-- Success Story --
Innovative new product development process sets company’s wheels on fire
Back in 2017, Redditch-based Presswork manufacturer, AE Oscroft were dealing with the persistent challenge of being undercut by competitors in the automotive supply chain from ‘low cost’ countries. They were keen to change tack and create a new product in order to boost profits.
Much of their business relied on fulfilling manufacturing orders based on designs provided by other companies further up the automotive supply chain but as an established company with 65-years of experience, they knew that their passion lay in being able to get involved in the product development process from the outset, but they weren’t getting the chance to do this.
The company were hungry for some fresh thinking and so decided to give WMG’s Create, Test and Launch Programme a try. Chris Oscroft, Managing Director of AE Oscroft and Sons Group, who championed product development during the project said:
“WMG helped us to recognise that we had been looking for new products, but we already had one ready and waiting, and we hadn’t really identified it as an opportunity. Not only that, but WMG then helped us to create and follow a product development process.”
WMG’s Create Test and Launch programme supports small firms, so that they can reduce their time to market, minimise investment risks and maximise their chances of success. It’s a series of exploratory collaborative meetings with companies to help them identify opportunities for product development, and giving them a methodology and framework to apply to this and future opportunities.
The programme enabled the AE Oscroft Group to surface a product development opportunity hidden in one of their sub-companies - Weller Wheels based in Stratford. The original steel wheel manufacturer in Europe, Weller Wheels was founded nearly 50-years ago by British engineer Les Weller. Today, the company has become a niche lifestyle brand where British steel is still handcrafted into fully customised wheels.
Chris Oscroft said:
“WMG helped us all to step away from the day-to-day running of both businesses. We know our stuff - engineering and manufacturing, so it was a challenge for some managers to step away from business as usual, but the WMG team members provided the leadership required to encourage them to enter unknown territory.
“The innovation process was a less familiar thing for us but through a series of workshops, away from our business headquarters, our senior leadership teams were shown the value of some new approaches and methodologies.
“Both companies were encouraged to collaborate effectively together. That’s when we realised that we had a fantastic new product.”
AE Oscroft and Weller Wheels saw an opportunity to manufacture three sizes of steel wheel for the T5 and T6 Van Volkswagen (VW) aftersales market and supply them through Weller Wheels.
Alan Lowe Managing Director of Weller Wheels, who has injected new life into the company’s ‘niche’ brand and product positioning in recent years said:
“The new steel wheel looks unique and there isn’t another company in the UK supplying anything like it. VW T5 and T6 van owners can buy steel wheels, but they are produced in the US and they are not ‘load rated’ for the UK van market, in line with insurance requirements.
Alloy wheels are also available here in the UK, but they shatter and crack easily on impact and can destroy your wheels, so there’s a real need for this product.”
“It’s been a really good experience for us to go through as a company. I think we benefitted a lot from it as a team of people across the group and our understanding of each other’s roles and what the business does grew immensely from it.
I think that for a small company, which is family owned, and a company that’s had something like Weller in its portfolio for some time, to better understand what opportunities they have is really great.”
The wheels will be launching in coming months and are due to hit the market as Weller Wheels celebrate their 50th Anniversary this summer. There’s been a lot of interest in the new products on social media and the company is confident that once final safety tests are complete, they will be taking orders.
To find out more about getting your business involved in the Create, Test and Launch programme, contact us