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Digital Innovation Partnership With Historic Manufacturer

Experts from Birmingham City University's School of Jewellery are set to work with the oldest and one of the most prestigious manufacturers in the Jewellery Quarter in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership which will explore how digital innovation can help it compete in a global marketplace.
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Digital Innovation Partnership With Historic Manufacturer

Experts from Birmingham City University's School of Jewellery are set to work with the oldest and one of the most prestigious manufacturers in the Jewellery Quarter in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership which will explore how digital innovation can help it compete in a global marketplace.
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Experts from the University’s School of Jewellery have embarked on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) to help bring about the digital transformation of Firmin and Sons – a traditional manufacturer of buttons, badges, medals, regalia and ceremonial armour, based in the Jewellery Quarter.

The company’s USP is based on its UK manufacture and heritage, but it has ambitions to wed modern digital technologies to its traditional artisan craft skills, to streamline the design to manufacture process while maintaining their traditional craft skills and quality standards. By leveraging computer-aided design (CAD) and digital manufacturing technologies, the aim is to get products to customers in days, rather than months.

How are BCU Academics supporting?

BA (Hons) International Jewellery Business Course Director Kate Thorley and Senior Lecturer and Centre Manager Frank Cooper are the academic team offering the company the benefit of their research and teaching expertise, as well as their experience of supervising several successful KTPs in the past. Kate and Frank’s working relationship, forged over 17 years, contributes to helping to shape the knowledge exchange between the jewellery and allied metal industries and academic research.

Kate Thorley said:The aim is to reduce the time taken to bring new products to market or meet client expectations on acceptable lead times for new or redesigned products. This provides opportunities for academics and their future students to learn about alternative production methods, gain valuable experiences and be exposed to business models of working with bespoke customers.”

The two-year project will include a School of Jewellery alumnus (KTP Associate) who will work in collaboration with academics from BCU to apply knowledge and technical innovation to the company’s processes.

Who are Firmin and Sons?

Firmin and Sons holds two Royal Warrants of Appointment and is one of, if not the, oldest manufacturing company in the UK, founded in 1655 and in continuous operation as a manufacturer ever since. They are one of the last surviving armour makers, manufacturing ceremonial armour for the Household Division that can be seen at events such as Trooping of the Colour.

Success in digitally transforming the company’s processes will enable it to better compete both in the UK and globally, particularly in those sectors with short lead times. One of the project aims is to get indicative prototypes to a customer within days of a design discussion.

With so much of the Company’s products currently hand-crafted, digital innovations such as CAD and 3D printing technology may provide options for part or whole manufacture, allowing the company’s skilled craftsmen to be focused where their skills are most valuable.

Group CEO Paul Spafford FRSA said: “This KTP will enable the company to bring in new skills and the latest academic thinking to deliver a specific, strategic innovation project in a very traditional business through a knowledge-based partnership with BCU School of Jewellery.  The innovation in this project is in the marriage of traditional craftsmanship to the latest technology.”

Find out more about KTPs

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a UK-wide programme that has been helping businesses for the past 40 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base.

Interested in digital innovation? Find out more about Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and how your business can benefit from engaging with our KTP team and Birmingham City University academic expertise.

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