Geoff Bryant has been a part of Citizen Machinery since its establishment in October 1974 as NC Engineering, Watford, joining as a 23-year-old and then leading the company since 1991. NC Engineering became Citizen Machinery UK in April 2008 and took Miyano UK under its wing in January 2011, while since 2010 the Bushey, Herts-based operation has had a wider remit across Europe and beyond, operating as European hub. The latter sees it: select and appoint distributors; act as supply chain to such distributors; train, educate, motivate, support them technically and commercially; and decide business strategy, targets and so on (Germany is also a hub). Citizen Machinery UK is directly responsible for Nordic/Scandinavia, Italy (but not as a hub), France, Spain and Portugal, as well as Israel, the Middle East and Africa. The UK operation is also a software development centre within the global Citizen Machinery company.

As Bryant steps aside, a new three-man team is in place to take the company forward. Edward James, who joined Citizen in 2012, becomes managing director, with Darren Wilkins taking on the deputy managing director role that sees him carry sole responsibility for sales and marketing. Jon Hart is now finance and administration director (Adrian Pearce has been promoted to financial manager, reporting to Hart). Bryant will continue as business advisor to the new team.

Says James: “This is an exciting time to establish the future progression of the business, based on the cultivation of the new management team by Geoff Bryant with full support from Japan.”

Adds Wilkins: “Over the past few years, we have been progressively developing our team of key people so as to enable a smooth succession with a shared responsibility covering finance, sales, technical support and involvement in product development.”

Bryant, who has recently become president of the Manufacturing Technologies Association for two years from December 2016, remains a director of Citizen UK’s sister company, Hestika France, until March 2018, after which Wilkins will also take on this responsibility; the deputy managing director is already a director of Citizen Macchine Italia, the Group’s Italian operation, and he will be expanding the European sales operation.

Citizen is currently supplying 800 machines a year into Europe, with half of those falling within Citizen Machinery UK’s sales area. Since 1974, more than 7,250 machines have been sold in the UK and the European territories that Citizen Machinery UK serves.

The company employs 48 people at Bushey and Brierley Hill, and has recently added to its sales team to support the growing range of machines available and the increased technology involved, as well as the expanding customer base. Enhanced customer contact will result, with salesmen having more compact sales areas.

Says Wilkins: “The business has changed dramatically and we are now fully geared up as a ‘tailored-solution’ provider. Projects with customers are now involving integrated processes with turning and milling, such as Low Frequency Vibration (LFV) cutting, laser machining and hard turning, plus meeting ever greater demands on automation.”

Adds James: “The latest developments mean the business is still growing, with sales on course to meet projected increases for 2017 of between 25 and 30% over the previous year. This is a big challenge for the business, requiring ever higher levels of technical input to support customers, so they can maximise the benefits from our latest technologies.”

The new team:

Managing director Edward James has moved from his role of five years as technical manager responsible for UK and Ireland. The 47-year-old will further build the business into a turnkey solution centre while additionally streamlining sales and customer support processes. In his previous role, he expanded an existing team of 22 to 30, supporting the growth in UK installations of the Citizen CNC sliding-head and Miyano fixed-head mill-turn brands. In 2016, his team achieved a one-day ‘first-fix’ record of exceeding 90% of all breakdown call-outs being resolved at the first visit.

That achievement rests on his experience of some 32 years covering machine tool, mechanical, electrical, electronic and service management operations, which saw his progressive rise from senior engineer to engineering service manager, a key post he held for some six years at another world-class machine tool supplier, prior to joining Citizen Machinery UK in 2012.

A prime objective in his previous role was to encourage younger people to join Citizen and support the growth and influence on the business of IT and software. He linked these skills with those of the highly experienced technical and application engineers that have proven to be the backbone of the company’s operations. As a result, he also became involved with the training and education of the European dealership, basing this on the proven ‘Citizen UK model’ developed at Bushey, Herts.

Deputy managing director Darren Wilkins has 26 years of service with Citizen Machinery UK and previously NC Engineering. The 52-year-old served a seven-year apprenticeship with a leading valve and hydraulics specialist in the south-east, qualifying as an electro-mechanical and electronics engineer. A career in field service in the printing sector followed, with him joining NC Engineering in 1989 as south-eastern field service engineer. In 2002, he moved into machine sales, becoming sales manager in 2009. The following year he took responsibility for certain overseas territories, including Israel, the Middle East and Africa, Scandinavia, Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. He became sales director in 2011.

Drawing on his background, specifically during the integration of the Miyano products into Citizen Machinery UK’s range, training, retraining and mentoring is high on his agenda for the team, not only to keep up with the rapid advances in mill-turning processes and software, but also, as he says: “To constantly improve standards in the business and, importantly, support customers, who are facing ever greater demands and challenges, to be more competitive and productive.”

Finance and administration director Jon Hart is a specialist in business systems, including the customer relations management system (CRM) that the 37-year-old designed and wrote during his previous role as European business systems manager. This backbone of the company is pivotal in supporting UK and European efforts. In his new role, he will liaise with Citizen operations in Germany, Italy and France.

The CRM system has recently been extended to incorporate spare part stock control and visibility in UK and Germany, with important strategic links to the head office in Japan included. CRM also underpins financial aspects of the business, providing high orders of accuracy and clarity, as well as flagging up arising service issues. After setting up his own software business in 2000, he joined Macro CNC in 2002 (the then UK Miyano agent).

Involved in administration support, the roles of company secretary and finance manager were added when Miyano Machinery UK was set up following the acquisition of Macro CNC by Miyano Machinery Inc. When Citizen Machinery UK absorbed that UK operation,

he moved to business systems, with a growing responsibility for developing his software and implementing it within the Citizen operations in the UK, Germany, Italy and France.

First published in Machinery April 2017