Ricardo: supply chain excellence to sustainability

Posted on 22 Dec 2023 by James Devonshire

Ricardo was a winner at The Manufacturer MX Awards 2022, and is once again up for accolades this year. The Manufacturer’s James Devonshire sat down with Ian Morris, the company's Head of Procurement for its Performance Products business unit, to learn more.

Ricardo saw off some stiff competition to win the Supply Chain Excellence category at The Manufacturer MX Awards 2022. Now, with mere weeks to go until the 2023 winners are announced at The Manufacturer Live in Liverpool, Ricardo finds itself once again up for recognition, this time in the Sustainable Manufacturing category.  

Update: This article was originally published in the Nov/Dec issue of The Manufacturer magazine. Since publication, The Manufacturer MX Awards 2023 winners have been announced and, while it was incredibly close, Ricardo did not win the Sustainable Manufacturing category.

Tell us about Ricardo 

IM: Ricardo is a strategic, environmental, engineering and manufacturing consulting company with headquarters in Shoreham-by-Sea on the south coast of England. It was founded back in 1915, by Sir Harry Ricardo, with the aim of maximising efficiency and eliminating waste in mobility sectors.  

Ricardo has grown to just over 3,000 people and operates in more than 20 countries; a global team of consultants, environmental specialists, engineers and scientists.  

The part of Ricardo that I represent is the Performance Products business unit which specialises in niche volume manufacture, assembly and industrialisation consultancy. We predominantly manufacture and assemble powertrain and driveline products, ranging from opportunities where we deliver to a customer’s existing specifications, through to full end-to-end solutions where we take a product from concept to design, test and validation, and then bring it into series supply for our clients.  

And we do all of this at what we describe as ‘niche volume’ and generally for high performance or specialised vehicle applications.  

We deliver leading edge, innovative and sustainable products and solutions to our clients, which include the likes of McLaren, Bugatti, Porsche and Aston Martin to name a few.  

Not only do we provide product, as I mentioned, but we also provide manufacturing and operational consultancy services.  

Our industrialisation consultancy solutions help clients to develop their internal production processes, procedures, systems, production lines, etc. So, we basically have a consultancy arm to the manufacturing industrialisation business.  

Ricardo’s mission is to create a safe and sustainable future for the world and, again, that doesn’t just centre around the mobility sector; we are heavily invested in areas such as water conservation, environmental stewardship, renewable energy, air quality and more. 

What were the driving forces behind Ricardo’s success at last year’s awards? 

In my opinion, it was due to our demonstration of how we approach the difficulties associated with managing a complex global supply chain, in a niche volume environment.   

While we are not fundamentally a prototype house, we are not a volume manufacturer either. However, due to the prestige and often complex requirements of our clients, we demand the absolute best from our supply chain.  

We deal with big corporates, new technology and extremely complex components, with very little leverage from a revenue potential and attractiveness perspective for a supplier. And I think for me, perhaps the best demonstration of Ricardo’s supply chain excellence is how we manage those relationships to ensure that we always support our clients appropriately.   

The Performance Products business unit has over 600 suppliers that we use regularly, across multiple platforms, customers and geographies. We demonstrated rigor in our system utilisation, from our SOP processes through to how that flows through MRP. We focus on continuous improvement with our suppliers by way of initiatives like supplier scorecards, risk assessments and on-site support, to give our suppliers the opportunity to improve their efficiency and reduce waste across the entire value stream on the way to our clients.  

As a business we have invested heavily in the sustainability of our operations. We now have a dedicated supply chain sustainability function, and we are committed to reducing our carbon footprint and improving efficiencies throughout the entire value stream. Our supply chain is just one area of focus where we try to reduce emissions and improve the carbon footprint of our end assemblies.

One of Ricardo’s engine assembly lines located at its Shoreham-by-Sea headquarters

One of Ricardo’s engine assembly lines located at its Shoreham-by-Sea headquarters

What advice would you give to anyone considering entering The Manufacturer MX Awards? 

I’m certainly an advocate of the awards system and the overall process underpinning it; I think it’s run very well.   

My advice to anyone going through the process is to focus on and follow the questions. The judges are very transparent in what they’re expecting to see, and we’ve been praised both in 2022 and this year because we concentrated on what was actually being asked, rather than digressing to things that we thought might have been of interest.  

I also like the judging process because words are not taken verbatim. Instead, time is actually taken to come and see personally if what’s being said is true. And the best bit of that is the feedback session at the end where you get open and constructive criticism on how you can continue your improvement path as a business.   

I’d also add that it’s important to get your award entry sponsored at a senior level. That’s because it should be seen as an investment by the business and not something done in isolation by either an individual or a team. If I cast my mind back to our interviews, our Managing Director was in the room supporting this as an initiative, highlighting the importance of the exercise.   

Log the feedback and review it with various stakeholders to get different perspectives and views. Then, you can work to identify opportunities for improvement going forward.  

How is Ricardo featuring in The Manufacturing MX Awards 2023? 

We are one of the finalists in the Sustainable Manufacturing category and hosted the judges recently. As well as receiving some good feedback, we also got some suggestions on potential improvements, which is always beneficial.   

We’re incredibly proud to have reached this late stage of the competition and we’re looking forward to seeing everyone at The Manufacturer Live in Liverpool in November when the winners will be announced. 

One of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers right now is the ongoing skills shortage. How has it been at Ricardo? 

For the Performance Products business unit, with our general focus on the mobility sector, we’re very lucky that we’re blessed, certainly at our Leamington Spa facility, by the fact we have an excellent talent pool to choose from because of the automotive industrial hub in the Midlands. Down on the south coast at our Shoreham facility, it’s a bit of a different story and we have sometimes struggled with recruitment.  

Furthermore, we’re now seeing many of our ‘lifers’ retiring. While this is great testimony to how good it is to work at Ricardo, with these individuals having spent 30 years or more with us, it is a reality that’s increasingly putting us under pressure to find the next cycle of workers.  

However, Ricardo has strong apprenticeship and graduate programmes and our retention rate of those is very good which is helping. The business also has a big STEM programme, which involves lots of community outreach and engagment with local schools, to get students interested in engineering and manufacturing careers. These children are the engineers of tomorrow and piquing their interest at a young age is crucial for securing the future of our industry.  

On top of the recruitment side of things, one of the main focuses of our people strategy is ensuring our existing team members are happy, driven and committed, to ensure that morale remains high.  

From a HR perspective, there has been, and continues to be, a lot of effort going into our ‘people plan’, as we call it, which focuses on a number of areas including professional development and skills training and employee wellbeing. We have a formal wellbeing process through which we look to support people in their personal as well as their professional lives. 

What’s coming up for Ricardo? 

Ricardo has historically been regarded as an internal combustion engine and drivetrain specialist, particularly within the high-performance vehicle sector, but our portfolio has shifted significantly towards green propulsion. We support clients with developing and manufacturing sustainable mobility solutions and we have world-class engineering and manufacturing capability in electrification, hybridisation, hydrogen and alternative fuels platforms.  

We will also continue with our ESG focus across the whole business to ensure we operate as sustainably as possible. There will be a focus on continuous improvement around the environmental impact of our operations, how we engage with the wider community, social values and so on. That’s within our supply chains and within the communities that that we operate in. The bottom line is that Ricardo is committed to a safe and sustainable future in the mobility sector and the other markets that we operate in, both in terms of our service offering and in how we operate as a business.  

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