April 2021

By Adrian Swinburne – Head of Consumer Sector at 42 Technology

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.

In a previously published article, Adrian Swinburne, head of consumer at 42 Technology shared some of his strategies for success gained from working with global brand owners such as Kimberly-Clark, PepsiCo and Jacob Douwe Egberts.

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. And on closer examination, 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 and experiences to draw on when helping a company fulfil its ambitions. But these 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.

To avoid this happening:

  • Think ahead on what skills are going to be needed throughout the project lifecycle, which organisations are best placed to deliver them, and involve all parties from day one.
  • Take particular care when selecting partners to ensure a good fit, understanding their different commercial motivations, and to 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.

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

If you’d like a copy of Adrian’s original article ‘The Value of collaboration in process R&D’ which was published in Manufacturing Management in Oct 2019, or for any further suggestions, please email answers@42technology.com.

Adrian Swinburne
Adrian 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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