Institutional excellence

Posted on 4 Jan 2010 by The Manufacturer

The Institute for Manufacturing was established in 1998 to provide a collaborative environment for the creation and transfer of ideas, research and holistic approaches to modern industrial realities. A decade on, TM’s Edward Machin discovers an institution at the forefront of global manufacturing practices, and with a new low carbon building to boot.

Cambridge University.

The Night Climbers; punting on the Cam; ferociously bright young things pouring over Darwin, Dickens, Dworkin and de Beauvoir. So far, so clichéd. Yet it would not be churlish to suggest that industrial sustainability, lean and production processes aren’t readily associated with the quads and colleges of the second oldest university in the English-speaking world.

Nonetheless, the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), affiliated with Cambridge University’s Department of Engineering, represents one of the UK’s pre-eminent centres for tackling industrial challenges within our sector. Not only does it offer Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, undergraduate, postgraduate, and research — MPhil and PHD — degrees, but brings together expertise in management, economics and technology to address the full spectrum of manufacturing issues on a consultancy basis.

Design management; industrial photonics; sustainability; international manufacturing; strategy and performance; high value production; supply chain network configuration — the IfM deals with each of these, and more. However, such breadth of expertise is combined within a unique structure.

For example, the IfM is the only academic institution in the field to integrate research and education with practical application in industry. Research is thus undertaken in close collaboration with companies, ensuring its relevance to industrial needs and providing a rapid dissemination route for new ideas.

Ultimately, the IfM’s broad expertise and integrated approach underpins its role in supporting industrial innovation and contributing to the debate on manufacturing’s position in a successful economy — enabled by, says head of IfM, Mike Gregory: “An integrated community of academics, students and industrialists with a shared passion for modern manufacturing.”

Working with the IfM
The Institute’s way of working with companies and governments is noticeably distinct from conventional consultancy. As such, IfM’s practitioners work collaboratively with company and government teams and focus on transferring knowledge — as well as delivering business results.

The practitioners form an integral part of the IfM, with the approaches used based on many years of research, together with extensive application in industry. Close involvement of client personnel is required, enabling the transfer of knowledge and expertise to the client.

For example:
• Large companies – Projects include the design of global manufacturing/supply networks, helping companies to develop strategies and capabilities to execute servicebased business models, and enhancing the management of innovation and technology.

• Smaller companies – A specialist team of Industrial Fellows is involved with small and medium-sized manufacturers. They work with each company to understand its strengths and weaknesses, prioritise improvement opportunities and to introduce improvements. Typical projects include developing and implementing new business strategies, enhancing new product development capabilities and improving the performance of supply and production capabilities Public sector – Projects include developing and implementing industrial and technological strategies, enhancing new service offerings and developing delivery capabilities.

• Business Support & Economic Development Agencies – Projects include business improvement tools, education, mentoring and information systems to help agencies to serve the needs of manufacturing SMEs more effectively.

• In-company education – The IfM runs a number of customised, in-company education programmes.

These cover a wide range of topics, including strategy for manufacturers, innovation and technology management, and operations management, to name but three.

Calling manufacturers
Are you a manufacturer with 10-250 employees? Are you worried about falling revenues, shrinking margins, rising competition? Do you need independent support designed for SMEs, provided by experienced advisers? The Manufacturing Transformation Programme (MTP) offers practical, on-site, structured assistance for manufacturing companies who want to achieve greater competitiveness and sustainable, long-term growth. The tools and approaches have been developed by the University of Cambridge Institute for Manufacturing, and are specifically designed for small and medium-sized manufacturing companies. Crucially, a limited number of fully funded places are available for eligible SMEs.

What is involved?
The programme is delivered in three stages spread over several months, typically requiring a total of 6 days of management team time:

Stage 1 (half-day) provides an assessment of the near-term issues facing the business

Stage 2 (one and a half days) delivers an indepth assessment of your business to identify where problems exist, prioritisation to focus efforts on the most critical areas and an action plan to bring about lasting, sustainable improvements

Stage 3 (up to four days) involves structured workshops to re-formulate your business strategy, if required, workshops to improve your New Product Introduction performance, or consultancy to strengthen areas identified in Stage 2 as being of critical urgency, such as Delivery performance, Supply management or Quality.

Stage 1 is typically delivered by online questionnaire and interview with the managing director.

Subsequent stages involve onsite interviews and structured workshops conducted with the firm’s management team. All firms on the programme will complete Stages 1 and 2 — progression to Stage 3 will be by mutual agreement of the SME management team and the IfM practitioner.

Who is eligible? The programme is government-funded, and free places are available for a limited number of companies with 10 to 250 employees based in the six counties of the Eastern of England region.

For more details visit