HIGHLY COMMENDED: Baxall
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Of all 2002's success stories, none has more inspirational lessons than Stockport's Baxall, maker of the ubiquitous closed-circuit TV cameras that watch over our airports, shopping centres and high streets.
CCTV cameras are complex devices combining optics, electronics and sophisticated interfaces to other systems, including, increasingly, internet protocol-based networks. None of these is a domain in which the UK has a strong record. And the competition is some of the most daunting in the world - on the one hand, big-name Japanese producers such as Panasonic and JVC; on the other, no-name, low-cost Taiwanese commodity manufacturers.
Yet between these twin pincers, Baxall maintains a strong position as the only volume producer outside the Far East, actually increasing market share. It sells both under its own name and to 'a Who's Who of CCTV brands', says managing director Dominic Oughton, while half of Baxall's production is exported.
'Manufacturing excellence is core to our differentiation in the marketplace,' adds Oughton - in the shape of customer-focused partnerships allied to strong bespoke product capability, innovative design supporting flexible manufacture, deep technical back-up and excellent product quality. An enthusiastic staff and egalitarian culture are powerful enablers. Over the years, Baxall has raised output from 3,000 to 15,000 cameras in 300 different variants from the same manufacturing space, while developing a stream of new products. It prides itself on speed to market and invests an industry-leading 10% of turnover on R&D.
Baxall still builds for stock rather than to order, which puts a premium on planning and restricts the amount of stock that can be eliminated.
But improvement teams have steadily reduced lead times, slashed errors, improved build methodologies and accelerated changeovers - crucial where new products are introduced at the rate of several a month.
All Baxall's integrated capabilities will be tested as it negotiates the next development - from analogue to digital, and from coaxially wired systems to networks of cameras linked over the internet. A sign of things to come is a 700-camera security set-up at Brussels airport that plugs into the local area network, enabling PCs to monitor images from any camera on the network. Baxall's infant networks business has absorbed heavy development spending and is now about to break even: another Stockport star in the making, promises Oughton. l
- Lansing Linde Ltd Manufacturing Innovation Sponsorship. The Linde group, of which Lansing Linde is a member, has grown to become the world leader in materials handling, not least because of its policy of investment in product research and development, coupled with leading-edge innovation - the motive power of progress. Lansing Linde is therefore delighted to sponsor this innovation award for like-minded companies that share the philosophy of never being satisfied and always seeking ways to extend the boundaries.