Venturefest Blog Series: Part 1 – Innovation drives long-term business success

Marcus Burton, Director at Yamazaki Mazak, gave the first keynote address of VenturefestWM 2018 – ‘Innovation Drives Long Term Success’, highlighting how innovation underpins the success of this 100 year old business, and outlining the future for manufacturing in the current digital revolution. 

On the 27th September 2018, Venturefest West Midlands attracted over 300 innovators, entrepreneurs and investors to listen, learn, discuss, exhibit, network and pitch. This is the first in a series of blog posts that will share these fascinating insights from some of the leading figures in the West Midlands’ innovation ecosystem.


The opening keynote address from Marcus Burton, Director at Yamazaki Mazak, told the story and looked to the future of this 100 year old, constantly innovating machine tooling business, with its European Technology Centre here in the West Midlands.  The growth of this family business to a company supplying sectors from automotive to medical technologies, with 11 plants, over 8,000 staff and a turnover of $2.6bn, was driven for so many years by the passion and vision of Teruyuki Yamazaki.

Marcus laid out what he considered the key ingredients of Yamazaki Mazak’s success:

  • Marketing must come first – engage with and fully understand your market and seek out the demands that are being ignored. Mazak has kept to the market it knows well, but has constantly innovated in order to serve that market as it evolves.
  • Innovation in manufacturing systems, not just products, can lead to increased productivity. Mazak has both changed its own production processes, but has ‘read the market’ and introduced machines born out of the technology revolution, such as multi-tasking machines and cyber-factory/ flexible automation systems.
  • Business is cyclical and Mazak has a no-debt philosophy, so it saves in the good times for the bad times.
  • Constant investment in people, skills and technology are needed in order to maintain a culture and practice of innovation


Having constantly adapted to changes in manufacturing ethos, with ‘spaghetti workflows’ being replaced by greater efficiency (including ‘just in time’) in the 1980s and the growth of global trade and technological revolution in the 1990s, Mazak is again embracing the current digital revolution in manufacturing.  The future for manufacturing will include:

  • Robotics and automated systems
  • Additive manufacturing
  • Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)
  • Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and data analytics
  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)

Such is the extent of change in manufacturing it is being called the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) or Industry 4.0.  The recent ‘Made Smarter’ review estimates that, in just over 10 years, industrial digitalisation could boost UK manufacturing by £455bn, increasing sector growth up to 3% per year, and creating a net gain of 175,000 jobs whilst reducing CO2 emissions by 4.5%.  The review recommends a joint focus on innovation, adoption and leadership in order to fully capitalise, with an expected Industrial Strategy sector deal around this theme.


Progress in 4IR will be further enhanced by 5G connectivity. Given that the West Midlands is the lead UK region in demonstrating 5G technology, there are huge business opportunities for West Midlands manufacturers and digital business alike to be seized.  Yamazaki Mazak will be there at the forefront – will your business?

(Author: Pam Waddell, Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands)