Whether for hanging lighting in a shop, or the complexities of antennas, Ormiston Wire knows a thing or two about specialist wire manufacturing on a business-to-business basis. But for an employer of 15 people, the company wanted to diversify into new, finished product development.
“We normally provide components for other people,” said director Nigel FitzHugh. “and we don’t have an in-house product design department to help us move to the next stage.”
In the last 5 years constraints on the manufacturing sector have made investment in new products essential for business development, according to reports by IBISWorld. By creating retail products in-house, Ormiston Wire could diversify its business and face up to market challenges.
Having previously crowdsourced concept ideas with Brunel University London, Ormiston Wire was able to identify potential areas for innovation. Using this knowledge the company collaborated with two design students to pursue the possibility of breaking into new markets – gardening and educational toys.
“We didn’t want to make the design briefs too tight,” said Nigel. “One was for Vertical gardening and the other was for a construction toy. Both are markets that we could break into.”
Charlotte Colman took on the construction toy challenge – constructing geodesic shapes with flexible wire. To solve garden expansion problems, George Clayton created a flexible gardening design using wire, increasing space by having plants grow up a wall.
Working in a real-world setting, the students had to take into account the company’s manufacturing capability, designing something around these processes rather than requiring large capital investment.
“You can see in both design solutions that there are links to existing products,” said Nigel. “But because they are made of flexible wire they have different properties. I think that it is quite feasible that we could take both products to market.”
Even for a well established SME like Ormiston Wire, innovation is key to success. Outsourcing industrial design is a way for an SME to stay ahead and grow.
“I suppose we could have bought in a consultant designer,” said Nigel, “But since we are a small business the cost would have been unacceptably high. We’re pleased to have been part of this link with Brunel and that both parties are benefiting.”