Meet the MD: Jack Hanwell of the Advanced Manufacturing Forum

Meet the MD: Jack Hanwell of the Advanced Manufacturing Forum

After starting out as an apprentice in a shipyard, Jack Hanwell went on to become managing director of AMF. He took some time out to tell BQ a little bit about his journey.

Describe your role in brief.

Managing the Advanced Manufacturing Forum and promoting its benefits to the engineering community in the North East is my main job and it requires a strategy that makes AMF attractive to manufacturers.

Only by offering good and consistent events, providing relevant business information and representing companies’ interests will we continue our success. AMF has three themes which it continually refers to; Innovation, Productivity and Skills.

Signposting members to solutions to these and other key areas such as finance, HR and maintenance are what retains and attracts manufacturers to our community.


What is it the company does?

AMF is a business support organisation for manufacturing companies in the North East. We stage regular events featuring quality presenters that provides networking opportunities and informs our companies of subjects relevant to their business.


Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I started my working life as an apprentice electrician for Swan Hunter back when their five Tyneside shipyards employed 16,000 people.

When I left to go to Vickers Defence Systems after 20+ years it was as a Training Officer to work on the Challenger 2 tank Training Aids.

Spells with Amec and Euro Seas, setting up an ROV Training School followed before I joined NOF, or the Northern Offshore Federation as it was back in 1999.

A brief spell with a construction training school was next before I joined AMF.


What do you believe makes a great leader?

Intelligence, empathy, exceptional vision and a willingness to be involved in every aspect of the business.


What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

Increasing the membership base and raising the profile of the business as it changed from being a single borough organisation to a regional and influential body.

As a provider of up to 25 events every year ensuring subject matter is relevant and meaningful to as many people as possible will always be a challenge.

Manufacturing is an industry that crosses many sectors so what appeals to, say, fabricators in oil &gas won’t necessarily attract those making hearing aid batteries or paints or electronic components etc. etc.


How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

It used to be playing sport, now it’s watching it, then the family came along but they’re grown up and our grandson is in Edinburgh.

Now it’s gardening and in the winter months sourcing wood and preparing it for my latest fad, our log burner.


When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Centre forward for Newcastle United of course!


Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about then?

People who don’t become ‘buy into’ a business and all that it tries to achieve. I have worked for companies big and small and almost without exception have been proud to be associated with them.  

Also companies that have a blame-culture. I try to foster a place where honesty is the norm even when the news is bad.


Where do you see the company in five years time?

I should be retired by then so I hope to leave behind an organisation that has grown from where it is now. Only by continuing to expand and add to its services can AMF break new ground.

As with everything in manufacturing it would be great to see youth picking up the reins and improving on what has gone before. It would be good to see manufacturing being recognised by young people as a ‘sexy’ career choice.


What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

Listen to everyone who works for you, you will learn ever so much.