Kieron Salter, managing director of high performance engineering solutions provider KWSP, believes the adoption of motorsport’s ‘can do’ attitude could provide a valuable lesson to other SMEs.
In motorsport, three elements are essential – a drive to push the boundaries of technology, a culture of continuous improvement and a ‘can do’ attitude. Known by many as the ‘motorsport mantra’, this mind-set has delivered countless championships, streamlined efficiencies and brought ground-breaking innovation from the race circuit to the road. From kinetic energy recovery systems (KERS) and engine downsizing, to revolutionary materials development and the use of battery technology, the future of automotive development starts firmly on the track.
But what can other industries learn from such a unique culture that is so vibrant here in the UK? The business I founded five years ago was born from my formative years in the dynamic world of motorsport. Working with some of the biggest names in F1, World Rally Championships and World Endurance Championships, taught me invaluable life lessons about the role of innovation, quality and the sheer determination to win. And that ethos is what has driven KWSP.
In less than five years, the business has reached a turnover of more than £2m, and now employs a team of 20-plus engineers at its headquarters in Brackley, Northamptonshire. Working with businesses including F1 teams, performance bike manufacturers, and the English Institute of Sport, we specialise in solving engineering problems. This has spread to the manufacturing landscape. Recent projects include the design and manufacture of a lightweight inkjet printer that allows one-off patterns to be printed at low cost; a sophisticated control solution for a unique Braille print machine; the design of the UK’s first elite-level wind tunnel specifically for both professional and amateur cyclists; and the 3D printing of an engine cover for a classic Alfa Romeo racing car.
Referring back to the motorsport mantra, I think three key elements have helped to create KWSP’s nascent success – our adoption of emerging technologies; our broad range of skilled engineers; and our positive attitude.
In terms of technology, KWSP is a bit like an ideas factory. In one corner, you might see a group of engineers developing a lightweight structure, while in the other you’d see a team considering the alternative control systems for a complex industrial machine. At our heart, we’re all about problem solving and transference of ideas between sectors.
We take an agnostic approach to problem solving and are not shackled by an understanding of one technology. An approach that worked in a motorsport project might just as easily be used to deliver an industrial machine.
When it comes to people, diversity is the key to our success. Hence, we’ve taken a global view when addressing the challenge of the skills shortage. Last month, our head of operations spent a day Skyping engineers from India, Croatia, Australia and Hungary, all highly qualified people eager to further their careers within a vibrant, supportive environment. Top level engineering is a global village, and we’re adept at seeking out qualified, likeminded individuals who may want to join the KWSP team.
Finally, the ‘can do’ culture which we’ve adopted from motorsport is one of KWSP’s cornerstones to success. A high proportion of our team have come from motorsport and understand the non-negotiable nature of deadlines. If a race takes place on Saturday, and the car’s not ready by then, you’ve lost. We get that, and approach all of our projects with that mindset.
OK, it does sometimes mean that we burn the candle at both ends to ensure we deliver on our promises, but the teamwork, support and satisfaction in being part of something special makes it all worthwhile.