Current Issues

Regular Industry Development Updates, Opinions and Talking Points relating to Manufacturing, the Supply Chain and Logistics.

The UK’s Productivity Puzzle: How Updating Technology Can Bolster Manufacturing Output

09-Feb-2018
The UK’s Productivity Puzzle: How Updating Technology Can Bolster Manufacturing Output
At the tail end of last year the future for manufacturing seemed pretty bleak with reports of output growth over the past five years averaging only 0.2%, and UK productivity trailing behind our European contemporaries. However, fast forward to January and the most recent UK Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), gives us reason to be optimistic, finding that UK manufacturing output is expanding at its fastest rate since early 2008.

One way the industry can now maintain this momentum, from merely an upsurge into long-term, sustained growth, could be affected by how businesses approach their technological processes. What, therefore, can manufacturers do to sustain this surge in productivity and keep increasing their levels of output?

The Government recently announced significant investment in industry-transforming technology, making the next 12 months an exciting, and potentially transformative, time for manufacturers. In his Autumn Budget speech, The Chancellor cited investment in infrastructure, skills and research and development as key to recovering productivity growth. This has reiterated the importance of technological investment to support productivity issues in manufacturing.

This commitment to technology funding has signalled a new dawn for manufacturers. With £75m being dedicated towards artificial intelligence and £76m towards boosting digital and construction skills, the necessary pieces are being put into place to address Britain’s productivity puzzle.

What is clear from these pledges is the recognition that technological investment is a necessary ingredient to propel innovation forward in Britain. Off the back of the Autumn Budget, industries like manufacturing have been given the ‘green-light’ to be more proactive in pursuing the technology that will transform businesses and enable long-term growth. This new approach to facilitating the adoption of transformative technology will enable those who are bullish in embracing innovation, to reap its rewards.

In fact, a recent study from Epicor Software found almost one-in-four (23%) UK companies that experienced very high growth in the last 12 months believe technology has had a positive impact on their business. Firms who refuse to update their production systems with better technology therefore, often do so to their detriment.

During the instability of recent times, many manufacturers have taken the route of being cautious and avoided large investments in capital spending. However, investment in digital transformation among manufacturers is likely to be the key that will boost productivity, allowing workers to adopt new processes and become more efficient. Overlooking the impact that outdated legacy systems have on productivity in manufacturing, would be ignoring a key element of the productivity puzzle. Instead, manufacturers should focus on updating production systems and using technology to gain advantage amongst their competitors.

Embracing the Internet of Things (IoT) is one such example that manufacturers should be keen to explore. Increasing connectivity between machines, computers and humans will promote efficiency levels. The potential for digital systems to improve productivity is vast, creating a more dynamic factory workforce that will move more seamlessly in unison. This motion, fuelled by the constant guidance of smart products, can be a critical component to optimising production. Having such systems in place enables internal teams to identify where operational inefficiencies originate and allows senior management to develop strategies to meet their Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) standard. For instance, Southco, manufacturer of fasteners and latches for access, which is currently operating at 75% OEE (10% short of world-class standard) is just one business that reports it has seen a noticeable improvement since implementing the Mattec Manufacturing Execution System (MES).

The concept of digital twinning has also gained momentum in recent years as more manufacturers invest in smart machines that are transforming the industrial landscape. Defined as the mapping of a physical asset to a digital platform, digital twinning is enabling manufacturers to gather data from sensors on their machines to find out how they are performing, in real-time. Providing the manufacturer with valuable insight to improve production processes and the final product.

The use of robotics is already a priority for many manufacturers. From welding to assembly machines, factory floors are beginning to see effective and thorough applications of robotics in the production process. Freeing up employees to focus on more difficult tasks and providing them with the opportunity to upskill.

Augmented reality is another technological development that many manufacturers are implementing and reaping the rewards from. More than just creating illuminating experiences for employees to engage with their workloads, this technology allows for far greater accuracy when conducting complex tasks. Not only will it optimise production levels, but it also offers a level of precision that can be very effective in manufacturing.

Manufacturers may also be looking to blockchain in the near future to further enhance their business’s productivity. Whilst this technology is currently most commonly associated with cryptocurrencies, blockchain could be hugely beneficial in enabling manufacturers to oversee their entire supply chains in the future, as these online ledgers provide the opportunity for those at all levels of production to input data where problems may have occurred. In doing so, employees at all levels can access data to trace where the incident originated from. This can greatly enhance efficiency, as employees need not comb through paperwork trails, but will instead have instant access to information, freeing up their valuable time.

Whilst some of these technologies may not be relevant to all manufacturers right now, having sophisticated enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution software (MES) technology to assist production, automate processes, assist with resourcing and provide one source of data for all users, will provide great dividends to manufacturers across the board. Enabling businesses to be more agile to today’s business climate. Providing them with the technology to re-visit and revise strategies to thrive, whether that’s solely in the UK or with plans for growth internationally.

Fundamentally, we have every reason to be optimistic as we enter 2018, Britain’s manufacturing sector has not been as buoyant since April 2008 and we are in the midst of our strongest run of growth since 1997. However, to maintain these advances and continue to enjoy a period of growth, investment in technology will be essential.

App Insights: How can artificial intelligence innovate supply chain management?
1 week ago
Managing Technological Change Without any Supply Chain Disruption
1 week ago
Moody’s Blues for House of Fraser; but Website Failings are Just as Damaging
1 week ago
Artificial Intelligence: What’s Now And Next In IoT-driven Supply Chain Innovation
1 week ago
Indiana Jones and the supply chain bullwhip effect
1 week ago
How Enterprise Labeling Helps You Conquer Regulatory Challenges
2 weeks ago
3 Tips for Empowering Millennial Warehouse Workers
2 weeks ago
More robots means easier delivery - but what about the infrastructure?
2 weeks ago
Safety in the warehouse: Five key risk areas for 360-degree protection
2 weeks ago
Automotive resilience, not just airbags and crash tests, but IT too
2 weeks ago
New High Street panel is facing a race against a terminal diagnosis
3 weeks ago
Delivering the supply chain revolution
3 weeks ago
A market of one: the potential of the personalized supply chain
3 weeks ago
5 EIS rules you are probably not aware of
3 weeks ago
TMS: an enterprise priority
1 month ago
Labeling Solutions for Global Expansion
1 month ago
Prime Day will be a $1.6bn loss-leader creating millions more Prime members, says e-commerce expert
1 month ago
Say what? The new possibilities of voice and machine driven retail
1 month ago
‘Peak faith’ in the cloud only 12-18 months away with slump to follow, warns 6point6 Cloud Gateway
1 month ago
As you were for UK manufacturing sector, but new business growth at three month high
1 month ago
Back to IoT basics: Automating outcomes to improve customer experience
1 month ago
Investigation of the "Fast Fashion" impact
1 month ago
Redefining Rental for Materials Handling Equipment
1 month ago
With the Intelligent Enterprise, SAP Creates “A Completely Different Kind of Flexibility”
1 month ago
The supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link
1 month ago
How to Streamline Labeling in the Pharma Space
1 month ago
‘A revolution happened in the way we buy services last week – and no one has noticed!’
1 month ago
Hot Topics at GS1 Connect? Labeling, Blockchain and More
1 month ago
Retailers must Embrace Change
1 month ago
Labeling Solutions That Bridge Islands of Data
2 months ago
My Journey to the World’s Most Important Gathering of Supply Chain Leaders
2 months ago
Workforce of the Future
2 months ago
Securing your supply chain against political uncertainty
2 months ago
On-demand warehousing could help retailers score big this summer
2 months ago
Half of organisations set for major procurement and supply chain AI investment within two years
2 months ago
Brexit, the weather & online shopping: How Britain’s favourite conversations are shaping supply chains
2 months ago
The Road to Regulatory Compliance for Your Supply Chain Labeling
2 months ago
The War on Packaging
2 months ago
Five data dramas that keep your CIO awake at night
2 months ago
As sales fall new report finds many department stores’ websites suffer from clunky integration and poor delive
2 months ago
Got Your Surfboards Ready to Master the Wave of Digitalization?
2 months ago
TrustArc to Offer IAPP Privacy Core® GDPR Training to Address Compliance Requirements
2 months ago
The Market has never been Stronger for Horizontal and Vertical API Platforms
2 months ago
Selecting the best Transport Management System - One of the most important logistics decisions you’ll make
2 months ago
“Digital Transformation” and Supply Chain Planning
2 months ago
Coolest Advice for Making Blockbuster IoT Devices?
2 months ago
The Fall of ‘Made in China’
2 months ago
How can artificial intelligence help the food industry?
3 months ago
Streamlining Operations With Waveless Picking
3 months ago