The Development of a Best Practice Framework for the Implementation of Advanced Manufacturing Technologies within Low-Technology-Enabled Small & Medium Enterprises
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In an increasingly challenging business climate, rapid developments in Advanced Manufacturing Technologies (AMTs) such as 3D Computer Aided Design (3D CAD), Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) and Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) create new opportunities for innovative firms to capture market share, and spearhead new directions and trends within their industrial sectors. This exploratory study examines the challenges faced by Low-Technology-Enabled Small & Medium Enterprises (LTESMEs), identifying the characterisations that contribute to poor innovation performance and explaining how these can become manifested as barriers and constraints to technology uptake. A best practice model is developed to enlighten and guide decision makers in the implementation of AMTs - uncovering the underlying principles of successful technology adoption / exploitation, and effective change management. Linkages, such as the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) scheme, are shown to facilitate LTESME access to technology; transferring the pre-requisite knowledge and expertise whilst mitigating the associated risks. A case study, comprising action research by the author, documents the implementation of a 3D CAD/CAM/CAE system in a traditional SME boatbuilding firm via a three-year KTP project. Despite their inherent problems, SMEs are found to be ideally positioned to exploit AMTs, provided they select an appropriate linkage - allowing them to match their needs to specific technological capabilities. This investigation illuminates the subject area, providing a framework for further study, whilst contributing to the growth and sustainability of SMEs.
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