Innovation and manufacturing

Posted on 28 Aug 2015 by Jonny Williamson

Tim Hancock, head of manufacturing at Vodafone UK, explores the insights from the 2015 EEF-Vodafone Innovation Monitor Report and the shifting trends affecting innovation in UK manufacturing today.

Since the industrial revolution began in the late 18th century, Britain has been synonymous with manufacturing.

Tim Hancock, head of manufacturing, Vodafone UK.
Tim Hancock, head of manufacturing, Vodafone UK.

Today, it remains an important sector and the UK is one of the most attractive countries in the world for direct foreign industrial investment.

But in this increasingly competitive market awash with threats from new entrants and overseas competition, it’s clear that manufacturers must continually innovate to stay ahead while driving the right organisational change.

We are delighted to partner with EEF to produce the 2015 Innovation Monitor.

This report offers valuable insights, exploring the challenges faced by manufacturers and investigating how they are innovating to enhance product, process, service and marketing.

With our own strong British heritage, we understand the crucial role that manufacturing plays within the UK economy.

It’s essential that in business we create the right environment for continuous innovation that supports this backbone of UK industry.

The report establishes that almost all manufacturers are innovating in one form or another, but with a variety of business goals.

It’s the prioritisation of goals and clear measurable progress against objectives that seem to be proving challenging for a number of reasons.

The report also establishes that the level of innovation that can be taken on without disrupting day-to-day operations can be severely impacted by factors such as an organisation’s size and complexity.

EEF-Vodafone Innovation Monitor Report PQ

At Vodafone, from our conversations with a broad range of UK manufacturers, we’ve found that responsiveness; productivity; full visibility of a connected supply chain, along with knowledge security and IP protection are all key areas of focus.

This is evident throughout the report with 45% of respondents saying they expect innovation to significantly boost their productivity, 51% see enhancing margin as the biggest innovation driver; while 54% expected it to streamline their supply chain with positive impact on their exports.

Those very challenges were the catalyst for collaboration between Vodafone and a global lift manufacturer.

While the company had a deep understanding of its own manufacturing business and could see the obvious benefits of a ‘lift monitoring capability’, it didn’t have the in-depth technical expertise to design the solution or map that across into specific business goals.

It didn’t know what was in the realm of the possible. In partnership with Vodafone a system was designed and delivered; collecting real time data from all of the firm’s lifts in operation across the globe and consolidated that data into a centralised repository.

EEF-Vodafone Innovation Monitor Report LinkThat information was subsequently used to predict impending service requirements and enable proactive field maintenance.

The lift manufacturer then quantified the impact of the system in terms of reduced outages; a lower field maintenance cost base; an improved safety record, and higher customer satisfaction; all of which flowed through to its order book.

If there is one lesson that we’d take from the report, it’s that innovation and manufacturing are intrinsically linked; with more than half of the companies surveyed already committed to running multiple innovation projects in parallel.

We believe that at Vodafone we can help by bringing technical knowledge and experience aligned with the capability to map initiatives across into measureable business goals.