The manufacturing sector in general has struggled since the 2009 recession. For some, the stark choice will be producing at either high value or high volume, but for could there be alternatives?
At the same time, the larger companies they serve find themselves hampered by the UK skills gap when it comes to developing and enhancing products.
One answer is for specialist manufacturers to focus on areas where they can create value or add value to businesses, transforming themselves into providers of niche solutions.
Changing Approaches to Innovation
In many businesses and organisations, traditionally research and development has been a secretive area. Things are changing, however, with companies now forming collaborative relationships and partnerships with niche manufacturers to find the answers they seek.
This taps into the kind of added value service provision that these manufacturers are now offering.
“Design and consultancy services are increasingly important for manufacturers as a means of improving and broadening the service they offer their clients”
“This spirit of open innovation marks a shift away from pure manufacturing to providing solutions,” suggest Jeremy.
Prototyping and Service Provision
Jeremy explains how a niche manufacturing service can add value through design engineering and product innovation.
“The contract manufacturer can take on a more adaptable role, offering a fast-turnaround prototyping services,” say Jeremy.
“While, at first glance, prototyping services may seem relatively marginal when compared to mainstream manufacturing, in fact it can play a crucial role in cutting costs and driving innovation.”
“Producing representative production items in an environment that recreates full manufacturing standards can help companies win a competitive advantage,” Jeremy suggests. “It takes testing out of the lab and into a more realistic environment.”
This is design and manufacturing working in tandem, with the exacting process of prototyping saving time in the long-run.
“In an ISO9001 production environment, developing bespoke, multifunctional components, while looking at simplified, modular designs, niche manufacturers add real value by innovating with the customer in mind.”
“Collaborative innovation and practical prototyping fulfil a clear need in the UK’s manufacturing sector, while helping to enable the growth of specialised manufacturing services”
“While this might not be the future for all manufacturers, it provides opportunities for agile firms to redefine what they can offer, and help boost UK industry in the process,” concludes Jeremy.
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