Possible benefits of 3D printing in UK manufacturing

Possible benefits of 3D printing in UK manufacturing

Possible benefits of 3D printing in UK manufacturing 

Rapid advancements in 3D printing have led to UK manufacturers exploring the use of the technology in production, but what really are the possible benefits of 3D printing? In this article we look at customisation, cost, flexibility and speed to market.

Firstly, 3D printing is certainly not new – the technology first appeared more than 25 years ago – and is a topic that we have covered before in previous newsletters. Advancements in 3D printing continue to gain pace as manufacturers look for greater flexibility and cost-savings in production, and the technology is now being embraced in a range of manufacturing industries.

3D printing is set to revolutionise how we manufacture

It is therefore important that all UK manufacturers, whether they are a small independent firm or a large firm with an international focus, start to consider the benefits of 3D printing and the impact it may have, and is likely to have, on manufacturing over the next few years.

1. Customised, personalised manufacturing

With standard, mass-production it is often too complex and too expensive to customise and personalise production. 3D printing will make this process much quicker and more cost-effective, benefiting both the manufacturer and the customer. Customised manufacturing may be particularly beneficial in the healthcare (e.g. dental) and fashion (e.g. jewellery) industries, meeting demand for bespoke products.

2. Cost-effective production

3D printing undoubtedly offers manufacturers the potential to considerably streamline their manufacturing processes and, in turn, also brings huge financial opportunities. Through reduced machine set-up time and reduced tooling costs, 3D printing can significantly reduce the cost per unit, particularly for small production runs which do not gain cost advantages through scalability. This is becoming increasingly important; a recent report found that 51% of SME manufacturers are seeing customers request orders in smaller series. Manufacturers must strive to make small production runs more profitable.

A product that is likely to have a short production run, or where there is uncertain demand, is sometimes overlooked by manufacturers due to the high up-front tooling costs of production. 3D printing would dramatically change this.

3. Greater flexibility in production

3D printing will also give manufacturers greater flexibility in what materials they use during the production process.

4. Reduced speed to market

3D printing may also give manufacturers the opportunity to compress design cycles (e.g. through identifying design errors earlier)  and reduce the time it takes to take a new product to market. 3D printing allows development ideas to progress faster than ever before. Rapid prototyping can see designers have a prototype in their hand in just hours, not days, weeks or months.

How will the benefits of 3D printing impact UK manufacturing?

Whilst there are clear benefits of 3D printing, the technology also brings challenges such as the potential cost of initial set-up and the possible problems that mass customisation may bring (too many options could overwhelm customers).

It will be interesting to see how many manufacturers adopt 3D printing approaches in the coming years and how that influences customer demand and buying patterns.

More from our manufacturing experts

You can find all of our latest manufacturing sector news and newsletters here.

If you are looking for advice in a particular area, please get in touch with your usual Hawsons contact.

Alternatively, we offer all new clients a free initial meeting to have a discussion about their own personal circumstances – find out more or book your free initial meeting here. We have offices in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton.

Chris Hill Senior Partner

Chris Hill acts as commercial partner for both corporate and non-corporate clients and has worked for Hawsons throughout his career. For more information or advice on anything covered in this article, please contact Chris on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.

Predictions for the Care Sector in 2016

Predictions for the Care Sector in 2016

What with the care sector in 2016 look like?

There are more than 430,000 residents living in care homes across the UK and the sector employs over 1.4 million people…yet, many care home operators are facing an uncertain and challenging future.

Four months ago, in our Summer 2015 newsletter, we published an article looking at what the next 12 months held for care sector. In summary, our outlook was tentative, predicting that the care sector would become a gradually more competitive and uncertain market with increasing compliance and financial scrutiny.

That prediction was made previous to the introduction of the National Living Wage, which, from April 2016, will see operating costs for nearly all care homes across the UK rise significantly.

Now, we bring you our predictions for the care sector in 2016.

This article was recently featured in the latest edition of the Care Home Management magazine (see below).

IMG_3074 IMG_3073

More care homes to embrace technology

The question of whether or not care homes should embrace technology – be that iPads, surveillance cameras or anything else – is certainly a topical one. In a recent article we looked at care homes’ websites and now, in this article, we have looked at the broad use of technology in the care sector.

As the pace of technology quickens and the need for operational and financial efficiencies continues to grow, the increased use of technology in care homes is inevitable in 2016. To what extent and for what means, however, remains to be seen.

Increasing number of owners looking to exit the market

The last 12 months have seen the care sector face intense financial scrutiny, with significant regulatory changes.

This mounting regulatory compliance in conjunction with rising costs (National Minimum Wage; National Living Wage; auto enrolment; energy prices) will likely result in many care owners looking to exit the market in 2016.

Additionally, as some care homes are struggling to stay financially viable (between October 2014 and March 2015 the number of care home places in the UK actually fell for the first time) many owners may have to merge with another care group in order to ensure its financial sustainability. We expect to see a number of consolidations over the next 12 months.

Increasing number of new entrants looking to enter the market

Equally, however, the care home sector remains a hot prospect for new entrants. Healthcare remains one of the top industries targeted by companies from other sectors and this is set to continue in 2016. This is perhaps not that surprising either, despite ongoing funding pressures and increasing compliance.

The UK has an ageing population and research suggests that the number of people aged over 65 set to rise by more than 40% in the next 17 years. The care sector may be uncertain at present, but it has an attractive future, especially in specialist care homes.

Energy efficiency to be a key management focus

The NatWest care home performance benchmarking report confirmed what many in the sector already knew: care homes are spending too much on lighting, heat and other utilities. The report highlighted that only a small minority of care homes across the UK use renewable energy sources or, indeed, consider their energy efficiency as a whole.

With the ongoing funding challenges that have been so comprehensively covered, the opportunities for cost efficiencies through renewable energies will surely not be overlooked again in 2016.

Whether it’s implementing energy generation systems (such as solar power) or auditing current energy management to become more efficient, this energy focus – aided significantly by the generous tax-savings available for this type of expenditure – is likely to be one of the biggest trends in the 2016 care sector.

More from our care sector experts

You can also find all of our latest care sector news and newsletters here.

If you are looking for advice in a particular area, please get in touch with your usual Hawsons contact.

Alternatively, we offer all new clients a free initial meeting to have a discussion about their own personal circumstances – find out more or book your free initial meeting here. We have offices in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton.

Scott Sanderson

Scott Sanderson Partner

Scott Sanderson began his career with Hawsons and trained as a Chartered Accountant, becoming a partner in 2015, specialising in the healthcare sector and small businesses. For more details and advice, please contact Scott on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.[/author_info]

Ongoing transportation projects to improve UK links

Ongoing transportation projects to improve UK links

Ongoing transportation projects to improve UK links 

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has promised to continue to make significant infrastructure improvements a key focus over the next four years through committing billions of pounds to improving the UK’s transportation links.

In this article we look at some of the ongoing transportation projects and comment on the potential widespread implications they may have on the transport & logistics sector, as well as the economy as a whole.

Trans-Pennine tunnel

A major Trans-Pennine tunnel is planned to improve the connectivity between South Yorkshire and Manchester. The tunnel is likely to be built through the Peak District from the A628 Woodhead road. Following initial plans in December last year the government confirmed in July that a £1.3m contract had been awarded to assess the feasibility of the tunnel.

Although no one believes that the tunnel project will happen in the short-term, it is indicative of the Northern Powerhouse aspirations held by George Osbourne.

FARRRS

Construction work on the Finningley and Rossington regeneration route scheme (FARRRS) is well underway, with the opening date for the new road set for early 2016. The new highway linking from junction 3 of the M18 to the Doncaster Sheffield airport will also improve access into Rossington and Finningley and provide an alternative route into Doncaster from the South.

FARRRS will make the Yorkshire airport, which is one of the fastest growing in the UK, much more accessible from the motorway and reduce journey times for passengers, particularly those travelling from the Sheffield City Region.

Electrification

In our previous newsletter we focused on the recommencement of plans to electrify the UK railways. Following the announcement that the rail electrification projects were to be ‘paused’ earlier in the year, the government and Network Rail have now confirmed that they will move forward with their original plans.

Although there are, understandably, major delays to the initial completion dates, this modernisation of UK rail links is undoubtedly good news. This plan for a more modern, efficient and environmentally friendly rail service is encouraging for all.

Projects are indicative of the Northern Powerhouse

The ongoing transportation projects in the Sheffield City Region and East Midlands areas are good news for UK companies.

The transport & logistics sector is the backbone of the UK economy and pivotal to the success in neighbouring sectors such as retail, hospitality, tourism and manufacturing. The potential benefits of a more efficient and more reliable transport network that brings greater connectivity regional, nationally and internationally cannot be understated.

Crucial to the growth of our economy 

A recent survey found that 80% of businesses regard rail as being crucial or important to their operations. The quality of the UK’s transport infrastructure is a key element to the growth of our economy. The impact of transportation projects, even before they are completed, will be widespread across a number of areas.

The transformational long-term deal Flybe recently agreed at the Doncaster Sheffield airport is symptomatic of how improved transportation links (FARRRS) can boost the economy. This is just one recent example of how investments in transportation projects can boost inward investment; bringing more jobs and opportunities to local areas.

Business impacts 

Of course the completion dates of many ongoing transportation projects are years away but, as the Flybe example shows, there will likely be big business implications prior to completion. Businesses, particularly those from the retail, hospitality, tourism and transport & logistics sectors, must start considering how ongoing and future transportation projects may impact their potential sales and supplychains operations now.

More from our transport and logistics experts

You can find all of our latest transport and logistics sector news and newsletters here.

If you are looking for advice in a particular area, please get in touch with your usual Hawsons contact.

Alternatively, we offer all new clients a free initial meeting to have a discussion about their own personal circumstances – find out more or book your free initial meeting here. We have offices in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton.

Paul Wormald is a partner at Hawsons, working in the Doncaster office. He worked previously with two national firms of Chartered Accountants prior to joining Hawsons in 2001. For more information or advice on anything covered in this article, please contact Paul on [email protected] or 01302 367 262.[/author_info]

Are there variations in CQC inspection ratings?

Are there variations in CQC inspection ratings?

Since our last update on CQC inspections (in Autumn 2015) the regulator has now officially rated 1,890 GP practices.

The picture remains largely – or exactly – the same as it was then, as the tables below show:

GP inspection details Autumn

GP inspection details Winter

CQC inspections have so far found that the picture is very positive for GP practices, with the tables indicating a consistent pattern in inspection results. The vast majority – almost 85% – have received the top two ratings, ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, by the regulator since inspections began in October 2014.

GPs are passing with flying colours and it is very pleasing to see.

However, what those tables above do not show is that there are perhaps variations in ratings both regionally and contractually. Recent research has highlighted this and it is important to look at in more detail. All GP practices ought to know how their practice is performing against its competitors.

A closer look at CQC inspection ratings, from a regional and contractual perspective, may help practices better understand their official rating and provide some context to how practices are performing across the board.

Regional variations

GP practices tend to perform differently in CQC inspections depending on where they are based in the UK, research has shown. Official ratings show that the West Midlands and South Yorkshire regions are outperforming regions in the East Midlands and the South of the country.

The interactive map, published and regularly updated by GPonline, highlights the percentage of practices within a certain region that have been rated as either ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. The map provides a good overview to the regional variations in CQC inspections of GP practices.

Contract variations

Research also indicates that contract variations exist, with fluctuations in official ratings depending on whether a GP practice holds a GMS, PMS or APMS contract.

The below table shows the rating variations in CQC inspections for different contracts:

GP inspection contract variaitons

Are variations in GP inspection ratings expected?

Scott Sanderson, Healthcare Partner at Hawsons, said: “Regional and contractually variations in CQC inspection ratings are interesting to see, but perhaps not too surprising. APMS practices receive significantly more funding per patient than their PMS and GMS counterparts, for example, so you might expect those to be rated higher. Practices also face specific challenges on a regionally basis, including significant disparities in demand, differences in funding and other issues, such as attracting new partners. Variations are therefore always likely.”

“The variations we are looking at now may not also be a ‘fair’ representation. Although it has now been a year since the new style GP inspections came into force, just a fifth of all practices have now been assessed and officially rated by CQC. That means that there are nearly 6,000 practices still to be inspected; and those inspections could significantly change the current research we are looking at.

“That being said, the overall rating results have not changed at all since our last inspection update, where an additional 390 practices have been rated…so the results we have now might indeed be an accurate benchmark.”

More from our GP practice experts

You can find all of our latest GP practice sector news and newsletters here.

If you are looking for advice in a particular area, please get in touch with your usual Hawsons contact.

Alternatively, we offer all new clients a free initial meeting to have a discussion about their own personal circumstances – find out more or book your free initial meeting here. We have offices in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton.

Scott Sanderson

Scott Sanderson Partner

Scott Sanderson began his career with Hawsons and trained as a Chartered Accountant, becoming a partner in 2015, specialising in the healthcare sector and small businesses. For more details and advice, please contact Scott on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.[/author_info]

Is your retail website converting sales?

Is your retail website converting sales?

Is your retail website converting sales?

Whether you are a local independent retailer or a multinational retailer with a national/international focus, your website must be optimised to improve profitability. Your website is your online shop window; it needs to convert sales and minimise abandoned baskets.

This, simply put, comes down to two key points:

  • Getting prospective customers to your website
  • Getting prospective customers through the checkout

In this article, we look at the second point – getting prospective customers through the checkout – and what considerations retailers must make when selling online. This is particularly important after a period in which Black Friday and Cyber Monday broke online sales records this year. On Black Friday, in particular, there are indications that online sales were to have passed £1bn on a single day for the first time. Online sales figures have grown by more than was expected, unlike on the high street, underlining the online shopping revolution in the UK

A retailer’s digital presence is becoming increasingly important

With online sales continuing to grow it is becoming increasingly important for retailers to optimise their website and online marketing strategies. With more and more customers now shopping on the move, it is perhaps unsurprisingly to see that mobiles and tablets are also becoming the go-to device when shopping online. A retailer’s website must therefore be screen responsive (i.e. the content on the page is suitable for a mobile or tablet) if it is to convert sales. This is particularly important when marketing through email and social media channels.

But what about a retailers website? Is it converting sales online?

Almost 70% of baskets are abandoned at the checkout

Basket abandonment is unavoidable for online retailers, with the average number of abandoned shopping baskets sitting at around 65%. Some e-commerce sites may have basket abandon rates as high as 80% or even 85%, but is there anything they can do about it?

Pete Wilmer, Partner at Hawsons, notes: “Online retailers often overlook their basket abandon rates as a matter of course, but there are a number of ways this ongoing strategic challenge can actually be turned into an opportunity.”

“By taking the time to review the design and functionality of a website, understanding the customer journey and the potential frustrations customers experience when trying to complete a purchase, savvy retailers can streamline their checkout process and increase conversions.”

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“The retail industry is more competitive than it has ever been, particularly with the growing prevalence and ease of online trading. Streamlining the online checkout process to reduce the number of baskets being abandoned at the checkout must now be a primary management focus. After all, an abandoned shopping basket is a lost sale; and lost profit.”

What can retailers do to increase online conversions?

“One of the key strategies retailers have looked at to counteract high abandon rates has been to retarget customers that leave by offering discounts to return. For example, a customer that leaves a checkout before purchasing may get a personalised email an hour later with a 10% discount code. They return and the retailer completes the sale, albeit at a lower price.

“Now, this approach works to a point, but it is becoming more about shrewd customers taking advantage of retailers than retailers actually optimising online conversation rates.”

“Other approaches and strategies that retailers can use to optimise online conversions include website (and checkout) responsiveness, delivery costs/flexibility, payment methods and progress indicators…we have listed some more in a checklist below.”

Some key areas to consider

“One of the keys areas that retailers should focus on is ensuring that delivery costs are competitive and delivery options are flexible. Research shows that nearly one third of all basket abandonment is due to delivery costs, so pricing must be competitive.”

“Another key area is the amount of time it takes to complete an online purchase. Only request the essential information and look into using a progress indicator so that the customer understands the checkout process, what they have completed and what’s left to do. Retailers should definitely see this as an opportunity to optimise online conversations whilst also gaining an advantage over the competition.”

Action point checklist for retail websites:

  • Ensure website is responsive on mobiles, tablets and all other devices (does the checkout process work on all devices?)
  • Ensure website is responsive on all browsers
  • Ensure delivery costs are competitive
  • Ensure delivery options are flexible and cover a range of dates/times
  • Ensure there are no unexpected costs added on at the end
  • Ensure there are a range of payment methods available
  • Ensure you provide payment security assurance to give customers the confidence to complete the purchase
  • Use a progress indicator so that customers understand the checkout process
  • Do not make it mandatory for customers to create a new account.
  • Request only important information so that the checkout process is quick and simple

More from our retail experts

You can find all of our latest retail sector news and newsletters here.

If you are looking for advice in a particular area, please get in touch with your usual Hawsons contact.

Alternatively, we offer all new clients a free initial meeting to have a discussion about their own personal circumstances – find out more or book your free initial meeting here. We have offices in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton.

Pete Wilmer partner

Pete Wilmer heads up the firm's Corporate Finance service offering. Having worked in the corporate finance arena for many years with a national accountancy practice and with a major corporate bank, Pete has a wealth of experience and a track record of delivering first-class outcomes for clients. You can contact Pete at [email protected] or 0114 266 7141. [/author_info]