For his first blog of 2018, Teddington MD James Henderson looks ahead at what the next 12 months could have in store.

Generally, in business, we face many challenges, but the one that keeps many people up at night is ‘uncertainty’. You can’t plan for what you don’t know, and 2017 - despite ending very strongly - showed us that best laid plans can be easily undone. Business must be better at embracing the unexpected.

It used to be the case of plan for the worst, hope for the best. I think success going forward will mean setting your business up to be responsive and proactive so that you can deliver both.

Personally, we see innovation and engineering needs in the UK remaining both strong and enthusiastic. We have had more enquiries for our development and system integration services than ever before and it’s proving to be an exciting time for the industry.

Technology continues to leap forward at a surprising pace, a pace set by the ongoing desire for smart and connected products. Our IRISmodular development platform seems to have hit the nail on the head in helping our customers toward these needs and 2018 will see quite a few new and exciting systems being launched.

Speaking with colleagues, competitors and peers, it would seem I’m not alone in this opinion and we are set for a 2018 which embraces smart technologies more and more in both domestic and commercial environments.

However, the familiar story in UK manufacturing, unfortunately, remains largely the same. Maintaining manufacturing in the UK in a cost-effective manner, particularly for the older products that are not automatable, is a real challenge. This is not at all unique and the ongoing battle of cost control remains. 2018 will be no different. That said, we took some decisive steps in 2017 to assist with this challenge and we look forward to reaping the benefits from these changes in due course.

I think there are two types of cliché. One that is a phrase that is simply over-used and adds no value and no conscious thought, and another that is over-used to the extent that becomes truly relevant again. In this case I feel the need to use the latter.

“We must work closely with our customers in a true partnership.”

The recession in 2008 forever changed how companies work together. Companies do not carry stock to any kind of levels they used to, consumer lead times have reduced, development projects are more complex and traditional sales and marketing channels are reduced in their effectiveness.

I do not think that this is a bad news story. Quite the contrary, it is forcing the entire supply chain to work together and genuinely share their capabilities for the best possible outcomes for all parties. I think those businesses that remain isolationist will be in trouble and ultimately fail.

A final point I would like to bring up concerns overseas trade.

We are definitely seeing an increase in enquiries from overseas companies and government organisations. I would also say the support from the DIT has been excellent and they are very well set up to help with these projects.

In this vein, we are very much looking forward to working in the Middle East and particularly with Oman, where we have appointed our first agents for the region.

Concentrating on complex platform system integration projects and development of electronic control systems, we think this next generation of military control panels will pave the way for Teddington’s future.

Happy New Year.