Tell us a bit about your business: when were you founded, where are you based and how many people do you employ?
Starting out as contractors, Rob Ferrone joined forces with Adam Grant to launch Quick Release (QR_) in 2003. Rob describes them as ‘two Excel types who saw a gap in the market and wanted to create a fun company of like-minded data geeks’. Recognising their strengths were in delivering results for clients rather than governance and business development, Adam Blomerley was brought on board as CEO and set about transforming QR_ from a provider of day-rate change management heads to a specialist product data management (PDM) consultancy.
QR_ now employ more than 250 PDM professionals, split between the UK, USA, Germany, Spain and Australia. Ford has been a cornerstone client, with rolling projects in their Dunton development facility in Essex, global headquarters in Detroit, and Ford-Werke in Cologne, where Rob Ferrone and Adam Grant now live. Most growth has been through ex-Ford engineers introducing QR_ to their new employers. This has brought geographic and sectoral diversity, with a Warwick office servicing Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin and a host of EV and specialist Tier 1s. Similarly, a Woking office serves several high-performance and defence manufacturers. The US business is heavily involved with EV challenger marques, while the Australian roster includes some big names in rail.
Recent developments have seen deeper involvement with aerospace technologists and the establishment of offices in Valencia and Madrid to service Tier 1s, in addition to Munich in support of BMW projects.
What does the business do?
PDM can be thought of as the digital plumbing for vehicle development programmes; the pipework that contains and guides data (systems and people), and the flow of the data itself through the pipework (data quality and processes).
We ensure that design from computer-aided design (CAD) programmes accurately reflects the end product engineers want to make. What you are doing is avoiding the compounding of errors.
So, for example, if a weight characteristic is wrong for component A, another team designing component B which interacts with A may be designing to different tolerances. This could add cost or weight, so when it all comes together as a prototype you may need to substantially revise component and tooling design, with knock-ons through the supply chain.
We enable companies, by using PDM, to build something in the most efficient way possible: it’s the middle stage between design and physical product, and it’s about making sure you don’t have to go back and re-work or re-order because you are only finding out mistakes when you start assembling components in their physical form.
Simply, it means you can identify and rectify errors on screen rather than once you’ve committed time and money to tooling and assembly.
One high-profile success was reducing prototype build costs by 20 per cent for a global Light Commercial Vehicle prototype programme.
The key factor throughout is people, not technology. QR_ are system-agnostic, placing an emphasis on working unobtrusively with what they find, and focusing on generating immediate results now.
How is business? What is the outlook for the year ahead?
Covid-19 aside, mostly positive. The last 12 months saw strong growth of around 25 per cent. Enhanced geographical and sectoral diversification also provided some risk mitigation through a deeper and broader client base. However, ever stronger cost pressure and more rigid procurement processes made themselves felt. Our main clients are automotive manufacturers and suppliers in the UK, Germany and USA. Visa challenges in the US have been a temporary drag on growth in a high-potential market but should be offset by greater local recruitment and changes around operating structure by the end of 2020.
What are the big issues or technological advances that fill you with positivity?
There’s been real shift in the tone of conference presentations over the last year, with even traditionally very systems-centric advocates recognising people are the key to unlocking data challenges in vehicle development programmes. This has long been the QR_ mantra and we welcome its wider embrace!
Beyond this, there’s a lot of digital thread challenges around the corner regarding whole-supply chain component traceability and change management requirements that we look forward to grappling with.
Quick Release, Associate Director, Paul Crabtree