In today's increasingly competitive global market, UK firms must outsource and offshore to remain competitive. Mark Venables reports on a series of free seminars lined up to help.

With pressure from low-cost economies continuing to grow,


manufacturers are looking for every advantage to remain competitive in today's increasingly competitive global market.

And chief among their arsenal is the ability to outsource — whether within the


or abroad — some or all of their design, engineering and manufacturing.

Outsourcing and offshoring are fundamental strategies for manufacturing companies as they strive to maintain a competitive edge. Many have taken that first tentative step, but without the experience to navigate the many pitfalls, such as maintaining quality, protecting IP and managing what can become an extended supply chain, it can be a painful experience.

At next month's

Subcon 2006

(NEC, hall 3A, 16-18 May) there will be an ideal opportunity to learn from firms who have successfully adopted this strategy.

Folllowing the popularity of last year's free seminars the organisers are again hosting a specially-commissioned programme. The sessions aim to provide high-powered insights into sourcing that will give delegates valuable practical knowledge they can apply to their own businesses.

There will be three free seminar sessions daily, with places allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. Each will last around 45 to 50 minutes and can be booked individually. The presentations cover themes such as world-class supply chain best practice, strategic issues, and sessions on global sourcing.

The opening day's keynote presentation will be by John Fitchett, purchasing director, New Product Introduction and Customer Interface, at Rolls-Royce, who will be looking at creating world-class supply chains for new product introductions and comparing the different approaches taken for the


1000 and JSF engines.

Strategy themes that will be addressed over the three days include a presentation from Leigh Holloway of Envirowise that asks 'Is your supply chain sustainable?' This is an area of growing concern, as environmental legislation such as the WEEE Directive and ROHS regulations means buyers need to know exactly what is going into their products.

But there is more than seminar sessions to enjoy. One of the exhibition highlights will be the Quicksilver boat that will attempt to break the world water speed record at Coniston next year. The boat is an impressive feat of engineering that has brought together a notable group of



Nigel Macknight, the driving force behind Quicksilver, was just a boy in January 1967 when Donald Campbell's record attempt on

Lake Coniston

ended in tragedy — but the event made a profound impression. Ever since, the desire to take on the record attempt has been a constant dream for him.

Powered by a Rolls-Royce Spey 101 engine from an ex-RAF Buccaneer, Quicksilver combines a high-tensile steel tubing space frame with honeycomb sandwich panels. The tubing, made to aircraft standards, was manufactured by West


company Accles & Pollock from material supplied by Corus.

The honeycomb sandwich panels were made by the


's Hexcel Composites, the world's largest manufacturer of composite materials, while the tubular element of the structure was fabricated by PDS (CNC) Engineering, in collaboration with BOC.

'Quicksilver is a wonderful example of subcontracting in action, with all these great engineering companies coming together to create a craft that will take on the world. I don't see how anyone with an interest in engineering could fail to be fascinated by it,' said event director Jon Hughes.