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Nigel Whittingham : Lean Biography

Early Years


Nigel comes to this as a proven leader with over 25 years management experience across 8 Manufacturing businesses. He entered work as Technical Apprentice with Ever Ready. 

His first degree was in Applied Science with a focus on Manufacturing Technology, Automation and Computing - which included some study of (good old) Artificial Intelligence.

Much of his experience has been gained within the automotive sector – he joined Rover Group at Longbridge as a graduate trainee in Manufacturing Engineering and worked on various Process Engineering and technology projects and an increasing involvement with CAD/CAM in conjunction with both Warwick and Birmingham universities. This is where Nigel first came into contact with Lean Manufacturing via the Rover relationship with Honda in Japan.

After 4-years, he moved to Jaguar Cars in a similar role, with further focus on CAD/CAM, CAE/PDM and IT in both Manufacturing and product engineering. He also expanded his involvement with Lean/Quality systems via the JLR Deming TQM programme. During this time he also studied part time at Aston University and completed an MBA in 1991.

The 90's and noughties

The IT Years





Through the 90’s, Nigel worked for two industrial manufacturing groups BTR-FKI-Hawker Siddeley Switchgear and Smiths Industries HVAC division - very much focused on the increasing application of IT, MRP and ERP systems into Manufacturing and Engineering - plus the application Lucas Engineering Systems, Lean methodologies.

Returning to automotive in the 2000, Nigel joined the Japanese Tier-1 Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems - a transplant JV spin-off from Lucas-TRW. As a member of the executive team, he helped to grow the company to 3 times the size in 5 years, with manufacturing operations in the UK, Eastern Europe and North Africa. Sumitomo is an extremely close partner with Toyota and followed TPS lean manufacturing systems and methodologies.

In 2004, Nigel was appointed MD of a technology division of the company - focused on Electronics and Connector systems – achievements included the turnaround and restructuring the business, setting up a new central European HQ and service centre in Hungary and managing Commercial, Engineering and Manufacturing operations across the European region. Nigel held this position, MD of a Japanese company for 8-years taking the business from 50-100m Euro turnover and into profit – winning major business awards with Toyota, VW, Honda and various other OEM’s/Tier 1/2 customers. Nigel concluded 13-years of service with Sumitomo by setting up new business unit focused on Ford.

Recent Years


Back to basics




He joined the Swiss company Bühler Group in 2013, based in London, as Manufacturing Director for the Digital Technologies Division, responsible for strategy and manufacturing operations across UK, Europe, China, India and Brazil.  


Back-to-basics action plans included Quality, Productivity, S&OP, S&OE and Lean – with year-on-year SQCDP process and KPI improvement.

Nigel championed a senior management leadership development programme and cascaded this across the manufacturing group.

Plus, a Lean focus on continuous improvement, cost reduction and value creation – establishing the Bühler UK London site as a best-in-class benchmark operation – mainly via a unique team and Team Leader development programme – a focus on people – the introduction of grassroots employee engagement systems to truly deliver shop-floor accountability/responsibility to take Lean to the next level.

In addition, he led on High Performance Collaboration and Activity Based Working for removing the silos of Manufacturing, R&D and Commercial operations - and a focus on value streams.

Most Recently




Nigel is passionate about UK Manufacturing and since July 2017 has worked very closely with MakeUK, the industry body and membership organisation that represents 20,000 UK manufacturing companies - with 500 direct members and 400 core member organisations. He is currently Chair of the South East & London Regional Advisory Board, Vice Chair of the South region and a Member of the National Membership Board.

This involvement brought Nigel closer to many SME and MSB organisations and an understanding of the differing needs of such businesses. Through MakeUK, Nigel has been involved in developing member led policy on topics including industrial strategy, leadership, export and international trade, digital and Lean – the last three years dominated by Brexit lobbying/planning – and the last 12 months also dominated by Covid response and recovery.

Nigel left Bühler in September 2020 to set-up his own consultancy business BBN-Nexus to focus on delivering transformational change across Manufacturing businesses and Supply Chains – with a focus on Leadership, Strategy, Lean, Enterprise Excellence, Employee Engagement and Digital – working with SME, Corporate and PE clients.

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