New challenges are being found in fire risk assessments. In an effort to source a product with the correct requirements you may find that such a product is not on the market. In such cases, the only solution may be to develop a product. Finding a manufacturer to develop the product with you may be the right solution.
Fire risk assessments (FRAs) of residential properties are becoming much more thorough, which is a good thing for the safety of the occupants of those buildings. What can then become a significant task is finding solutions to mitigate all the hazards identified.
The ‘low-hanging fruit’ like fire door sets have often been picked up in earlier FRAs but, when digging a little deeper, you start to find more unusual hazards that are harder to fix.
The good news is that this is your opportunity to develop a product that does exactly what your residents need and gives you complete confidence in its performance. All you need to do is find an innovative manufacturing company to partner with and you could both end up as winners.
There are 2.6 m people employed in UK manufacturing and these companies are responsible for 69% of the UK’s investment in business research and development (EEF data). Many of these companies will be driven by innovation and their favourite source for new product ideas will be the industries they serve.
Hints and tips for finding a development manufacturer
You will need a partner with the right attitude.
They must be willing and able to invest the resources required. Design-time can add up to many hours (even for what looks like a simple product) and the price for fire testing always starts in the £1000s.
Your partner must understand the importance of fit for purpose in making fire protection products. If their emphasis is on how cheap they are, or they seem less than eager to provide all the technical information you need then they might be trying to cut back on those big expenses: design and testing.
Choosing the most representative fire test
The right fire test for unusual applications can be tricky and ultimately it will be up to you what you will accept. You might need to do some homework but it is likely that your manufacturing partner and certainly the testing house will be able to offer advice on this.
New product development is always a gamble for a commercial company. The more commitment they feel they have from you, the happier they’ll be to invest their resources. This should also mean a lower price to you, since they’ll need to add less contingency for risk.
A Made in UK manufacturer isn’t necessarily essential but:
It is often more flexible and faster from design to prototype to production (this is also the case when comparing smaller with larger companies).
Also, if you get to know the people who will actually be making your product, you will have greater confidence in its final performance.
Where can I find my nearest, innovative R&D manufacturer?
- Ask your existing suppliers what else they can do for you.
- Your local Chamber of Commerce – try asking for the Membership Manager (https://www.britishchambers.org.uk/).
- The Engineering Employers’ Federation (www.eef.org.uk ).
- The Made in Britain Campaign (https://www.madeingb.org ).
- An independent, local manufacturers’ network, such as the Manufacturers’ Alliance (https://www.manufacturersalliance.co.uk/).
Finally, as well as all the benefits already discussed, most people find new product development very enjoyable and stimulating. This is also an opportunity for you and your team to exercise their creative and problem-solving skills and, at the same time, be supporting jobs in UK manufacturing.