotec Rail Division was kept busy with plenty of rolling stock overhaul and installation projects.

Industries such as agriculture, construction and pharma/food manufacturing remained active because, they were considered essential and by their very nature could not afford to grind to a halt.

Somewhere in 2020 I began envisaging two straplines for the business. One for the rail division and the second for the industrial.

Thinking about the Flotec rail product portfolio, I considered the innovative qualities which help to keep train fleets moving and so developed the following strapline:

‘Innovation in Motion’.

Simplistic in nature and instantly understandable.”

“Regarding Flotec’s industrial division, I thought about how essential industries had to remain operational throughout the pandemic and so, scribed the following words:

‘Because Industry Never Stops, Neither Does Flotec.’

Again, simple, and easily understood.”

“I genuinely believe Flotec to be innovative and as such, towards the end of 2020, submitted the company for an award in the manufacturing and engineering category of the 2021 Leicestershire Live Innovation Awards.

Around Christmas 2020, I began conceptualising the Flotec company mission and devised two statements.

Again, one for the rail division and the other, industrial operational activity:

‘To be a trusted and leading supplier of reliable hose and engineering solutions to the rail market.’

‘To be a trusted and leading supplier of hydraulic, pneumatic and pipeline products and services to industries which have a need for the Flotec offering.’

To accompany the mission statements, I wrote a series of core values which focussed on innovation, belonging, empowerment, ownership, accountability, ethics, trust, and customer service.

Over the 2020/21 festive period, I also created a Corporate Social Responsibility - Duty of Care manual.

All these subject matters, I believed to be the foundations of the business moving forwards.

As well versed that I am in writing corporate mission statements and core values, I have only recently discussed the Flotec vision with a friend where she noted that for me to write words of this nature, I must genuinely believe them to be true.

My friend is quite correct, I do.

“I love sharing good news about people and their achievements.

In July of 2021, it was my pleasure to write a press release on behalf of Flotec’s very own Chloe Lofthouse and Sophie Wright.

The course was developed and delivered by St John Ambulance.

What I found particularly heart-warming about this press release, was that Chloe and Sophie had taken it upon themselves to complete the training and were incredibly topical in making mental wellbeing of major importance to Flotec.

With lockdowns remaining persistent throughout 2021, the Leicestershire Live Innovation Awards Ceremony (initially scheduled for May) was postponed until later in the year.

Seizing an opportunity for us to gather in person, the event finally took place at the National Space Centre, Leicester and was held on Tuesday 14th September.

It was an absolute delight to not only win but also, pick up the award for innovation on Flotec’s behalf.

Speaking of the reason for Flotec winning the award, the judges commented that they were impressed with Flotec’s preventative approach – as opposed to a reactive one – because the variable pitch fan and associated system technology pre-empts delays and works to eliminate them before they occur, benefitting the rail network and those who rely on it.

When promoting the variable pitch fan and its accompanying system upgrade, I can now officially write the following words; ‘Flotec’s Award-Winning Variable Pitch Fan’!

This win cemented in my mind, that Flotec possesses truly innovative qualities and the award is testament to the company and its people.”

“On the 17th May 2021, I was tasked with publishing the exciting news about Flotec becoming an Employee Owned Trust.

When thinking back to my reasons for joining the organisation, I viewed it as an opportunity, whereby being an EOT organisation helps strengthen my belief that Flotec has an incredibly bright and positive future.

“Flotec continues to surprise and delight me, and I am never short of marketing communications fodder!

In February of this year, the Flotec team gathered on a Saturday morning to do some serious ‘number crunching’ and set in motion a cemented growth strategy.

In March, I was invited by Invest Midlands to be a guest speaker, discussing the benefits of being an employee-owned business.

2022 has also seen Flotec reach finalist stage for the workplace wellbeing and product innovation award categories through the Federation of Small Businesses.

In June, some of the Flotec team devised a social marketing campaign titled #sheretocare with the objective being to raise awareness about a series of good causes that felt important to us.

Charities given a shout out included, East Midlands Air Ambulance, Blue Cross, Cancer Research UK, Mind, the Little Princess Trust, National Eczema Society and Stop Hate UK.

In September, the first batch of the Railtec branded hydrostatic hose arrived at the Flotec warehouse.

Five years in the making, the project has been a major collaborative effort.

Thinking of all things ‘innovation’, I believe that the Railtec MED2-HT hydrostatic hose possess features and qualities which truly makes it a market leading and innovative product.

As such, I have put the ‘own-branded’ product forwards for the 2023 Leicestershire Live Innovation Awards.”

“Nearing my third-year anniversary with Flotec and considering the exciting activities that have already taken place, it feels obvious to me that the future of the business is going to be incredibly vibrant and successful.

The mission and values written over the Christmas period of 2020 have proven themselves to be true.

As my friend told me, I would not have written them if I did not believe in what I was saying.

As an employee-owned SME, there is a genuine desire to pull together and make the business flourish and thrive.

With 2023 sitting imminently on the horizon, there certainly are some exciting times ahead!”

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