Steve Winder, regional vice president, UK and Ireland at Epicor casts his mind back over 2014 to try and determine the things that will inspire industry in 2015.
As we brush off the holiday blues and head into a period of refreshed optimism that a new year inevitably brings, January always provides an opportunity to assess how we improve things in the months ahead. Be it small or large, a realistic resolution can keep us focused and will extend way beyond the winter months and become part of our daily habits.
As I look back to 2014, I’m resolute in taking even more inspiration from those around me including employees, partners, customers and peers in the industry. For it’s those moments when you have time to take stock away from the day-to-day and put your head above the in-tray that can inspire change for the future.
I say this as I had the pleasure of attending The Manufacturer Directors’ Conference in November where Epicor hosted the inaugural Inspiration Club. The meeting was an informal gathering of like-minded individuals from across a variety of industries but with manufacturing and engineering in common. We brought the group together as a means to take that very step back, discuss common challenges and opportunities in the hope of inspiring change for us all. With such a variety of attendees including representatives from the Bloodhound Super Sonic Car (SSC) Project and the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Space Mission, there was much to discuss. Needless to say, shared experiences and a myriad of talking points came to the fore, but the following captures some of the main highlights that have inspired me for the year ahead.
In the face of adversity, great things can be achieved
Manufacturers and engineers are faced with daily challenges but never more so in an environment that is highly pressured, time sensitive and in a time of economic downturn. It was fascinating to hear the intricacies of how the European Space Agency’s Rosetta comet explorer had only a ten-minute window in which to be launched on the Ariane 5 rocket in order to land on the Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet. As a decade long mission to explore the solar system and its early development, what many spectators may not have known is that the planning, preparation and manufacturing expertise that went into that ten-minute window to successfully achieve launch a year later than expected, was tremendous.
In another ground-breaking achievement, the Bloodhound SSC project’s mission to confront the impossible (1000 mph World Land Speed Record attempt) and overcome it using Science Engineering Technology and Mathematics (STEM) comes with its own challenges. To push engineering thinking into new territory in a time of economic downturn to survive and thrive is remarkable.
If anything is learnt from these unique projects, it’s that the age-old mantras of time is of the essence and no risk, no reward certainly ring true.
Think short, mid AND long term
Part of the discussion also brought us to debate how UK manufacturing can sometimes be too short-term. As many of us aim to hit the financial numbers for the quarter, this can often cloud the mid to longer-term view which other peers in manufacturing take around the world. Acknowledging that UK manufacturing focuses on financial KPIs, our working culture can sometimes hinder rather than help us with investment and longevity as metrics beyond financial success. Keeping an eye on the mid and longer-term goals, whilst balancing the needs of the quarterly focus was deemed important as a measure of any project.
Manufacturing isn’t just for engineers
As an industry, we have a responsibility to attract other disciplines beyond engineering to join us in delivering and innovating in the sector. It takes all sorts of skills and disciplines to make a successful manufacturing enterprise, including business acumen, HR, marketing, technology skills and much more. Showcasing this to students at a young age does, however, require explanation. Teamwork really can deliver great things and whilst some people will only see an end product, UK manufacturing was seen as offering an enriching environment for all.
Inspiring a future generation of manufacturers requires commitment from within the industry and from the government
Much was discussed about the need for more routes to industry from all disciplines and backgrounds, but that comes with a strong push of STEM in education whether it be amplified politically, culturally and socially. All agreed that starting this process for boys and girls at primary school age is paramount if we are to collectively succeed in inspiring a future generation that will drive our industry forward.
Most importantly, providing educational choice with both practical and vocational apprenticeships alongside academic qualifications will all have a part to play in providing enriching careers for a future generation. So whether it’s starting the discussion with your own children over the dinner table or exploring partnerships with local schools; the areas of work, industry and education are intrinsically linked. Bridging the gap between real life and education will undoubtedly bear fruit if we make it happen.
So onwards to an inspired year ahead and challenging yourselves to do things differently. If you’d like to learn more about what we at Epicor are doing to inspire change, see here.