Our top tips for successful process R&D collaborations - Manufacturing Management

Our top tips for successful process R&D collaborations - Manufacturing Management

October 2021

By Adrian Swinburne, Head of Consumer at 42T

“Collaborations can be destined to fail if steps are not taken to ensure alignment between consultancy and vendor.”

This is according to Head of Consumer at 42T, Adrian Swinburne says in his article for Manufacturing Management. He shares some of his strategies for success gained from working with global brand owners such as Kimberly-Clark, PepsiCo and Jacob Douwe Egberts. And he advises how to achieve success in R&D projects.

Process improvement vs new process innovation

Collaborative R&D is often perceived as an overly complex and high-risk method of achieving process innovation with brand owners typically relying on their process equipment vendors to deliver the improvements they need.

FMCG brand owners are sometimes reluctant to invest in collaborative R&D projects as a way of expanding their manufacturing capabilities because they’re perceived as being too high risk or overly complex. But with the right R&D partners and careful management they can deliver exceptional and unexpected outcomes.

Skydivers in freefall form a ring with their hands signifying teamwork, group thinking and collaboration

Why appoint a consultancy?

When companies want to improve their process capabilities to enable new products or for improved production efficiencies, it’s not unusual to expect their primary equipment vendors to provide that input. In some ways this approach makes perfect sense, but it can also restrict a manufacturer’s options. Sometimes even the most successful process development projects can only achieve incremental improvements in one or two areas.

Appointing an external engineering consultancy is often seen as the ideal solution. They bring a fresh perspective and have a wider range of engineering capabilities. In addition, their multidisciplinary experience can be drawn upon.

But R&D collaborations can be destined to failure unless deliberate steps are taken from the start to ensure commercial, technical, and cultural alignment between all parties.

How to approach the project

  • Think ahead on what skills are going to be needed throughout the project lifecycle. Also, which organisations are best placed to deliver them. Involve all parties from day one
  • Take particular care when selecting partners to ensure a good fit, understanding their different commercial motivations. Ensure that any external consultancy has the engineering credibility to establish empathy with the vendor’s engineers
  • Recognise how and when individual partner’s roles and responsibilities are likely to change as the project progresses


Our top tips for successful process R&D collaborations - Manufacturing Management

Even with careful planning, it’s dangerous to assume that everything will run smoothly. It’s worth putting appropriate measures in place to regularly monitor project status and the effectiveness of interactions between all project partners.

Working with internationally experienced consultants

Whilst these concerns can be valid in some circumstances, our experience of working with global brands such as Kimberly-Clark, PepsiCo and Jacobs Douwe Egberts has reinforced our belief in the power of collaborative R&D.

By selecting the right R&D partners and then properly managing the process, it really can be a case of two plus two equalling five. Adrian discusses a range of points:

  • Should process improvement and new process innovation be viewed differently?
  • Five fundamental principles
  • Can a single partner truly deliver what is needed?
  • Choose your partners wisely
  • Don’t assume alignment on day one
  • Roles and responsibilities need to transition
  • Don’t forget about IP
  • Five recommendations for successful collaborations

Find out how collaborative R&D projects can deliver significant results with everyone working towards a common goal.

You can read the article here: Group Thinking.

Published in Manufacturing Management.

Our top tips for successful process R&D collaborations - Manufacturing Management

More about 42T's projects and the range of our team's expertise.

Adrian Swinburne

If you would like to find out more, please contact 42T’s Adrian Swinburne:

adrian.swinburne@42T.com | +44 (0)1480 302700 | Adrian Swinburne | LinkedIn

Adrian Swinburne leads 42 Technology’s work in the consumer sector, developing and managing 42 Technology’s clients in the food, beverage, home care and personal care sectors.

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