Frank Dudley Ltd (FDL) identified 2015 as the year that the automotive industry gained momentum. With Jaguar Land Rover’s record year, apprenticeships finally being supported and profitability overall in the manufacturing industry increased, who can argue?
It was also the year that we saw the positive movement to support female engineers, leaders and entrepreneurs.
FDL Chairlady, Jill Dudley-Toole said: “Women used to be considered as, cleaners, operators and office staff in Manufacturing. No man would let us lift heavy weights or recognise our intelligence for engineering. That has all changed over the last ten years, it is great to see so many females in manufacturing. There are now so many females challenging for leadership roles and both sexes working as a team for the benefit of UK Manufacturing.”
In 1948, Jill’s father, Frank founded FDL and started the family-run business. In turn, all five of his children worked in the business in a variety of roles. This included, working on the hand press after school, taking parts in wheelbarrows to the local platers and completing paperwork for the invoices. This ensured that each family member had a role within the business.
Jill has been the Managing Director, Production Manager, Purchasing Manager, Office Manager, Labourer and Operator. This year, we want to highlight the need for more women to join the manufacturing industry. We want more female involvement, more female engineers and more female managers in our diverse culture.
Jill explained: “The only way to get respect was to earn it. You couldn’t not work if the men were in. When they opened, I had to be there, when they left I was there. No job was too heavy or too dirty, anything they could do, I did.”
Between the 1970’s and 90’s engineering and manufacturing was very much a male- dominated environment. At the time, Jill would have been one of a handful of female shareholders in the industry and strived to make a difference.
One of Jill’s most memorable moments was created by the support of the Press Shop Manager, Dougie Frogget. Jill explained: “Dougie was a fantastic person and the best engineer we have ever had.” Dougie was a rough and ready engineer who had a lot of respect for Jill and her ethos. With Dougie’s engineering prowess and Jill’s entrepreneurial and engineering background a strong FDL team was in the making.
During the mid-90’s, FDL continually grew with Jill at the helm, but little did she know that one of the most important decisions of her career was about to approach her. Dougie became aware that a seven operation job from a large customer was making a loss. He consulted Jill, and they began working on turning the job into a profit. At this point FDL’s capacities were 25-150T and they were very much a small parts manufacturer. Dougie was made aware of a 300T press, with an operating area suitable to host all of the operations in one machine rather than seven. Dougie recommended to Jill that FDL purchase this larger press. In turn, Jill became one of the first second tier suppliers to take the plunge into medium sized presses and looked towards a successful future.
With the new technology and larger capacities the company grew stronger. More investment in two 500T machines, pick and place units and larger coil fed presses enabled Jill to approach a larger customer base by being able to supply small to large presswork.
Jill is a testimony to all UK Manufacturers, male or female, as she has shown a vast amount of determination in supporting equality in the workplace. She has navigated four recessions and come out stronger each time and shown the industry no matter the issue, if you get your head down and work through it as a team, you will become a stronger unit and build on your successes.