Agility & adaptability vital competencies for UK manufacturing

Posted on 28 May 2019 by The Manufacturer

Leadership teams may feel that they have minimum control over Britain's future, but what they can influence is how prepared their business and their systems are for change.

Just 16% of Annual Manufacturing Report 2019 respondents felt that Brexit would be beneficial from a legal and regulatory perspective, while only 18% felt that UK manufacturing would be boosted by Brexit.

In scenarios such as government policy and industrial strategy where UK companies have little control over the outcome, the future feels unnerving. At Epicor, we encourage customers to ensure they remain current on their ERP platform and remain ready to be agile and able to adapt to changes at short notice.

Whether this be Epicor or another ERP provider, it’s important to have a solid ERP system running your business that is able to make transitional times more seamless. However, we also know that 54% of manufacturers feel Brexit is making strategic planning difficult and it may not feel like the right time to make large platform changes.

AMR 2019 - UK Manufacturing has the drive to succeed as a nation

The only thing respondents seemed able to agree upon was the resilience UK manufacturers have. The majority (91%) felt that we have the drive to make it as an industrial nation without the governments help but confidence in the government is low.

Government initiatives

More than half (52%) said they believe government doesn’t care about UK manufacturing and businesses need to drive their own success outside of government initiatives.

It feels risky to take on a ‘first mover’ approach in these uncertain times but it feels likely that manufacturers who begin to adopt digital transformation in line with the Made Smarter strategy will reap the rewards further down the line.

Technology plays a huge role in the Made Smarter strategy but many felt like these initiatives were still unclear. Furthermore, manufacturers won’t be able to take advantage of further technologies or have the opportunity to digitalise their businesses if they are operating on old software platforms.

Recruitment challenges

Brexit isn’t the only government initiative challenging UK manufacturers and we regularly hear from our customers that recruiting and retaining talent is one of the struggles they have.

That’s echoed by the respondents to the Annual Manufacturing Report, of which 51% believe the Apprenticeship Levy is a tax on employment and not driving apprenticeships. That comes at a time when manufacturers are facing a labour crisis, with people leaving the workforce and retiring at a faster pace than replacement workers are coming in to get trained.

Again, technology is a way that a skills gap can be addressed—through automation of older, often manual processes.

In addition to looking to automation and technology to help fill the skills gap, modern, innovative technology can also help attract the next-generation of workers – who expect to be able to access information from anywhere, on any device, at any time.

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Digital technologies

The fact is that UK manufacturing is in the middle of a storm and is looking to create demand-driven and responsive business models that provide flexibility and agility to respond to increased (and even unpredicted) demand and market disruptions.

Analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) are two emerging technologies look to be drawing the most interest and investment from manufacturers. IoT is a critical component of business growth, both as a way to improve the value of the products by embedding sensors and connectivity, but also as a means to monitor, manage and improve the supply chain.

Smart manufacturers are also looking not just to collect data, but to gain insights to make that data actionable. Cloud makes these types of technologies affordable and easier to implement, integrate and maintain. Manufacturers looking to future-proof their investments should consider cloud technologies from vendors who demonstrate a deep understanding of the manufacturing industry.

Technologies such as modern ERP enables you to take advantage of advances in IoT, robotics, 3D printing and AI, which can result in greater efficiencies, lower costs and improved safety. Beyond performance and efficiency, new manufacturing technologies are also a way to enhance agility, flexibility and speed to market when designing and launching new products.

Those who will weather the current storms are – in our view – those with the modern infrastructure in place to leverage these new technologies. While we recognise that technology isn’t the answer to all our current challenges, we fundamentally believe it to be a significant part of the solution.

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