As part of the wider PrISMS (Practical & Innovative Solutions for Manufacturing Sustainability) programme, Institute for Manufacturing Education and Consultancy Services (IfM ECS) worked with 120 smaller manufacturers to improve their business strategy and support capability development. The programme enabled IfM ECS to develop business support tools to address firm’s strategic and operational challenges.
dB Broadcast is one of the UK’s largest independent systems integrators. It manages complex projects, solutions design, systems build and integration, configuration and commissioning, and support services for both traditional and new technology broadcast systems. Clients include the BBC and BSkyB and it carries out system integration projects around the world. IfM ECS worked with dB Broadcast on a range of projects including prioritisation, business development and the creation of new services and products that would be more compelling for their target market.
Stage 1: Prioritisation
Through using the IfM ECS Prioritisation Tool, the management team emerged with a clear understanding of the key challenges faced by dB Broadcast and formulated an action plan to address them.
Stage 2: Business strategy development
During the engagement, a significant multi-year contract was completed and the firm recognised that changes in the industry meant such contracts would no longer be available. dB Broadcast took the opportunity to work with IfM ECS to define its future strategy to adapt to the changing environment. A series of workshops helped to shape the organisation’s strategy by reviewing the market and company offerings and understanding its competences to ensure it has a sound basis on which to compete. This resulted in the development of an appropriate business model as well as an action plan to implement its new strategy.
Stage 3: Innovation and project management
dB Broadcast wanted to develop a more distinctive and compelling set of products and services to take to market. IfM ECS supported this through idea generation, product introduction and product portfolio management. Mentoring also helped with the process, and an undergraduate student project focused on market research for new products.
Stage 4: Technology intelligence
To remain competitive, dB Broadcast saw the need to develop their technology capabilities, especially in the area of new and emerging technologies. Through working more closely with organisations across its supply chain, dB Broadcast were able to increase knowledge of the technologies deployed in these organisations, understand their capabilities and enhance their offering as a systems integrator.
Stage 5: Review factory layouts and process flows
A Masters degree student from the University of Cambridge, under the supervision of one of the IfM ECS team, undertook a project to assess the existing factory layouts and process flows to consider where improvements could be made to increase efficiency and make financial savings.
Touch point 1: INTRODUCTION
IfM ECS was introduced to dbBroadcast through a new employee whio had used IfM ECS’s services in a previous company.
Touch point 2: ASSESSMENTS
The ‘Practical & Innovative Solutions for Manufacturing Sustainability’ (PrISMS) programme was aimed at helping 50 start-ups and 70 SMEs based in the East of England grow and become more sustainable, whilst creating new jobs and safeguarding existing posts. Unlike other programmes for SMEs, the final goal was not simply to improve productivity but to enable firms to strategically review their business, adopt low-carbon practices and generate jobs in the longer term.
- Identify priorities in a rapidly-changing business environment
- Define the business development strategy
- Enhance the organisations technology intelligence capabilities
- Offer more distinctive and compelling products and services
dB Broadcast measured success based on key metrics including revenue generation, profit margins, efficiency savings and employee retention.
IfM ECS measured success based on whether the project delivered on objectives and whether there were any learning points and enhancements to the tools and approach that could be applied to support future projects.
Some of the results of the engagement included:
New services offered to the market: A new service offering developed as a result of the business strategy development now accounts for 10% of company revenues.
Focus on emerging technologies: New technologies previously accounted for about 25% of revenues and this has been increased to 50%.
Maintain profit margins: The completion of a multi-year contract during the engagement with IfM
ECS led to a reduction in turnover. Efficiency measures were implemented to considerably reduce overheads, mainly in infrastructure, and these helped the firm maintain its profit margins.
Improved factory layout: A supervised student project helped to identify significant potential improvements to the factory layout and work processes, reducing the number of factory units from three to two and leading to a saving equivalent to 7% of revenue.
Innovation development: The organisation now offers more distinctive and compelling products and services to the market.
Sustainability: Reorganising the factory units and layouts has resulted in reduced energy consumption.
Maintain core staff: Key members of staff were retained, despite cost reductions, and upskilled. Contractors were used during peaks in the workload.
- Seek external knowledge and advice to improve the business strategy and operations.
- Address critical issues (innovation activities, finance) in appropriately sequenced steps.
- Involve many people within the organisation in changes and improvement projects (not just managers).
- Make time to understand the cause of issues and act upon improvement initiatives.
- Have a holistic approach in business assessment.
- Generate trust with the management team through actionable results and deliverables.
- Provide a clear process and a clearly prioritised action plan for improvements.
- Have an effective method to capture feedback, data and knowledge from the SME to improve future tools and engagements.
- Collaborate with SMEs to develop new approaches and methods.
- Provide access to students for tackling and resolving business issues.
- Assume that a “business as usual” mentality can provide a competitive advantage for the long term.
- Attemp to tackle too many issues in parallel.
- Assume that the business or sector is unique and external people cannot assist unless they have worked in this sector.