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Future Industrial Model for SMEs

Periodic Report Summary - FUTURESME (Future industrial model for SMEs)

Main results achieved so far
FutureSME has conducted a wide range of research into the needs of SME and management philosophies that impact the target sector. The needs of SMEs have been categorised under six priority areas: strategy, products and innovation, people, processes, customers and the external environment. The research formed the basis for developing a FUTURESME capability model (business model) and a project architecture. The capability model underpins the architecture. The capability model identifies four areas of capability an organisation requires (strategic, operational, managerial and adaptive). Adaptive capability is the ultimate capability (the others being pre-requisites) to ensure long-term sustainability.

Transforming an SME into an adaptive enterprise is achieved through the FUTURESME architecture. The architecture consists of four elements:
1. A delivery mechanism which consists of a web portal. The portal has a public front end for attracting users and an end-user environment to manage their transformation.
2. A business diagnostic which assesses the SME in the four capability areas and recommends an implementation plan.
3. A support environment where end-users can access a wide range of resources to facilitate implementation. Resources include learning materials, tools, methodologies, templates, etc.
4. A capability development program designed to embed the capability model in the organisation through a structured programme which can ultimately lead to accreditation.

The end-user portal is designed to be flexible and adapt to changes in end-user needs. This will be realised through the use of widgets. End-users select and display relevant widgets in their personalised dashboard. Widgets represent different functionality. Initial sets of widgets to be developed include one for the business diagnostic, the applications store, a collaboration space, a remote consulting resource. As user needs and technology change, widgets may be added or removed.

The business diagnostic has been implemented in an initial format with some end-user partners. An online self assessment version is under development. The online version will be accessed through the business diagnostic widget. The capability model will continue to evolve in line with the diagnostic.

Within the support environment, a selection of initial content is being developed. This includes lean materials, a life-cycle tool set, six sigma for SME's, strategy and horizon scanning methodologies, process simulation, collaboration tool and leadership training. A process for developing content has been developed and is being piloted to ensure consistency in content development. The business diagnostic points the end-user to content required. Content can be accessed through the application store widget.

The capability development programme curriculum has been developed. The programme will be piloted in Scotland, delivered by Strathclyde University. A modified architecture for schools has also been proposed and will be piloted in September. Dissemination and exploitation planning is also underway.

Expected final results

The expected final results for the project will be a methodology for organisations to develop their adaptive capability. The tools, techniques and delivery platform developed in FUTURESME will provide the vehicle to achieve this.

Potential impact and use

The number of European manufacturing businesses (classified as NACE D3) is around 2.5 million, of which 99 % are SMEs. The potential impact of FUTURESME methodology is extensive, however, in order for SMEs to embrace FUTURESME there has to be a driver or a perceived need within their organisation and the methodology also needs to have a proven track record to meet these needs. The challenge for FUTURESME as it develops its methodology is to address these two items.