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Quote unquote – Andy robinson, MD, Autotech Controls Ltd

andy-robinsonAndy Robinson is Managing Director of Luton-based Autotech Controls Ltd, which specialises in the development, implementation and maintenance of automation control systems.

What’s the most exciting thing about your job?

Every day is different. Our business is dynamic and our products need the intensive use of highly skilled technicians, with the majority of our work carried out on-site. Within the overall adrenalin buzz, no one thing is really more exciting than any other.

Who inspired you most in your career?

Sir Clive Sinclair – he was very innovative, thinking out of the box, and prepared to take calculated risks and to market his own kit. His products made a big impression on me whilst I was growing up – his calculator, the digital watch and the ZX81 (my first computer).

If you were an item in a warehouse, what would you be?

A miniload crane. To see them move at such high speeds but with such incredible accuracy is something that I always find amazing – even though we provide the controls for them.

What brought you into this industry?

My family was in business as leaders not followers and it was natural that I should want to run my own business. My interest in electronic controls left me looking for things to control and mechanical handling was one of the obvious markets.

david_blunkettIf you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I’d probably take a credit check on every customer, no matter how well I thought I knew them.

What’s your favourite pastime?

Sailing. It’s full of decisions such as tides, weather and sail trim but it all runs at a slower pace, which brings relaxation without boredom.

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?

I’ve never lived down a school trip to Cambridge. Whilst punting along the river, the pole got stuck beneath a rock on the river bed and a tree above me. For some reason that I’ve never worked out, I didn’t let go of the pole and as the punt carried on I was left hanging on the pole for what seemed like ages. In the end, I had no choice but to fall into the water and swim to the bank – and that was also the end of my Sinclair digital watch!

Do you have any hidden talents?

Certainly not my football skills – I’m rubbish, and was always the last to be picked for a team!

Who would be your favourite party guest?

David Blunkett, and not for his politics. In my life, I need to absorb reports, tenders, correspondence, technical specifications and impending legislation. Blunkett became the youngest ever councillor on Sheffield City Council at the age of 22. He served on Sheffield City Council, finally becoming its leader. He also served on the South Yorkshire County Council and he built up support within the Labour Party during his time as the council’s leader and was elected to the party’s National Executive Committee. At the 1987 general election, he was elected Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and joined the shadow cabinet as Shadow Health Secretary and then Shadow Education Secretary.

Following the Labour win in the general election, Blunkett was promoted to Home Secretary – and all this despite being blind from birth. I would like to know just how he absorbed and remembered such a myriad of information over those years. I also understand from the red top press that he is a bit of a party animal, so he should also bring a bit of fun to the party.

What is the greatest luxury in your life?

My Jaguar XK. As well as the sheer luxury, I love the build quality. We at Autotech installed the control systems for the Jaguar XJ and XK assembly lines, so we know a lot about the quality ethos at Jaguar. Right now, we are working on the assembly line controls for the replacement XJ which has an all-aluminium body. We are the sole controls company working with more than a dozen mechanical suppliers from mainland Europe to upgrade the body assembly facility completely for the new top-of-the-range Jaguar car. We are making use of innovative technologies such as robotic riveting and laser measuring to ensure the new vehicle is best in class.

If you won the Lottery, what would you do?

Well, that one is easy because I don’t do the lottery for two reasons. Firstly the odds of winning are so enormous that I can’t understand its popularity. Also the thought of winning can take your mind off the ball – the only way forward in this world is by the sweat of your own brow.

Who or what makes you laugh?

That’s easy too: my 7-year-old twins reading me jokes from their silly joke books.

Do you have any secret ambitions?

In the fullness of time, when my family no longer needs for me to provide for them, I would like to give time to charity work and share some of the good things that business has given me.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?

Any snowy mountain – I just have to ski!

What’s your favourite music album?

I like listening to music when I’m flying; I find that it helps me to think through problems and get clear direction. I usually listen to pretty mainstream stuff such as Lily Allen, Paolo Nutini and Kings of Leon.

What’s your favourite movie?

I love a good, old-fashioned James Bond movie. I’ve probably collected all the films and read most of the books. I recently brought my son a model of the Aston Martin from Goldfinger with the ejector seat – I always wanted one of those when I was a child.

What’s your favourite book?

Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. They say history always repeats itself and it’s true.

Who or what do you detest the most?

Well, it’s not double glazing salesmen. Everything has to be sold but sometimes the DG guys do it so badly. What gets to me is those who think that the world owes them a living – it’s so against the laws of nature… nothing is for nothing.

What would be your advice to someone thinking about coming into the industry (apart from “don’t do it”)?

Firstly, always honour your word and keep promises even if it costs you to do so. Also, never give up, no matter how many times you are knocked back.

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