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Graduating to design innovation – the talent of the future

11 July 2018

On 6 July, six students battled it out in the finals of the Design Innovation in Plastics (DIP) Awards sponsored by Covestro and HellermannTyton.

Organised by IOM3 and the Worshipful Company of Horner’s, this long standing student competition has been running since 1985. 

Following the Design Innovation Awards, where cable management specialist HellermannTyton is a sponsor, the company’s Head of Design & Development Steve Blanks explains why it is committed to supporting young design talent.

The talent of the future

My association with DIP is long standing having been a finalist in 1987. A unique aspect of the awards is that all finalists are provided the opportunity of a placement in industry. In my case, this led to a permanent position and my first step on the design career ladder. I’m pleased to say that more recent finalists have benefited in the same way and indeed some are committee members, which helps to keep the competition relevant to the next generation of designers. 

Being associated with the organising committee since 2010 has enabled HellermannTyton to engage with young design talent at an early stage in their development and to promote innovation within the field of plastic product design

One of this year’s finalists, Lewis Brown, will now come to work with our Manchester based development team on a work placement. Sponsoring such a placement provides us with the opportunity to expose students to a different aspect of plastic design. They learn how the latest advances in technology & materials are deployed to produce technically complex solutions in answer to challenging customer requirements. 

This engineering led approach to product development requires a specific and diverse set of skills which are hard to come by within the industry. This has led us to introduce a graduate scheme to grow and strengthen our development team. Our programme is designed to instil the specialist skills and diverse knowledge of plastics required to innovate in our field of expertise. The scheme is wide ranging, encompassing product design, mould design and project management functions.

Graduates who opt to join us on this challenging career path are immediately engaged on live projects from day one as an integral part of the design team. This is underpinned by an extensive training programme to hone their skills and move them on to utilise more advanced CAD software and technologies, ultimately building a career where their original thinking and design experience are making a sizeable impact. 

Crucially, they all arrive with a fresh approach and an enthusiastic attitude, both of which are essential for a role that involves them solving the problems of global OEMs.

Nobody arrives fully formed, of course, so we look for potential and help them to realise it. Those first graduates have become lead designers within five years and their expertise is helping to shape advances in automotive, rail and other high-value manufacturing sectors.

A design first business

We see our growth as being a strategic and consultative partner to OEMs and other industrial businesses. That’s why we’re working to embed a design-first philosophy across every area of the business, and it is the graduates in our design team who are leading this drive. 

A good example is our customer facing staff whose core competency is building relationships and delivering exceptional service. During the early part of this year, they also went through a rigorous technical training programme overseen by the development team. This was put in place to improve knowledge and understanding of the bespoke solutions we offer, so they can help to guide and educate customers in the full extent of what HellermannTyton does. 

Similarly, we’ve restructured our commercial team to emphasise the opportunities in new product development. At every stage of dealing with customers, the key question is: “what’s your problem?” By understanding the challenges they face, our team can create commercially viable solutions.

In the past, our NPD work has sometimes felt like a ‘hidden’ part of the business, but going forwards it’s at the forefront of our conversations with existing customers and new prospects. We want to share this knowledge with our customers and our doors are always open to a conversation. We’ve recently added a new section to our website to ‘meet the UK team’ or you can email with details of your project or problem to bespokesolutions@hellermanntyton.co.uk

The chances are, you’ll speak to one of our design graduates – and who knows? This time next year, it might even be somebody we’ve supported through our sponsorship of the Design Innovation Awards.


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