Thinking Outside The Box

Thinking Outside The Box

The Manufacturing Advisory Service can help your business to improve and become more efficient in many different ways. Our team of expert MAS Advisors have spent thousands of hours with real manufacturers across the country. They like to think outside the box.
Thinking Outside The Box

Here are some of their thoughts on current issues in manufacturing:


  • “It’s a good idea for those companies who don’t class themselves as a company who lean applies to. Go and understand what lean is and how it applies to you.”
  • “It is something that shouldn’t be feared but also something that shouldn’t be taken lightly as it often involves a culture change.”


  • “A good idea for companies who believe their processes cannot be automated is to go and get an understanding.”
  • “Small amounts of autonomy can make huge impacts to business whether it is standardised machine setup or material flows – these things can often be implemented with relative ease.”


  • “Design is worth investment as poor design will cost companies dearly later on.”

New Products/Markets

  • “Make sure the production element of any new product is considered at the concept stage – the earlier you think about how the product is going to be made the easier, quicker and cheaper it will be to manufacture.”
  • “If you are going to be outsourcing the production then get your suppliers involved as soon as possible.”
  • “It is essential that you understand the real value of your product and its various potential markets. Is there a market out there you haven’t thought about that could be far greater in size than your current market?”
  • “Progress should be planned, measured and monitored against a set of pre-defined stages in terms of cost, time and design maturity.”


  • “Capacity covers two areas – labour (hours) and physical (floor utilisation).”
  • “It is important when looking for new products/markets that you are not running at max capacity otherwise you are going to let down either your new clients or your existing ones.”
  • “If you’re struggling with capacity, have a good look around the business. Are your processes as efficient as they could be? Are your employees wasting valuable time looking for tools and equipment, waiting for a part or waiting for information? How good is your scheduling and do you have lots of ‘queue jumping’? Adoption of Lean can often free up much needed capacity and postpone the need to expand or move premises.”


  • “Rapid prototyping has been around for many years now and for many it would be an unjustifiable sub-contracted expense. However, advances in rapid prototyping mean that parts can be produced that have much more functional strength and be used in ways other than just a visualisation tool.”
  • “The level of detail that can be achieved has improved in recent years. The good news is that in the right circumstances, MAS can help to fund prototype parts which would include rapid prototyping.”


  • “It is often viewed as difficult to assess direct impact in terms of financials from sales/marketing.”
  • “Companies are often loathed to look at marketing strategies and often work from a word of mouth basis and quality of reputation. If this is working for companies who are at maximum capacity and turning work down then fine…for the moment…however there will come a time when if you don’t look at marketing of your business (particularly online) then your competitors will and could take your market share in the future.”
  • “Sales and marketing are the front facing aspect of your business and it is important to develop your brand and protect it. It is essential to bring in new customers!”


  • “Most official certifications – ISO 9001/14001; AS9100; TS16949 – are not as onerous as you think they are.”
  • “Certification can help to improve processes and make them more consistent and almost always save money and improve morale if all employees are properly engaged.”


  • “You cannot patent a product if it has hit the public domain. Often people advertise their product on youtube nowadays to showcase the product to start selling. By this time it is too late.”
  • “IP must be researched and decided upon at the very beginning of the product life cycle and advice is essential – this is a legal world where disputes can cost a business everything.”
  • “It is advisable to seek professional consultation before embarking down any IP route to gain a full understanding of your options. There are various protection routes through different times of the life cycle of the product and for different aspects of the product that can have huge effect or consequences depending on the outcome.”
  • “Define the IP that needs protecting, for instance: the first hydraulic brakes on cars and then hydraulics per say were protected for the angle of the seal that kept the oil in and took the load, there was nothing else that was needed. This cost Ford millions in the 1920’s to buy a licence.”
  • “Clearly understand what your IP is and what can be defended in court without fear of losing, also understand what you want to defend. iPhone defended rounded corners on full phone screens, Samsung lost millions on trying to get around it and took a legal hit with their rounded corner model. The screen was not protected, only the corners.”

New Equipment

  • “Always, always, always complete a ‘URS’ (User Requirement Specification) if you are looking for a non-off the shelf purchase.”


  • “An Environmental Management System (EMS) is a long term commitment.”
  • “An EMS is a successful way of working.”
  • “Longer term an organisation should try to integrate environmental factors into its actions and decisions and not consider only as an after thought.”

Final Thoughts

  • “Have you developed a process/product that you use in your business that you could sell to other businesses? If you have applied innovative thinking to help solve a problem in your own business it’s possible there are other businesses out there that could benefit. Often companies develop ‘in-house’ solutions because they can’t find anything that meet their requirements externally. Software is often a good area to look and perhaps more obviously training and consultancy. If you have process or design expertise this can sometimes be more valuable than the goods you manufacture.”
  • “Be passionate about shop floor generated improvements, put in rigorous systems to facilitate and recognise input from those that know.”
  • “Spend some time with your customer, following how your product/service is used and talking to the people who physically interact with it (e.g. assembly operators).”
  • “Spend time with your suppliers – see how they deal with one of your orders. Is the way you do things creating unnecessary problems for them? What can you learn from each other?”
  • “Swap roles for a week (or month) – get the Ops director to take on the sales director’s role and vice versa.”
  • “Benchmark yourself against another business not in your sector. For example if you are an engineering company with stock management/obsolescence issues, go and see how a food manufacturer or retailer manages this.”
  • “Get someone independent from your business to act as a sounding board and to challenge existing assumptions.  Your MAS advisor can help, we are independent, impartial and trusted by many MDs of manufacturing businesses.

Our experts are available to you now!

If you’d like more advice on growing your business you can speak to one of our MAS Advisors on 0845 658 9600 or e-mail


Marshfield Bakery Rises to the Occasion

Marshfield Bakery Rises to the Occasion

Wiltshire manufacturer increases turnover by 155 per cent. A Wiltshire company which manufactures quality handmade cakes, snack bars, biscuits and seasonal goods has increased its turnover by 155 per cent and launched 13 new products after developing an innovation strategy to capitalise on opportunities to enter new markets.

Marshfield Bakery Rises to the Occasion

Andrew Phillips MAS Advisor with Chris Smith, Director, Marshfield Bakery

Marshfield Bakery, which is based in Dyrham and distributes its products throughout the UK and Europe, has worked closely with the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) to develop a long term project plan in order to meet future customer demand.


“The support from MAS has been fundamental in taking us from a business that turned over £700k to £2m in under three years. We have launched 13 new products and created 22 new full time posts, providing much needed jobs for the surrounding community.”

Chris Smith, Director, Marshfield Bakery, said: “We needed support in looking at things from a different angle in terms of the development of the business, how to prioritise our ideas and accommodate anticipated growth.

“MAS helped us map out areas we could look to focus on including addressing capacity and process planning, such as making better use of floor space and identifying key process bottlenecks.

Andrew Phillips, MAS Advisor for Wiltshire, said: “Marshfield Bakery is an innovative company with a team committed to growing the business and continually looking for ways of improving operations. With our support in identifying and developing ways to fulfil the company’s potential to access new markets, a strong platform is in place for further growth.”

Marshfield Bakery manufactures a range of products for both niche retailers and major supermarkets. It now has 45 members of staff and a turnover of £2m.


Aviation breakthrough flying high for Telford manufacturer

Aviation breakthrough flying high for Telford manufacturer

A Telford-based manufacturer, whose first order was to supply its revolutionary products for Middle Eastern VIPs, is setting its sights on changing the way people board aeroplanes all over the world.
Aviation breakthrough flying high for Telford manufacturer

Formed in 2009, Ra’alloy has seen major interest from airlines, airports and ground handling companies for its ‘Aviramp’ boarding ramps that provide essential access to aircraft for all passengers, wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility.

Orders have already been won with Qantas, Qatar Airways, Swissport and Dallas Fortworth Airport, with five new people already taken on to cope with the increase in work.

Backed by support from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), the company has also developed three different boarding ramps – ‘lite’, ‘regional’ and ‘continental’ – to ensure all international requirements are met.

Graham Corfield, Managing Director, picked up the story: “We were first contacted in 2010 by Oslo International Airport about the possibility of designing and manufacturing a disabled access ramp for passengers disembarking aircraft on remote stands.

“The concept was driven by the need to move it quickly and for the slopes to conform with EU regulations, allowing wheelchair users to move themselves up and down the walkway.”

He continued: “This is where ‘Aviramp’ came into the equation. It was exactly what they were looking for and even incorporated unique slip resistant flooring.

“The results have been impressive. People with reduced mobility can disembark with dignity and, on average, general passenger flow times are 30% quicker meaning less delays and possible cancellation of flights.”

The Manufacturing Advisory Service worked with Ra’alloy from the initial concept, providing strategic guidance, mentoring and new product support along the way.

It played an instrumental role in the company winning the attention of budget airline easyJet, who has been working with Graham and the team on the development and modification of ‘Aviramp’.

The trials were essential in testing the product in everyday industry situations and provided valuable insight into how it could be adapted to suit different sizes of aircraft and airport layouts.

This included a host of endorsements, including reductions on capital equipment costs, savings on moving people with reduced mobility and improved on target performance when it came to getting passengers on board and the flight safely underway.

“We’ve done about £300,000 worth or orders, but I’d expect this to triple over the next twelve months when you look at what we have in the pipeline,” continued Graham.

“80% of this growth will come from abroad and we are already looking at ways where we may set-up international manufacturing operations to support the delivery of ‘Aviramp’ all over the world. America is possibly our first target.”

MAS Advisor David Nuttall believes the next year will be huge for the business.

“In the aviation sector, the gestation period for new products is extensive with most airlines wanting to see others making the initial investment.

“This is now beginning to happen and our role is changing to support Ra’alloy in understanding the systems and process that it needs in place to be able to cope with the anticipated order intake so it is not swamped.

“The company has a world beating product and MAS will help it make the right decisions with regards to investment to ensure a natural migration from high end bespoke manufacture to high end serial production.”

Ra’alloy employs 16 people and is on course to turnover £1.1m this year. In addition to ‘Aviramp’, the company designs and manufactures aluminium access solutions, including the ramps and stairs that were used at London 2012.