Manufacturers and engineers from across the North East gathered at Rainton Arena on April 21, to hear our plans for the future and learn about the exciting changes to our EMCON event.

We also hosted an industry panel at Engineers and Manufacturers Assemble, which was chaired by David Land, chairman of EMN, and featured Philip Astley, Managing Director of The Expanded Metal Company, Dawn Flynn, Director of B2B Injection Moulding Ltd, Richard Bradley, Managing Director of Dyer Engineering Ltd, Andrew Howe, Operations Director at Turnmill Engineering and John Bignall, founder of Bignall Group.

And we were delighted that these engineering and manufacturing leaders were with us to discuss how being part of EMN has helped them…

The power of collaboration

The Expanded Metal Company became an EMN member in 2022, with Philip Astley also joining the EMN board last year.

In just a short space of time, he has become very impressed with how our membership community can support businesses and individuals within the network.

Philip commented: “You can get answers from Google and you can get quite often get answers from Chat GPT, which is great, but what you get with this network are the ‘natural’ answers!

“You can draw on the network to discuss problems you might have, such as around materials or tooling.

“EMN is very useful… and the membership fee is money well spent!”

For Dawn Flynn, the online peer to peer networking groups facilitated by EMN showed that every business has similar challenges… and she wasn’t on her own. “It highlighted that we weren’t the only one,” said Dawn. “I was able to get back to some of the people who were in the peer group on what we’d been successful with and other members were giving us advice on the things that we were really struggling with.

“It was so important to us.”

And Andrew Howe commented on how vital EMN has been to Turnmill Engineering, as a growing business that was launched five years ago, stating, “it’s good to have that support available all of the time”.

The sense of genuine community created by EMN was also a key focus for Richard Bradley, who spoke passionately about the power of collaboration.

“I believe in collaboration and I believe in doing that in a community where we can all share,” said Richard. “Sharing what we all bring to the network means greater growth, which will equal more jobs and more wealth in a region that I love.”

Responding to audience member Mike Carter, who asked what EMN and EMCON could offer micro-businesses, Richard Bradley responded: “Owning and running a business, especially in the start-up phase is very lonely and challenging, with long working hours.

“What EMN can offer is the chance to talk to someone. (Business owners) can share the things they’re going through.

“It’s really good to know that other people have been through it or are going through it.”

The success of EMCON…

EMCON, EMN’s flagship event, was officially launched at Engineers & Manufacturers Assemble.

Taking place on September 14, 2023, EMCON will be celebrating its 15th year at its new home of Rainton Arena in Houghton-le-Spring, which provides a larger exhibition space and greater accessibility.

The panel had plenty to say about our annual engineering and manufacturing showcase…

John Bignall, founder of Bignall Group, has been part of the EMN community since it began, and during the panel discussion, he described how he has seen EMCON (previously known as Octoberfest) go from strength to strength since its launch in 2008.

“The first one was a great success,” said John. “And it’s grown every year from that.

“There’s a lovely, friendly culture within EMCON and you’re always talking to lots of people.

“I’ve been to a lot of trade shows, but nothing has that sort of culture. I would recommend it to anybody.”

Echoing John Bignall’s comments on EMCON, Richard Bradley said: “It’s a fantastic event and has a feel to it like no other event that I’ve attended.

“I attend several events across the country throughout the year and EMCON is the one I enjoy the most.

“It’s a chance to catch up with people within our community that I probably wouldn’t see. It’s a chance to find out new things. It presents opportunities to us.

Dawn Flynn added: “The community is so friendly and helpful, and it’s really important for SMEs to see that, especially in our region.”

Turnmill Engineering first exhibited at EMCON in 2021 and has reaped the benefits of its investment, with Andrew Howe stating that the firm still has customers from the connections made at its first EMCON show.

“We’ve been back to EMCON several times since then, Andrew explained. “We’ve always felt welcome, right from our first event. We’ve gained customers from it we’ve also increased our supply chain.”

For The Expanded Metal Company team, EMCON in 2022 was also a great success…

“We got an awful lot out of it, not just for business generation, but it’s the cross pollination, the networking and the supply chain side,” said Philip Astley. “I would thoroughly recommend it!”

We’d like to thank Philip, Dawn, Richard, Andrew and John for taking part in our panel discussion and for their fantastic contributions to the Engineers & Manufacturers Assemble event.

This year’s EMCON will include a large-scale exhibition and networking area, a Skills Zone to encourage connections between education providers and the sector, a Made Smarter Zone backed by Made Smarter Adoption North East, a Healthcare Zone supported by Academic Health Science Network North East and Cumbria and a Meet The Buyer area organised by business support group UMi. More announcements will be made in May and June

The event is supported by a range of sponsors, including Gold Sponsors Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, B2B Injection Moulding Ltd and Business Durham.

For more information on EMCON, visit