Martin Starkey, Managing Director for Ricardo Performance Products, explores the production challenges of bringing new technologies and products to market

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, widely known as Industry 4.0, is firmly upon us, and is largely being driven by digital technology. The technologies which will continue to be significant contributors to the Fourth Industrial Revolution are: robotics, AI, nanotech, quantum computing, biotech, IOT, wireless tech, 3D printing and fully autonomous vehicles.

Advanced digitisation is now common across the manufacturing sector; technology deployed in factories is increasingly complex and widely connected; and the products being made typically include a significantly greater range of electronic systems.

When it comes to successfully, effectively and efficiently industrialising innovation, the application of a proven and well-tested production methodology can help minimise investment

Considering the developing technologies, digitisation in factories, and the products themselves, there are common themes emerging that will impact upon both product design and manufacturing: the high levels of complexity – driven in part by a significant growth in architecture solutions –  and heavy reliance on the integration of multiple systems. For example, current passenger cars can have as many as 150 electronic control units – programmable computing elements – and hundreds of millions of lines of software code.

This revolution is taking place in a range of market sectors, from automotive to industrial power generation with any companies producing highly complex systems seeing a need to integrate new technologies in their manufacturing environment.

Image: Ricardo

As an example, the automotive industry is seeing a significant shift in the range of companies producing products in all areas, from components through to OEMs; traditional car makers are being joined by start-ups and new entrants in all corners of the car-producing world. The technology these companies bring is typically cutting edge, rapidly evolving and innovative, aligned with the industry megatrends of connected, automated, shared and electrified mobility. This revolution in the automotive sector is aligned with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the way the wider manufacturing sector is evolving.

Most companies bringing a ‘new’ product to the market have a significant focus on the ‘problem they are trying to solve’ with key skills being deployed to develop the technology ‘at all costs,’ often with a reduced focus on the manufacturing techniques required to progress an innovative concept from the drawing board to the factory.

Traditional mass production ramp up methods are not typically aligned with the agile, rapid development innovative new entrants apply – these companies are more aligned with the consumer electronics industry and its rapid software development process and short product life cycles.  The investment to industrialise a new product is potentially significant and requires a high level of planning and application of process, often leading to new entrants struggling to transition from the low volume prototype phases to the higher volume seen as products become successful, an all too common occurrence is to see a start-up fail at the point of growth.

When it comes to successfully, effectively and efficiently industrialising innovation, the application of a proven and well-tested production methodology can help minimise investment as a product evolves from prototype to higher volume production through a number of well understood steps.

With new technology and increased complexity come opportunities for an engineering consultancy and niche volume manufacturing specialist like Ricardo to provide balanced and trusted technical guidance on how to manage or reduce complexity, and understand, select and integrate the best technology solutions for a product and a brand, irrespective of market sector. Why Ricardo you might ask? For the last 30 years Ricardo has been at the forefront of bringing niche volume products to market. These have included Le Mans winning transmissions, engines for some of the world’s fastest cars and complete military vehicles. Through these projects, and many more, Ricardo has developed a refined a broad range of delivery tools.

Perhaps the most important area in which Ricardo works with new entrants is to enable them to succeed in the crucial first step in production ramp up: the transition from prototype to niche volume. This phase of production, which comes before mass production at high volume, is a potentially very challenging area to operate in and for some companies the only volume they will produce.  There is a high potential at this point to negatively impact cashflow and incur significant ongoing costs.

To reduce the risks associated with an accelerated new product introduction process, strength and skills in manufacturing engineering are essential. These skills become of greater importance when the product is of high value or complexity and is being produced in niche volumes.

To ensure risks are managed, four key skill areas are important:

  • Process control
  • Design for assembly
  • Quality
  • Supply chain management

My Ricardo colleagues will be discussing this approach, their experience and expertise and some market specific considerations in articles on during the course of this week.

As engineers we are living through unprecedented changes and challenges as we seek to develop the diverse range of technologies to create a world fit for the future.  With challenge comes opportunity, and helping start-ups and new entrants successfully introduce game-changing technologies through intelligent solutions and manufacturing engineering expertise is our motivation and vision at Ricardo.  By successfully industrialising innovation, we have the opportunity to nurture new products which will effect environmental change and improve the quality of life for the next generation.

To find out how Ricardo expertise in industrialisation can be applied to your products, visit: or contact us:



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