Advanced Manufacturing

Networking: just a buzzword or pivotal for manufacturing success?

Wednesday 20 March 2024, 3:27 PM

52 Minute Read

By definition, networking is “the action or process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts”, but in more recent times, has networking become a buzzword with no action? Joined by Richard Spears from PP Control & Automation and Rowan Crozier MBE from Brandauer, our host Alex Edwards leads the discussion on what networking means in 2024, how the UK compares to other countries, and what opportunities are available through collaboration within the manufacturing industry.

Chapters:

→ In 2024, what is networking? (01:35)

→ How do you encourage networking within your companies? (04:36)

→ How does the UK compare to other countries for collaboration? (15:15)

→ Can you successfully collaborate with competitors? (22:28)

→ What are the biggest hurdles we need to overcome when considering networking? (29:30)

→ Over the next 5-10 years, what opportunities excite you the most? (35:48)

Items referenced in this episode:

→ Brandauer

→ Brandauer Apprenticeship Programme

→ PP Control & Automation

→ PP Plus case studies

 

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities they represent or Protolabs.

 


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Episode transcript

Alex Edwards 00:05

Hello and welcome to the Protolabs inspirON exchange podcast. This is the show for engineers and designers to connect with industry leaders and academics to learn more about what’s happening in the industry, how to innovate and the opportunities that lie ahead.

Today I’d like to discuss networking.

Some consider it a new trend, others argue that industries have been built on it for generations. Is it at risk of becoming a buzzword, or should it still play a pivotal role in manufacturing today?

Today I’m joined by Richard Spears, Marketing Manager at PP Control & Automation, who not only is an advocate of networking within his own career path, but has also developed a networking platform specifically designed to help manufacturing businesses outsource, scale up and make their mark on the industry.

Alongside him, we’re joined by Rowan Crozier who is CEO of Birmingham-based Brandauer, a 162-year old metal stamping and precision tool making specialist and is Chair of MAKE UK National Advisory Board and Co-chair of the Industry Advisory Board for Birmingham City University. With a unique perspective on networking, Rowan has built a bespoke apprenticeship programme which encourages apprentices to focus on communication and networking skills, as well as the technical element of manufacturing. So much so that Rowan has been awarded an MBE in 2024 for his services to manufacturing and enterprise – huge congratulations for that.

Great to have you both with us today! So, let’s jump right in.

In 2024, what would you consider networking? I mentioned about the, you know, the idea that some people say it’s a bit of a buzzword and they don’t quite understand it. So I mean over to you guys, what would you, how do you consider it?

Rowan Crozier 01:48

So for me, I think it’s fairly straightforward. I think networking for me is collaborating, working with, talking to other people and other businesses to make your business, your job, your objectives easier or better delivered. That’s the straightforward answer.

Do I think it’s old or new? I think it’s been around for many, many years. I think the way we do it is becoming easier and more powerful, and there’s lots of innovation around promoting networking and making it easier to access, but fundamentally it’s there to make your business better.

 

Richard Spears 02:36

Yeah, I totally agree. I think that what’s important when you think about networking or collaboration is that you have a goal in mind and throughout industry, perhaps we need to find a common goal.

And a lot of it is about sort of joining the dots as well. We see a lot of good networking and collaboration done in isolation or in clusters and I think the next step now what will sort of evolve networking in 2024 is UK industry coming together and joining some of those dots.

 

Rowan Crozier 03:10

I think there’s other point perhaps I should make on this as well, which is a fundamental unwritten rule to networking and it works time and time again: you only get out what you put in. So you need to go into any networking opportunity, to use that buzzword if you want to call it that, bearing in mind you might get nothing from it, but you can contribute to it if that makes sense, and invariably if you go with that mindset, you will almost certainly benefit from it. It’s always worked for me and I’m sure it’s worked for multiple other businesses that take that approach.

 

Richard Spears 03:50

It’s the laws of reciprocation. I think that’s what networking is all about. I think if you lend a helping hand, there’s a good chance that somebody’s going to do the same for you. It might not be immediately, but later down the line, and I think that’s fundamentally that’s what collaborations all about. It’s lending a hand, it’s being helpful.

 

Alex Edwards 04:12

Yeah, that point is sort of really interesting about you get out what you put in, it seems that in sort of recent years, maybe the last five or six years, it really seems to have ramped up with people’s personal approach to it. You see, with things like LinkedIn and people really trying to sort of collaborate and get into these communities, but then also from a business point of view, it really sort of seems to be encouraged.

How, within your businesses, do you sort of encourage and foster that, that community feel and that that idea of networking, how are you promoting that?

 

Richard Spears 04:48

From PP’s point of view we’re no strangers to collaboration. It’s part and parcel of the culture, and that comes from the top down, you know, whether it’s a certain vertical market or whether it’s about continuous improvement or there’s a number of topics and things that we can pick up on and we understand that collaboration and networking is the quickest, most efficient way to get to the end goal.

So yeah, we nurture that throughout the whole organisation and we’re looking at, for example, at the energy market at the moment but we know there are lots of people out there with more experience in these markets and more know-how and understand where that market’s moving, those are the sorts of people who we need to get in the same room as, have conversations and see where the opportunity lies and what we can do to collaborate and network.

I think that’s important as well, you talked about LinkedIn and you can throw lots of technology and tools at this idea of networking and collaboration, but actually I think the best collaboration starts by getting in the same room as people, being face to face. I think throughout the pandemic, of course we missed that opportunity, of course we have platforms like this and things, but there’s something a bit more fluid and natural about the conversations when you’re face to face and networking. So I think that’s a really important point, getting in the same room as people and speaking about mutual opportunities and benefits.

 

Rowan Crozier 06:19

From our point of view at Brandauer, it’s something that I learned quite early on in my career, was that you learn from other people and everything, particularly anything of high technical content you sell, is as much a people sell as it is a technical sell. So that means you’ve got to get in a room and share and collaborate in a powerful way.

I can think of three or four examples where in different areas of the business collaboration has led to significant success and whether it be, you know, the three or four I immediately think of we’ve won business by sharing exhibition space with other manufacturers and I mean significant contracts that that were sort of game changing at the time. We’ve successfully diversified into new markets by collaborating with other innovative companies that are looking develop products that are outside of their comfort zone to do on their own, but in a collaboration of 10 or 12 manufacturers, OEM’s down to very small micro SMEs, we work together to deliver that which gives access to new markets for all of the individuals involved and then, education. So again, is another big area for us. We have a 15% strong apprentice count in our business. I really saw that somewhere else and thought this is vitally important. I saw that another manufacturer who was way ahead of us doing it and we’ve really, dare I say it pinched the idea, but in a very collaborative way and evolved it from there, and we now find ourselves collaborating in partnership with a training provider to deliver professional training. So not only is it sort of collaborating in the area of education, but also it’s given us another unique selling point to our business.

 

Richard Spears 08:36

Yeah I’d mirror that sort of point as well around, Rowan mentioned sharing exhibition space and things like that, you can think of collaboration in terms of cost as well. How can we share cost whether it’s getting a huge space in an exhibition hall where you may never have been able to do that as an individual business or sponsoring an event or advertising, there’s lots of ways that you can collaborate. Marketing, for example, that’s my field of expertise and without collaboration, then there’s less opportunities. I think Rowan pointed that out with that exhibition example.

 

Rowan Crozier 09:16

And we’ve also seen in times of adversity, it’s nice to have strength in numbers. So if you’re talking to other like-minded businesses and whether it’s a recession, a pandemic, it’s really nice in a safe environment to be saying this is what we’re facing guys and most people in that space would be saying “yeah, us too”, has anyone taken a step forward and done anything with it and it begins those sort of safe discussions to give you a few options. Now it might be that you choose to ignore all of them and carry down the route that you wanted to do or it might be you get that nugget that’s really vital in terms of the right way forward.

It certainly helped us hugely during the pandemic when nobody knew, inclusive of our government, what on Earth was going on and how to deal with it. We were doing stuff, making decisions without any, I suppose guidance initially and it was so much more powerful to be able to do that as part of a network or as a group of collaborators.

 

Alex Edwards 10:27

Yeah, I think it’s since the pandemic, it really has made businesses, you know, it’s no secret like think about the importance of resilience and what have you and just that point there it’s so pure isn’t it, the strength in numbers. We are always so focused on what we do as an individual business but as an industry people are all pulling in the same direction trying to achieve the same thing. So, it’s a really interesting point around how you think of collaboration or even networking and it can be a very one way street where you think well, what am I going to learn or gain from this. But then also we’ve all got our own skill sets and there are other people within the industry looking to gain from us, so like you say you get what you give really.

 

Rowan Crozier 11:13

I think there’s a bit of a challenge, Rich touched on it at PP, when it starts at the top and it sort of flows down through the business at PP. I think that’s quite a challenge to be able to have that level of confidence to go out. People see networking as a sales tool and it really isn’t. It’s a solution provider essentially so it can touch on every single part of the business, not just sales and marketing.

My day job really is about talking to people outside of the four walls that we make and build stuff and innovate stuff in because that’s where all the other brains and ideas are, where my competition is, where my suppliers are. But it’s quite difficult to promote the strength of it to people throughout the business. It should be happening at every level, whether it’s between team members, departments or manager level where they’re talking to different people or different companies outside.

And that’s something that I think needs to be educated and you touched on at the beginning, that’s why I try and put an onus on it to get my apprentice’s to be talking to other businesses, spend time in other businesses, while they’re at their training stage. They’re going to have less time to do it when they’re in a real job. I don’t mean it like that, but when they’re training, if you give them time and space to be able to begin to practice the art and method of networking, that is vital because it is quite difficult to get it reciprocated nice and evenly through the business.

 

Richard Spears 12:57

I think a lot of the time it takes kind of a catalyst to get everybody on board and I think the pandemic is a good example of that where it was almost like well there’s no choice but to work together and to collaborate.

We recognised that very early on and obviously there was lots of disruption around critical parts, availability of parts and components. During that time we set up UK MFG Unite, which is now passed on and has been inherited by somebody else because it grew so quickly, so fast, that we couldn’t really handle it on our own. It turned into a directory of people asking for help and offering support, finding new routes, alternative suppliers, etc. and was also quite critical in us being part of the ventilator challenge and other member partners of that network becoming part of the ventilator challenge.

So, you need that one thing that everybody can get behind and that’s why I said right at the start you need to find a common goal I think. Whether that’s within your own organisation or whether it’s the entire industry getting behind one specific thing. I think we see great examples of that all over the world and again, going back to what I said before, I think we just need to start joining the dots. We’ve got all the things there in place, we just need to start joining the dots. Whether it’s Silicon Valley and its culture of innovation or its Mittelstand’s regional clusters, Denmark’s got an amazing renewable energy collaboration, they’ve all got very specific things in mind and everybody’s behind it. Whereas I think in the UK, it saddens me to say, but I don’t think we have that singular direction, where are we all heading? I think that’s what we need to work out.

 

Alex Edwards 14:52

One of my points was going to be around that element of, you know, in the pandemic and what have you there was the appetite, but it was all very much looking within the UK and everyone getting together. But then, kind of go back to the day job and it can be a distraction, like Rowan’s point, it’s difficult when you’ve got the day job and you’ve got sort of goals and targets, but would you say we’re playing catch up with other countries? Or, are we still there or there abouts? Or would you say that we’ve got to put a real effort in?

 

Rowan Crozier 15:32

I think we have a great foundation, footing, and springboard, whatever you want to use, to be very good. But are we starting from, you know, three or four rows back on the grid? I would say we almost certainly are.

There’s been a distinct lack of investment in manufacturing or, I say investment, perhaps interest, as to how just how important it is to our economy up until recently. The most recent budget was one that actually began to show the green shoots of recognition that we are a huge employer and GDP creator and that’s really, really important to recognise and that government investment is something we all need to get behind and push.

I’ll just say one more thing, Richard mentioned about getting a topic that we’re all sort of sold on or buy into to drive this thing forward. Well, manufacturing being vitally important, I’m going to use the term industrial strategy. It’s being barked a lot at the moment and the country has been without one for such a long time and we finally got the acknowledgement and recognition from government that it is important and there should be a strategy. That’s through a lot of different groups of companies lobbying for it. You mentioned I Chair the National Membership Advisory Board for MAKE UK and one thing they do incredibly well is lobby government and raise awareness of what all manufacturers do in the UK and how important they are to the UK. It’s because of that joint voice, which is only brought about coming back to the original topic, by networking and collaboration, that has actually managed to get some traction to a point where actually we’ve seen some government funds finally invested into manufacturing in recognition of how important it is.

 

Richard Spears 17:50

Absolutely. A coherent industrial strategy would be lovely! But also, investment as well. I think UK manufacturers need to think much more seriously about investment in automation and robotics and skills and development, because we’re not going to get there without those things. We’ve got a great foundation, but there is still a lot we can improve on, especially when you look at investment in automation compared to, you were talking about other countries, and are we behind it, I think we are.

I mean, I’ve seen reports on this and I can’t remember where we’re sitting exactly in the standings, but it’s not great. So, we certainly need to invest in automation and robotics, skills, people development and bridging the skills gap. Perhaps a good time to talk about Rowan and his In-Comm collaboration actually, because I think that’s a really, really good example of where collaboration works. There’s a goal in mind. There’s a challenge in terms of skills gap and Rowan and his team and In-Comm have addressed that and worked collaboratively together to try and overcome it.

 

Rowan Crozier 19:00

I’ll add to that, it is without government support or funding, so this is self-funded. Post-pandemic we reviewed our business strategy and model and played to our strengths, which was toolmaking. We manufacture high-end, precision tooling and we’re one of the few in the UK that can do it to the level of tolerancing and capability that is demanded on certain applications. We were a little bit victims of our own success to a degree, so we refocused all of our sales comms strategy around winning new business in tooling and we found ourselves in a position where we didn’t have the capacity to deliver the orders that we’d secured.

So I sat down at a Skills Council meeting at In-Comm, who are a training provider for apprenticeships in Aldridge. They had a fantastic showcase CNC training facility which was, and I don’t think they mind me saying this, was underutilized. I just thought this is travesty. There’s capacity there, there’s a showcase facility and we need some of that to deliver some of the orders we’ve already got. Bear in mind, my other option is to outsource them to China, so it’s like we need to do this in these shores. So, I quickly spoke to the owners of the business and sort of pitched “how can we make this fly?” Fast forward to today, we now have a dedicated tool room which gave me that capacity I needed to deliver all the new tooling that we got, but in addition, the win-win was, we jointly wrote a syllabus to upskill existing engineers to be toolmakers. And that’s professional training, full time, 20-week course and we’ve delivered our first cohort of training to Jaguar Land Rover.

So we’ve now killed two birds with one stone. We’ve got extra capacity for making tools and we’re now training future engineers in a discipline where there is a distinct shortage for under investment for many, many years. And we’re not only training our own, we’re training other peoples. So yeah, really exciting. Completely self-funded and I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if I didn’t sit in the Skills Network with In-Comm. It’s as simple as that, because I just wouldn’t have been on their site. I wouldn’t have looked and I wouldn’t have just had a coffee and chatted about it and all of a sudden here we are a year and a half later, maybe two years later and it’s real. It’s happening. It’s live.

 

Alex Edwards 21:58

It’s interesting, isn’t it? They say you generate your own luck and like you say, by putting yourself in those positions, it’s enabled this to happen. I think sort of another stigma is the fact networking and collaborating are these big organised events where you go along and there’s a thought-out agenda, whereas quite often it can be sitting having a coffee and then these ideas fly and then like you say, how do we get it rolling and fast forward a year or two and things are up and running.

I think what I found really interesting when discussing this topic is naturally within the UK, as I mentioned, we’re all competitive, we have competitors, but naturally collaborating means opening yourself up and opening your business up to some of those competitors. And I believe it’s an attitude thing, isn’t it? Something people have got to get comfortable with. How did you go about that and have there been any examples or instances where you’ve worked and sort of had success directly with competition?

 

Rowan Crozier 23:04

We went through a period where we thought we knew who our competition were. I suppose for one reason or another, they either failed, so they weren’t there anymore, or we left it too long before revisiting that. It sort of coincided when we refocused on what we’re really good at, which is the tooling side of the business and I decided that we needed to re-educate ourselves on who our competition is, and competition comes into two sort of silos for me. One is financial competition, so you can map yourself against the best in industry and see where you sit financially and the other one is capability matching, so look at your competitors who offer a similar thing.

So we actually did that, repeated that exercise post-pandemic and it was a revelation. We discovered that we were in the top court sort of 25% of perceived UK competition in terms of profitability, which is a positive, but we also then discovered that actually competition didn’t exist in the UK directly. Yes, there’s people that do press work, there’s probably 150 different press work companies/toolmakers, but the level of press work we’re involved with and the offering and the markets were in, there’s maybe one other, but even then, we very rarely compete with them.

So it sort of opened the door, and I just thought to myself well, I’m going to write to all my competition, both UK, but actually further afield. We’d become aware of one or two in Germany and one or two in France that we were more regularly interacting with, not necessarily competing with. All of them responded positively and said we’d love to host you, come and see us. it wasn’t quite as easy as that, we did go to some exhibitions and talk to them and just get a head of steam going in the conversation.

Within a couple of years, because it takes time, I’ve been to visit all of my UK competition, three German competitors and one French competitor, and we are now closer than ever. We don’t really compete, although we do have similar customers, but they might provide the heavier end of the press work and we provide the smaller, more tightly toleranced end. But I can tell you it works because, for example, last year we had one of our UK competitors write to us and say we don’t want this business anymore. It’s too high volume for us and it’s more in what you do. It’s in a stainless steel product which we specialise in and would you like to have a look at it? If so, we’ll introduce you to the customer and it was like what, with no strings attached?

 

Alex Edwards 26:18

I was about to ask what was the catch?

 

Rowan Crozier 26:20

No, there wasn’t a catch, all they said to me was reciprocate. If you get the opportunity in the future with some low volume work or something that does not suit you, so we send them enquiries that aren’t right for us, we send our customers their way when it’s not right for us, whether they convert them or not I don’t know. All I can say is that’s probably a contract per annum worth somewhere between £150,000 – £250,000 a year, and a really good quality, close relationship long term partner as a customer as well. I can really only advocate it, it has been really good for us to do that.

 

Richard Spears 27:03

It’s a similar story at PP in terms of competition, it’s very hard to find a direct competition and I think it is for a lot of people. I think people get a bit too scared worrying about the competition and not looking at the opportunities. We’re part of a number of networks that do sort of like cohorts and learning days and things like that and within those cohorts, you could quite easily find yourself with somebody who does something very similar to you, but you have to invite them to the factory, you talk about your processes, your people and what you do internally, and you share that knowledge and it gets reciprocated. But what you often find, I think, is that actually you don’t fit in the exact same space, and so through collaboration you’ll actually find that there’s work that might come through PP that’s not right for us but there is somebody in a very similar space that it’s perfect for and vice versa. Again, it’s that reciprocation.

For PP, I think about competition quite a lot being a marketer, and actually I think of it as alternatives, think about what alternatives there are to your service as well. Actually one of our biggest competitors is probably the customer because the alternative is that they build this stuff in house. They expand the facilities, they upskill more people, so on and so forth. So again, we have to make sure that we’ve got that absolutely amazing relationship with our customers and that we are absolutely customer centric, and have a culture of customer centricity and are market oriented, so we understand pains and needs and a lot of the time again to overcome a lot of that, it’s about network and it’s about collaboration. It’s about building a supplier base around you of key partners that can help your customer.

 

Alex Edwards 29:00

It’s interesting, isn’t it? It’s probably the purest form of being customer centric is that ability to say no and it’s probably not quite right for us, but save them the pain of searching and managing a long tail of suppliers and going honestly there’s so and so down the road that are absolutely perfect for this. Ultimately, it’s going to help the industry move forward if we’ve got satisfied customers.

So, I think we’ve spoken a lot about the power of collaboration for UK manufacturing, in order to get there, what would you say are the biggest hurdles and challenges that we’re going to have to overcome?

 

Richard Spears 29:43

I think it’s what I said at the very beginning, let’s not work in silos, let’s try and join the dots, let’s try and come together and get in the same room all under one common goal. I think that’s what we need to find.

We heard the term Industry 4.0 over and over and over again, and perhaps that could have been something but I think it’s such a confusing thing to get your head around and I don’t think many people really understood what the hell it meant. But what I do see now is this term sustainability, what does that mean for UK manufacturing? I think that’s the catalyst and not just about being sustainable manufacturers, but also the opportunity that sustainability brings about. The more sustainable we are, the more innovation and the more emerging markets that will appear, the more opportunity there for UK manufactures to leverage and benefit from.

That would be my broad answer to that question, I don’t think there’s a silver bullet, I don’t think there’s that one thing that gets everybody together unless there’s another crazy pandemic, and we’ve all got this immediate need. I think it’s about changing our behaviours, trying to see the benefit in collaboration and networking when it’s done right. And once you do, you don’t turn back. You won’t look back.

 

Rowan Crozier 31:13

Yeah, I agree with that. When you asked the question, my first thought was that we all need to be a bit less selfish.

There is a danger in the world that we’re in, particularly in manufacturing, that it is survival of the fittest, I’m going to do what’s right for my business. But that isn’t the way to go into a collaborative relationship. So I think there’s a realisation that you’re only going to get out what you put in and that’s really something that’s quite fundamentally important.

And then, from me, I think a lot of the opportunities come from innovation. Whether it’s in a sustainable industry or whether it’s in automating to make you more productive or industry 4.0 or whatever, all of that sits under the banner, for me, of innovation. And I can’t go by without talking about Innovate UK. They’re a big funding agency who have very big purse strings for development of innovative processes and products associated in a number of different areas. Generally, there’s a big talk around EV development, all of that, but you name it, life sciences, medtech, all these other sort of sectors that are really difficult, they’re the barriers, they’re difficult industries to break into, but if you’ve got something innovative or you want to work on something that is innovative, you can facilitate that through working with a collaborative project which is part funded by Innovate UK.

So, there is a barrier, cost, there is also a barrier of diving into an unknown market, but there is a solution, there is a collaborative platform that essentially part pays for safe R&D. That was a revelation for us when we found that and got involved with it, some of its worked, some of it hasn’t worked. But overall, I’m a more diverse business as a result and even the stuff that didn’t work was 60% – 70% funded, so it keeps people employed, it keeps us learning. Even if it teaches us what we can’t do, that’s okay as well.

 

Richard Spears 33:53

The culture of innovation, that’s quite important that actually sometimes we need to take some risks because we don’t actually know the outcome all of the time. I would say though about Innovate UK, amazing funding opportunities through networks like that, but also we need to ensure that any economic wealth created stays in the UK. That’s the next step, because we can fund projects and we can fund new technology and innovation as soon as it comes to the manufacturability of that, we need to keep it in the UK, it can’t go to low cost economies.

 

Rowan Crozier 34:30

That’s really interesting, I agree. And that’s a really valid point because, I won’t name them on this, but there’s six or seven projects we’ve been involved with and of the six or seven, one or two aren’t necessarily focused on keeping it in the UK, even though the development and all the prototyping has been done by UK companies, part funded by Innovate UK and UK government. Perhaps UK government needs to be a wee bit stronger about that in terms of the rule book because it very often gets flexed.

With the right solution, we can be globally competitive, Brandauer are living proof of that. We’re supplying products to India, to China, Egypt. Traditionally lower cost economies and we are supplying product to them and that’s because there’s minimal labour content in what we do, it’s highly automated and highly repeatable to a very, very high-quality standard that those particular regions can’t necessarily achieve. So I completely agree with that Rich.

 

Alex Edwards 35:48

So, let’s say conversations like this start to happen more and more.  As we said, there’s brilliant work happening. So, let’s say everyone takes your advice and we’re all collaborating more, over the next 4-5 even 10 years, what sort of opportunities excite you the most?

 

Richard Spears 36:08

For me, it’s this opportunity around sustainability, especially things like greentech, clean energy, renewables, future mobility, and agritech. They are solving issues that the entire world are facing, so we know that they’re important and I think that the UK should be the very forefront of the technology and of the solutions, and that’s why I think that should be our singular focus as an industry. That’s where the most opportunity is, but also it’s the right thing to do. It plays into ESG considerations or imperatives that will only accelerate. So for me it just kind of makes sense.

 

Rowan Crozier 37:03

I’d probably split my answer up into two or three different opportunities.

I think for every individual, I think there’s both the career opportunity to collaborate on some level and I would recommend that everybody just tries one networking, voluntary role. Get out there, do something different that gets you outside of the business, whether that’s volunteering for a charity, whether that’s doing some work on the regional board for MAKE UK, whether that’s joining a Chamber of Commerce networking evening once a month, do it, go and see what’s going on outside of the four walls that you work in everyday, it’s all too easy to do that. It will benefit your business and it will benefit your career.

The second one for me is probably on Brandauer’s perspective, where’s the big opportunity? Well, funny enough, by networking, we’ve discovered that it’s not only what we make that’s in very slim supply, whether that be tools or high volume metal components, it’s what we know that is also in very short supply. We’re in the process of bolstering our business model as a subcontractor, making tools or supplying metal bits, to being a solutions provider, a service provider. To a point now where we’re getting regular approaches, and this has come directly from collaborative working, to advise them how to make something, how for them to do it in house. They’re never going to do it on their own, they need advice, but there’s a value to our advice and there’s a value to our knowledge and we’ve opened a consultancy arm now whether that be around management advice, whether that be around design for manufacture, full turnkey production line. Obviously it’s around the topics that we’re good at, but it’s a consultancy business essentially as well. What a big opportunity. That’s essentially spun out of us talking, sharing and understanding where the market polls are and where the market knowledge gaps are as well. Probably the two areas of advice I would give going forward and opportunity.

 

Alex Edwards 39:37

Well it can only be a positive can’t it, and it will take everybody like you say it’s a skill to adopt, but having that consultancy mindset and having that collaborative mindset and opening yourself up and putting yourself in the position to benefit from it. And Richard from your side, I know that shorter term than the question I asked, but you’ve got PP Plus which is exciting with a plan to launch this year. Again, that is another way of really fostering that idea of collaboration and reaching out.

 

Richard Spears 40:10

Yeah, absolutely, we are really excited about PP Plus. It’s kind of already in existence actually we kind of soft launched it a couple of years ago and the whole idea came off the back of noticing different types of enquiries and things from different types of businesses that were innovating or disruptive in the market. Whilst at the time they weren’t exactly ready for the strategic outsourcing partnership, there were lots of ways we could help those businesses, and so that’s kind of where PP Plus was born was by getting our network involved.

So essentially what PP Plus is, is a support network for innovators and market disruptors specifically positioned to some of the markets I mentioned before around green technology, and we split that support into three pillars. We have manufacturing partners with PP at the centre, we have a business partners, whether that’s scaling up, coaching or might be legislative demands, it could be IP protection, it could be marketing and PR support. And also we have access to academia through our academic partners. So basically these are all people that we know and trust, but we’re bringing them together under this network to support the growth of technological innovation in the UK. That’s our goal and we’re really excited by it and this year’s going to be the big launch where it’s got its own strategy now, it’s own brand, we’re going to really push PP Plus this year.

 

Alex Edwards 41:53

Really excited to see how it develops and like you say, we’ll keep posted on it and then maybe in a year or two we can get back together and hear about all the successes from it.

 

Richard Spears 42:04

Yeah we’ve got some really good case studies already. I could talk about case studies through PP Plus all day long, and it’s really nice to see as well. Recently we’ve got something going through a factory, full scale production that came to us a couple of years ago through the network, so it was an introduction through the network where we introduced that customer to a number of our suppliers, a design partner and we helped them with some supply chain issues and that’s kind of what it’s all about. That’s how it’s supposed to work. So yes, we haven’t seen business for ourselves for two years since that introduction, but we’ve supported them on that growth journey and now with their manufacturing partner. So again it’s that reciprocation, it’s about lending a helping hand.

There’s one case study actually that’s interested in innovative new technology. and I introduced them to Rowan because it was all to do with certain motor technology.

So yeah, it’s a wonderful network to have and I think what we’ve realised is that we need to shout about this network. Let’s not just do all this stuff behind the scenes. If we promote it, then hopefully we’ll bring more innovative technology to our door, more things that we can help and invest in.

 

Alex Edwards 43:28

Well I’m sure there’s plenty out there that can stand to benefit from it. We will put some links in the description for both Brandauer and PP for any viewers who want to learn more.

So, we’ll wrap this up, really good to have you both here today.  Thank you for sharing your insights on the topic and wish you good luck with everything going forward.

Special thank you to all of our listeners for listening to us, don’t forget to subscribe to make sure you never miss an episode and head over to our website for more information on anything that has been mentioned in the podcast. That’s all for now, see you soon.

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