The right fit: Interview with Martin Concannon, Frazer-Nash

Written by: Paul Fanning | Published:
Credit: Kevin Wood

How does a design consultancy make sure it is best suited to meet its clients' needs? Paul Fanning asks Frazer-Nash's Martin Concannon.

The ways in which design consultancies attract business and fit into industry are many and various. What is certain, however, is that there is no one right answer. This is something of which Martin Concannon, business manager for Frazer-Nash's recently-created industry sector is particularly aware.

He says: "The big issue is focus. You have to be very clear about what you want to offer to the various sectors of the industry. You don't want to be offering conventional power generation market the same things as you offer automotive or medical – this isn't a one-size fits all business."

While Frazer-Nash has an illustrious history as a design consultancy, its industry sector is relatively new, taking in such diverse markets as conventional power generation, medical and pharmaceutical, automotive and downstream oil and gas and the chemicals industry.

This diversity, as Concannon admits, has its advantages and disadvantages, saying: "You could argue that it's the sector into which clients fall when they don't fit anywhere else. Some of the other business managers have a much tighter group of clients to focus on.
That works two ways, though. They may only have to focus on a few different companies, but they may also have only a handful of people that they can actually go to because of the nature of that sector. By contrast, when I look at general engineering and manufacturing, I'm potentially looking at tens of thousands of clients and therefore for me it's a question of identifying the main players and attempting to establish dialogue and discussion with them."

The medical and pharmaceutical sectors, he feels, represent a particularly promising area for Frazer-Nash and one in which it has certain advantages. "Medical is very strongly focused on the design work we can do," he says. "In the medical area in particular, there tend to be two broad groups we work with.

There are those who are technically expert in the medical area they work in, but aren't engineers. What we provide is that engineering discipline to what might be a very small team. They know they've got a good idea and they know it will work, but there's a big gap between a prototype in their office and them being able to make hundreds or thousands a year and have a successful business from it. We can bridge that gap."

This type of manufacturing expertise, Concannon believes, helps to differentiate Frazer-Nash from its competitors. He says: "We can do design, but we do design with something extra. There are a lot of companies out there who are very good on how something will look and they can put it together in such a way that it will work, but what we can do is build analysis and reliability into that design. Our understanding of material behaviour under various conditions allows us to build up an accurate picture of reliability and then build up for our clients a complete manufacturing specification. For instance, if a company is going to have the product built abroad, it's extremely important for them to be able to hand over a detailed manufacturing spec so that they will get back from their suppliers exactly what they expected."

Having only been in his role five months, Concannon admits that he is still learning, but is clear about where he wants his sector to be. "The role entails two or three aspects," he says. "One is having a strategy for the industry sector in terms of where it is now and where it's going to be in two or three years' time. It's a very diverse sector with at least six sub sectors within it. It ranges across different sectors, but also across different disciplines…There's plenty of work for us to go at out there."

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