Digital Transformation • June 7, 2022

3 Ways Digital Systems Can Boost Manufacturing Productivity

As the UK emerges from the pandemic, there has never been a more important time to relinquish paper-based systems and spreadsheets and leverage the power of digital technologies to gain a productivity advantage in manufacturing.

Our new Digital Manufacturing Productivity report, supported by the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), reveals that 94% of highly engineered industrial UK manufacturers believe a lack of digital investment has caused UK manufacturing to fall behind the US. In fact, legacy systems were called out as being a bigger productivity blocker than Brexit, resulting in a significant loss in sales for more than half of respondents.

Manufacturing accounts for 18% of UK GDP, and with UK manufacturers involved in some of the most complex nuclear and space initiatives in the world, it’s alarming to think that state-of-the art projects are potentially being run by spreadsheets. A staggering 95% of manufacturers are still using paper-based processes, while 50% use manual spreadsheets for the majority of processes.

With digitisation as the foundation for future competitiveness, our report is “a wake-up call for all of us who want to see the UK manufacturing sector thrive in the years to come,” says Dr. Clive Hickman OBE, FREng, Chief Executive of the Manufacturing Technology Centre.

While the UK has some catching up to do, companies all around the world have been sluggish to adopt new technologies. For organisations ready to act now, here are three ways investing in digital systems can boost UK manufacturing productivity: 

1. Speeding up manufacturing 

A lack of digital maturity is slowing manufacturers down. Of the companies we surveyed that have implemented Industry 4.0 and smart factory technologies in response to the pandemic and social distancing rules, more than two-thirds (68%) said this made them more productive, and more than half (51%) said it made their business more agile.

2. Reducing costly mistakes 

The wrong tools for the job at best cause inefficiencies and lead to mistakes, at worst, can result in failed projects and leaders losing their jobs. It’s almost ten years since spreadsheet errors contributed to JP Morgan Chase losing $6 billion in the London Whale incident. In the manufacturing industry, this lack of digital maturity risks causes equally damaging outcomes.

3. Attracting the next generation of talent 

There is a consensus that it’s getting harder to attract people to work in UK manufacturing. Our report found that outdated technology is one of the top reasons for people exiting the industry. Not only will a lack of investment in digital systems damage short-term productivity, but the impact on talent pipelines and future leaders will also be to the detriment of future innovation and competitive advantage.

Even when the benefits of increased efficiency, productivity, and performance are compelling, change might seem daunting. However, manufacturers who are willing to adopt an innovative mindset and work with the specialist Manufacturing Execution Systems the industry needs as part of a long-term growth strategy will be the winners in the new manufacturing economy. 

For free access to the Manufacturing Productivity Report, please visit here. 

UK Digital Manufacturing Productivity Report

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