Innovation through collaboration: A successful combination
“Ormiston never stands still. We are always looking for new opportunities to exploit our tried and proven technology in novel ways. Our partnership with Brunel University was yet another way to push innovation while supporting the next generation of product designers. We were all very impressed with the results.” Mark Ormiston
Founded over 200 years ago, 13 years before Isambard Kingdom Brunel was born, one of London’s oldest companies collaborates with Brunel University’s Co-Innovate initiative and product design students to explore innovative concepts intended to contribute to another 200 years success.
Founded in 1793, Ormiston Wire is a well-established manufacturer of wire products, and now into its sixth generation, with Mark Ormiston currently leading the company, it is also one of the oldest family run businesses in the UK. The Company pride themselves in ‘being able to manufacture almost any type of wire for almost any type of application’ and this is shown in the diversity of end uses of their products.
The company has its origins in the City of London, making spring wire for corsets and wigs, and is still based in London, with their headquarters and a manufacturing facility in Isleworth. Although they began with wire for clothing, their range of products has dramatically changed, now producing wire and products for a range of industries and applications, spanning the medical, marine, military, nuclear and art industries.
Although they have such a large portfolio of products and applications, and continue to innovate in materials and processes, the company wanted to look at potential new products which they could develop, make and sell alongside their existing products and services. The team contacted Co-Innovate and one of our Innovation Directors worked with Ormiston Wire to develop a mini-collaborative project with Brunel University’s MSc Integrated Product Design students.
This collaborative project provides a real live project for the students to work on as part of their course, providing a great learning opportunity and gaining valuable experience working with a client. The project began with a half-day visit to Ormiston’s manufacturing facility and offices and factory in Isleworth, where they were able to see the facilities, what it is currently manufactured, and to be a catalyst for ideas about potential uses of the current machines.
The visit was eye opening, with some of the machines being not too dissimilar to what would have been used when the company first started, to the more recent additions, such as the braiding machines. Both Mark Ormistion (the company’s director) and Nigel Fitzhugh (Mark’s cousin) provided great insight into the day to day work of the factory, and the challenges they face. The students were also able to speak to other employees, asking them about the jobs they do, and about the processes and materials they work with.
The students then were able to begin to think creatively about different products and applications that Ormiston Wire could potentially develop, and about a month after the visit to the factory, Mark and Nigel visited Brunel to see student presentations of initial concept directions. They are now sifting through the ideas to provide further feedback to the students and to explore with James Duguid, the Co-Innovate Innovation Director, how to exploit this new resource of concept ideas. The project has been a great way for Ormiston to gain a fresh insight to possible directions from a large group of talented students, whilst the students gained the experience of working on a project with real commercial imperatives. Mark and Nigel were excited by the sheer range and inventiveness of what they were presented whilst being impressed with the practical fit to the brief of the ideas.
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