Established in 1974, MGS Technical Plastics is a family owned plastic injection moulding company with over 60 people employed at their facility in Blackburn. Technical Director, Judson Smythe, is a trade tested tool & die maker and industrial engineer. Judson joined MGS in 2016 as part of the company’s growth plans, after over 15 years in the industry. He is the next PlastikCity Partner to face the HotSeat…
What trends do you think will shape the future of UK plastics? How will MGS Technical Plastics respond?
High value engineering projects rich in R&D that take advantage of the abundance of skills available in the UK coupled with well-structured reshoring activities (where the business case suits) will see the UK continue to be a world leader in the manufacturing industry. Acknowledging that the UK is competing in a global supply chain is critical as it motivates organisations to continue to strive for manufacturing excellence and adopt new technologies. That said, uncertainty in political spheres sees the private sector holding back on investment which will have significant impact if new projects are postponed or taken elsewhere.
MGS will continue to invest in new machinery, skills and technology in order to keep our manufacturing abilities at the forefront of the industry. We will continue to prioritise our customers’ success, working closely with them to understand their particular needs and challenges. This will ensure that, together, we are able to outwit and outlast the competition.
How has MGS Technical Plastics developed during your tenure?
MGS has gone from strength to strength during my tenure through a multifaceted continuous improvement drive. Implementation of best practices, achievement of new accreditations and considerable investment into the Blackburn site and machinery therein, have facilitated our growth in recent years. From 5S on the shop floor to increased structures in the recruitment process, no stone has been left unturned in our quest for pure manufacturing excellence.
What do you credit as the key to your success?
I started my career as an apprentice Tool and Die maker, I believe this formed vital foundations from which I could build myself into a well-rounded industry professional. Working my way up from an apprentice position has provided a unique ability to understand the different dynamics across every area of the business. Understanding these dynamics allows one to get the best out of their teams and results in the peak levels of performance that our customers require and rely on.
What has been the greatest challenge in your career?
Learning to back myself and the decisions that I believe need to be made. As an apprentice you always have someone to go to and ask if you aren’t sure, it’s usually encouraged and people say things like “shout if you’re stuck” or the old adage “measure twice, cut once”.
Whilst I still believe in consulting with the team and that it is always best to ask, there are times where no decision is worse than a bad decision. Learning to trust your instinct, skill and experience to make a critical decision and back that decision is something that we all have to go through, back yourself… make a decision!
What advice do you wish you’d had on entering the industry and does that differ from the advice you would give to an Apprentice joining now?
I was lucky enough to receive the advice I needed, my journeyman said to me “Judson, if someone else can make it… you can too!” Those words have resonated in every aspect of my life ever since and as a result, there is no project or challenge that I will shy away from, be it at work or at home.
I am a firm believer in promoting the training of apprentices, MGS currently has 7 trainees and apprentices. If I had to give some advice to an apprentice looking to join the manufacturing industry now, I would be honest with them and say that it isn’t always the most spoken about industry when you’re young. Your friends might not think it’s a “cool” career path but believe me, the ladders are there to be climbed, the barriers to entry are low (no massive student loans) and if you put your mind and efforts into it, the sky is the limit. I would advise apprentices to seek advice from people that they admire in the industry, they have made mistakes that you can learn from and remember, you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.
What hidden talents do you have?
I am a good cook and am good with my hands, the area where I excel though is at the Braai… A Braai is the South African equivalent of a BBQ, only better. I can cook just about anything on a Braai from a breakfast to a Christmas day lunch. My family and I have them on a weekly basis. I do get some funny looks from my neighbours when I light the fire in the middle of winter, but they soon succumb to the aromas floating across the garden wall.