In the tenth of our ‘Lean manufacturing in the digital age’ series, we explore how deeper insights into your customers, your supply chains and your operation enables R&D activities to move from being potentially lucrative to become truly transformative.
Research and development is vital, enabling businesses to better compete on the world stage which leads to greater market share, job creation and economic growth.
It encompasses far more than creating new products, despite perceptions to the contrary. R&D can also be used to strengthen an existing product or service with additional features, as well as improve how something is manufactured such as by changing the raw materials or production process.
Industrial businesses are no strangers to R&D. The manufacturing sector accounts for 66% of total UK R&D spend, with aerospace, automotive, chemicals and pharmaceutical the four largest spenders (Make UK Fact Card 2019/20).
However, R&D is often funded through revenue and many of manufacturing’s greatest innovators are the same companies experiencing cash flow difficulties as a result of Covid-19 related disruption.
Concerns that Covid-19 could halt or significantly reduce R&D activity has led the Royal Academy of Engineering to warn that UK R&D is “at immediate risk” in the short to medium-term.
“Reducing or outright halting R&D activities is one of the first cost-saving measures that businesses take during falling demand and cash flow difficulties,” RAEng noted in its recent report.
Yet, many businesses “see R&D as the solution not only to the healthcare emergency itself but also as a central part of adapting to changing circumstances and innovating a way out of the pandemic-induced recession,” the report continues.
Indeed, as the Business Secretary Alok Sharma recently pointed out, “Covid-19 has been the greatest disruption to our lives and livelihoods for a generation. But this is not a moment to stand still. This is a moment of great reinvention.
“By confidently embracing the power of science, research and innovation, we will leap forward and build a brighter future for all.”
The government’s ambitious Research & Development Roadmap aims to make the UK the best place in the world for scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs.
The roadmap, published in July 2020, sets out a vision to attract global talent, cut unnecessary bureaucracy and cement the UK’s global reputation as a ‘science superpower’.
The vision is supported by £300m to upgrade scientific infrastructure across the UK, giving research institutes and universities access to cutting-edge lab equipment and digital resources.
The ultimate aim is for the UK to increase its total R&D expenditure to 2.4% of GDP by 2027 – up from 1.7% in 2016.
But simply increasing investment won’t automatically result in success, you also need a tangible market or societal need. That’s when R&D transcends being potentially lucrative to become truly transformative.
Being able to identify that need starts with data – from your customers (past, present and future), your markets, your supply chains, your distributors, your warehouses, and other operations in your group.
A readily accessible blend of overview and granular information provides the visibility needed to identify trends and opportunities earlier, get ahead of potential disruption and more accurately forecast demand.
You miss every shot you don’t aim for and you can’t aim for something you can’t see.
One business already reaping the benefits of a more connected operation is an award-winning Coventry-based CNC precision engineering subcontractor.
Established 35 years ago, the business works supplies complex high-value metal parts to oil and gas, automotive, nuclear, marine and defence industries – counting several global engineering leaders among its clients.
The company is one of the longest standing customers of award-winning software provider Access Group and was one of the first to deploy FactoryMaster MRP in the 1990s. Over the years, it has seen the software develop in line with its own business.
Today, Access FactoryMaster MRP plays a central role in the business, supporting production, managing purchasing and stocking, and ensuring quality, compliance and health and safety.
The system is used for a wide variety of tasks, from quote to cash, prospect and customer maintenance, shopfloor data capture, bills of materials, work orders and customer invoices.
Over the years, the business has seen the software adapt to meet the changing demands of its operation, something that has enabled it to speed up many everyday processes and save money by taking out much of the ‘grunt work’.
Taking one example, the team uses the MRP module to simplify its supplier base, consolidate purchases and reduce bottlenecks to improve operational efficiency.
This task is made easier because all relevant production documents are stored on the system, so they are automatically added to the purchase order when materials are bought.
Speed and traceability
By automating many of its reports, the team has seen enormous time-saving benefits – estimated to have saved the company more than £100,000.
As the managing director and co-owner explains: “Access FactoryMaster MRP is a central hub for all of our data. It’s the place where we make all the management and business decisions.
“It needs to be correct, so the correct decision can be made. We use every part of the system to make our lives easier and traceability a lot more detailed.
“Everything is at your fingertips, that’s the beauty of FactoryMaster. You can find whatever you need very quickly. Compared to some of the bigger providers, its usability is great: you can look at a screen and know how to go forwards and backwards. Other systems are too convoluted, whereas FactoryMaster is built on the premise that it’s simple to use and it succeeds in that.”
The Access Group is proud to support manufacturing innovation, that’s why our software is designed to free up valuable time whilst collecting useful business insights. The result? Your business can continue to create and innovate.
For software that supports manufacturers now and in the future, get in touch today.
Check out the other articles in the ‘Lean manufacturing in the digital age’ series:
- The key to Lean Manufacturing in the digital age
- Is Frankenstein’s monster disrupting your Production Planning?
- Don’t let Legacy Software be the albatross around your neck
- Does your supply chain contain more holes than Swiss cheese?
- Greater productivity isn’t delivered by hand
- Could the loss of one person sink your business?
- Supply chain transparency – helping manufacturers to deliver the goods
- Operational agility – is your business more sloth than monkey?
- R&D: You miss every shot you don’t aim for