“Any manufacturer should be exporting” says new Export Ambassador

From supplying textiles to the Middle East – to selling innovative medical equipment worldwide, CEO Graham Bowland, is among Yorkshire’s most experienced manufacturing exporters. 

He joined medical equipment designer and manufacturer, Surgical Innovations, Leeds, founded by a leading laparoscopic surgeon, as financial controller, and became sole managing director in 2008. He says “There are huge regulatory issues affecting what we do, covering Intellectual Property (IP), CE marking and dealing with the US FDA Medical Devices Requirements, which create compliances which must be delivered from factory level.

“85% of our turnover is exports as there are more minimum invasive surgery procedures overseas.  US is our main market, which accounts for approximately 50% of the world’s medical device procurement, although Australia and Belgium, where 70% of hospitals use our products, and South Africa are also important markets for us.  SI products are also in the Middle East, Turkey, Israel, Japan and Hong Kong.

Graham, who, is a ‘We Are International’ export ambassador, is available to mentor a wide range of manufacturing businesses, says: “Any manufacturer should be exporting. There are challenges but huge rewards. After research, visit target markets, have face-to-face meetings and get to know people. Be ready for the long haul, time away from home and business which means that you need the right people and systems in place at your factory so it can run efficiently without you.

“When you become successful, be prepared to invest in logistics and customer service. When we started to drive our technology in US, I won an order for a particular product line worth more than our entire sales for two years. When this happens, you have to know how to cope and watch your production quality, manufacturing capacity, and lead times.

“We’re told we should be exporting to BRICS but my advice to new exporters is get experience in the EU, which due to regulatory, geographical and cultural factors means it is far easier to develop and grow.”

We are International is a campaign led by the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in partnership with UKTI Yorkshire and Humber, Chamber International and Enterprise Europe Network Yorkshire. It aims to add £1.6bn to the Leeds City Region economy by encouraging more companies to realise the significant business opportunities of international trade.

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