Hydra Creative makes Prolific North shortlist for manufacturing expertise Sheffield digital agency shortlisted in Prolific North’s inaugural Tech Awards. Claire FletcherCompanies24th April 2019engineeringHydra Creativemanufacturing Sheffield Digital member Hydra Creative has been shortlisted against only one other agency in the north for the ‘Best Application of Tech in Manufacturing’ category of Prolific North’s first ever Tech Awards. The awards are designed to celebrate and reward the very best tech companies across the north and will culminate in an awards ceremony as part of Tech Show North. We caught up with the Hydra Creative team to dig a little deeper into their submission, their work with the manufacturing sector and the research that underpinned their recent Digital Benchmarking report. Congratulations on your award shortlisting! Can you tell us a bit about your submission? This award is for an ongoing project that we have partnered with global engineering giant, William Cook, to produce. William Cook has always strived for excellence in the products they design and produce, and so an effective cloud-based NDT (Non-Destructive Testing) system was the logical next step for them as part of their quality control procedures. Hydra Creative seems to have a real affinity with the engineering and manufacturing sectors. Why is that? We have worked with engineering and manufacturing companies since we formed in 2009, with one of our first ever clients being TATA Steel. Hailing from the Steel City, and with engineering and manufacturing such a prominent growth area for the region as a whole, we have been lucky enough to become the go-to agency for several of these companies who are looking for progressive and innovative ways of growing their business. Whether it’s through digital marketing, video and graphics, or bespoke cloud software solutions and integrated websites and CRM systems. Last year you produced a Digital Benchmarking Report on Engineering and Manufacturing in the Sheffield City Region. What prompted this? Working with a diverse range of engineering and manufacturing companies in the region has really opened our eyes to the unique challenges of these businesses. The last decade has seen the industry pummelled and squeezed by threats such as cheaper imports from overseas, as well as the continuing uncertainty of the UK leaving the EU. As a nation built on industry and engineering, we have some of the world’s best companies based here – with many in the Sheffield City Region. These are incredible companies with decades – if not centuries – of expert knowledge and innovation. The issue is how to survive against the constant threat of cheap imports, whose main selling point is price. However, for many of these UK engineering and manufacturing companies, who have always done business over a handshake, they are missing out on a potentially lucrative global audience, through having a poor online presence. Our report explores the current standards of web presence and digital marketing of over 100 businesses from the Sheffield City Region, discussing where improvements can be made to open up new potential avenues for leads and sales. From your findings, was there anything that really took you by surprise? We suspected that most engineering and manufacturing companies included in the report would have some issues with their digital presence, but we were surprised at how poor the general standards were for websites and GDPR compliance, across the board. A significant number of the websites were over five years old, with little evidence of ongoing maintenance, and a handful actually being over 10 years old. A lot has changed online in the past 12 months, let alone the last five or 10 years, and this will be having a tangible negative impact on enquiries, sales, and overall business visibility and success for these companies who are failing to keep up. In what ways are the engineering and manufacturing industries being innovative in their use of digital technology? The companies that we work with are keen to use digital solutions in all aspects of business. From NDT solutions that improve quality and support advancement, to secure cloud-based CRM and intranet systems that allow companies with several sites (whether in the UK or abroad) to operate as smoothly as though every employee worked in the same room. Digital technology offers flexibility and support for ongoing innovation in companies that have traditionally relied on paper and calculators. It enables a product that has been honed and perfected over 150 years in Sheffield to be found online by someone halfway around the world, purchased and shipped to them, all without unnecessary admin. The possibilities and opportunities this opens up for companies is very exciting. Did you discover any common areas of weakness through your research, and if so, what are the risks to businesses who don’t develop these areas of digital technology? A common area of weakness, that most of the companies included in our report were suffering from, was a lack of ongoing website maintenance evidenced. Whether it was not having an SSL certificate properly implemented, having a site that wasn’t responsive, or one that had lots of toxic backlinks that hadn’t been disavowed, failing to properly maintain a website as an ongoing concern can lead to all sorts of problems. This can ultimately cause a website to disappear from the search engines altogether, rendering a company invisible online. How do you feel the engineering and manufacturing industries compare in their use of digital technology, compared to other sectors? The engineering and manufacturing industries in the UK are innovative, creative experts who are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible through R&D. They produce unique products, supplying governments, infrastructure and global brands with high quality goods, designed and manufactured in the UK. Most of these companies are comfortable using digital technology within internal processes and product development. However, they often lag behind other industries when it comes to effectively promoting these capabilities to the outside world through digital means. What’s next for Hydra Creative? Any big projects on the horizon you can tell us about? We have just moved into our new premises, after four months of hands-on renovations, and so now we can focus on our growth plans, as well as being able to offer better facilities when clients come to work with us. We’ve got a couple of significant digital technology projects currently underway, that we can’t talk about because they’re both under NDA, along with the usual monthly mix of bespoke websites, video projects, graphics and digital marketing to be getting on with. Stay up to date with Hydra Creative Winners will be announced at the Prolific North Tech Awards ceremony on 8 May 2019 in Manchester. You can stay up to date with Hydra Creative on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and find out more about the company on its website. Good luck to the team at Hydra Creative, we are keeping everything crossed for a win on the night!