For many SMEs however, there just isn't compelling proof of the short-term benefits that they company could receive from investing in process innovation and improvement projects.
In this unprecedented tough economic environment where so many businesses have come under significant financial stress, how can they be expected to maintain momentum in their investment in process innovation with limited availability of funds and no obvious evidence of the benefits the company may reap from these projects.
Here we share practical, real life examples of savvy businesses which have reaped short-term benefits from process innovation projects., that have led to improved efficiencies and productivity.
Process innovation isn’t new. It’s been around since at least the rise of industrial factories in the 17th century, when mill owners recognised the efficiencies to be gained from gathering workers together in factories and the economies of scale created by having individual operators focusing on specific tasks within the manufacturing process and as result creating the now ubiquitous process lines.
Nowadays companies pursue process innovation projects for lots of different reasons. Some companies are looking to reduce waste in the manufacturing process or maybe they’re adopting a zero defects culture, as is common in a lot of supply chain development programmes.
Let’s look at one such company and how it’s benefited from process innovation through machine learning and artificial intelligence
One client, working on demonstrating the benefits of increased connectivity in autonomous vehicles, established a project to develop algorithms to allow computers to co-ordinate the activity of a fleet
of emergency vehicles, aiming at more efficiency within the fleet and improved outcomes in emergency situations. Aware of the potential risks if such a network were maliciously hacked, the company also worked on improving the security and integrity of the communications infrastructure and has tested both developments in a simulation environment, to demonstrate the expected benefits. The development will now be tested in a controlled field test environment.
This realisation of process automation through machine learning and artificial intelligence also earned the company over £380,000 in R&D tax relief.
Other companies may be looking for more general gains in manufacturing efficiency, such as reduced process time or improved longevity of manufacturing equipment and reduced energy consumption.
One company that enjoyed such significant benefits is an engineering business, focused on forging automotive components. The company was looking to reduce cycle times and waste by improving the automated lubrication of dies. This involved experimenting with a range of graphite- based lubricants, varying spray heads and spray patterns. The project successfully saw a 10% increase in die life span, a 5% reduction in forging cycle time, 2% reduction in scrap, 9% increase in overall equipment effectiveness AND a 5% power saving as a result of being able to reduce forging temperatures and reducing the power used in drop presses.
A great result, made even better when the business realised they could claim back significant R&D tax relief on their qualifying project costs.
If Some is Good, More Must Be Better
Some companies may just be looking for greater consistency in the finished product as was the case with a North West based industrial fabric manufacturer.
The team was attempting to develop a more efficient and effective treatment and spooling process for very heavy fabric. As part of its attempts the company developed an electronic feeder system for heavy yarn to address undue wearing of gears, developing a new creel system to deliver heavy yarn from the feeder spools more efficiently and experimenting with dampeners and bearings to reduce the impact of machinery vibration on fabric tension and reduce the impact of aging yarn cones.
They realised greater consistency if fabric thickness and reduced downtime from repair and maintenance AND, received a £30,000 tax benefit to maximise cashflow within their business.
These are three quick examples of how manufacturers in the UK are using process innovation to significantly improve business efficiency, reduce costs and deliver a nice tax benefit back into the company coffers courtesy of HMRC.
We can help
Securing the right funding for your innovation project is vital to its success and your continued investment in R&D. ABGI is here to help. We help our clients accelerate their innovation activities by identifying and securing the right innovation funding, through grants, tax incentives and commercial funding.
ABGI-UK can review your projects and identify the most appropriate forms of funding and assist in the application process, to support those projects from idea to market readiness and beyond .
In PART 4 of our Guide to “Innovating your Way to business Recovery”, we will explore how a focus on “digitisation” and embracing enabling technology can reduce costs and improve your productivity AND could provide you with a tax refund or a significant reduction on your next tax bill, to help see you through the downturn.