Ricardo's Daniel Hall and Simon Arbuthnot explain how the company's new consultancy service, N2PI, can smooth the path to industrialisation for niche products.
How can growing businesses successfully bring new products to market quickly, efficiently and cost-effectively without falling into the known traps that many companies experience when they attempt to ramp up and scale production?
Ricardo has launched an innovative industrialisation consultancy service, N2PI (Niche New Product Introduction), which distils all the engineering, manufacturing, commercial and strategic consultancy expertise garnered over its 100 years in the automotive sector, for application in other industries with complex supply chains or manufacturing processes.
The service is born out of a recognition that there is a real market requirement from early-stage or pre-revenue businesses to access trusted technical and commercial advice around niche volume, high complexity manufacturing. Leveraging Ricardo’s core competence and capability in complex manufacturing and diverse supply chains, the aim is to work with companies who are in sectors not traditionally associated with Ricardo’s automotive heritage. By applying best-in-class mass production tools and techniques acquired in the very stringent and demanding automotive sector, Ricardo will solve the biggest immediate challenges facing these businesses and deliver the best returns.
Over the past six months, Ricardo has seen two customer segments requiring this very specific and trusted advice. First, new companies looking to break into markets in which they have never operated before. They may have great ideas, but they have mostly just made a small number of prototypes. These clients want a better understanding of how to grow their manufacturing capability and capacity, but do not currently have that knowledge. Ricardo’s combination of manufacturing experts and strategic consultants are helping to bridge that gap for these companies, using knowledge from a technical and commercial perspective, plus strategic sector analysis.
Second: early or pre-revenue companies who may understand small volumes but want to rapidly increase output to support new requirements or meet new customer demands, and they need to understand how to get to there robustly. These companies have real needs for support in supply chain management, quality assurance, and manufacturing process for their product – all skills in which Ricardo has extensive experience.
N2PI Niche New Product Introduction is about helping, growing businesses to ramp up as quickly, effectively, and efficiently as possible, without compromising cost or quality, and to ‘de-risk’ that journey through the application of real-world knowledge and experience.
Successful N2PI Niche New Product Introduction is about optimising diverse supply chains or complex manufacturing processes by improving throughput, quality or reducing in-built cost, and identifying ways for companies with limited resources to scale up
Ricardo’s track record in niche volume, high-quality manufacturing and assembly programmes for the most demanding automotive and motorsport sectors delivers first-hand experience of the challenges of ramping up. Ricardo understands the total landscape, with the ability to go back to basics, including consideration of the end game, offering clients robust supported solutions.
That support is both commercial and technical: combining profound knowledge both of ‘nuts and bolts’ operational, manufacturing processes and strategic, business insight. Ricardo’s manufacturing experts bring engineering technical knowledge from traditional mechanical engineering design and problem-solving, as well as optimising manufacturing output. It means they are very well versed in the tools and techniques which solve live manufacturing problems from the supply chain to assembly on a global scale: process engineering; design for assembly, which focuses on streamlining and reducing costs; supply chain management; and production modelling.
Commercially, Ricardo’s great strength lies in adding value to areas which have an operational impact: ensuring the supply chain is aligned to client strategy; negotiation of contacts; helping a client to build a supply chain; analysing business plans; or helping a client understand the cost-benefit of different investment or technology choices.
The global pandemic - and its associated economic, social, and operational challenges - has increased pressure on clients to bring their products to market quickly, at volume, safely, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Ricardo truly believes that its N2PI Niche New Product Introduction offering will be an attractive proposition for clients who need a seamless, single-source, unified service that combines commercial, strategic, and technical manufacturing experience from experts, to get them to the right solution quickly and with confidence.
N2PI, in many ways, is a portal to Ricardo for clients in pre-revenue or early revenue businesses, giving them a compelling value proposition and a route to value enhancement. Ricardo takes a step by step approach for a small to medium-sized business: undertaking an audit, providing actionable insight on significant improvements which are achievable, and scaling the investment into work packages which are attractive to small, early-stage businesses.
Ricardo understands the investment required can be five to six times the amount that clients invest in consultancy; but its experts are confident they can deliver those kinds of improvements, by reducing costs or improving efficiency and quality.
Even though Ricardo’s manufacturing and strategic consulting teams are part of a large global plc, they retain an agile, nimble, customer-focused, rapid-response mentality. Their entrepreneurial view absolutely mirrors that of clients who come to the company for help with N2PI Niche New Product Introduction.
Ricardo tailors its approach appropriately depending on whether a company just needs a quick process to get it up and running, or some supply chain management guidance: they can address the whole package or just one element of it. Agility is the key here. For Ricardo and their clients, it’s about being as detailed as necessary and as pragmatic as possible. Ricardo may not solve all the problems for a client at once but can identify and focus on priority issue resolution.
Perhaps one of the companies which best demonstrates the benefits of N2PI is Isansys Lifecare Ltd. In March 2020, with UK hospitals facing an urgent need for life-saving patient monitoring systems, Isansys suddenly faced one of its biggest challenges yet as they needed to scale up production rapidly to meet the immediate demand for its patient monitoring technology, the Patient Status Engine (PSE), in a bid to help frontline clinicians in the battle against COVID-19 and respond effectively to the global emergency.
To help them scale up production volumes of the PSE quickly, and also address their longer-term capacity requirements, Isansys collaborated with Ricardo to optimise its manufacturing process.
Ricardo supported Isansys by identifying quick improvements and within a six week period, Isansys achieved their goal: to scale up production in one of the most demanding sectors in the world – healthcare. Although the solution was simple, it relied upon the experience, knowledge, innovation, and creative thinking of Ricardo’s global network of technical and commercial experts.
Ricardo’s work with Isansys Lifecare is a great example of where they have applied the lessons learned from 100 years in the automotive sector: stringent rules, regulations, and processes, supported by production tools and techniques and then apply them to other sectors.
With the global pandemic, digitalisation and green bounce back bringing ever more opportunities and challenges for successful Niche New Product Introduction, the launch of Ricardo’s N2PI service will help to make an impact and deliver value to those industries where effectively managing complexity in supply chains or manufacturing processes globally will deliver game-changing benefits.