Digital technologies: Is UK industry leveraging the true potential?

Posted on 24 Oct 2018 by The Manufacturer

Digital technologies of all kinds have great potential to enhance UK production and service delivery. Yet suppliers, makers and customers can still struggle to understand how digital assets and skills can make them smarter in critical areas of their business.

The cross-industry Digital Readiness Level Tool (DRL-Tool) group has pooled its broad-ranging experience to create a free and easy way for businesses to make sense of their particular digitally enhanced opportunities.

Here, The Manufacturer talks to partners and early adopters to get the industry’s perspectives on how the DRL-Tool helps accelerate productivity and competitiveness.

The Manufacturer’s Annual Manufacturing Report 2018 highlights both the potential value of digital technologies and the barriers in the way of progress.

Annual Manufacturing Report AMR 2018 - The Digital Technologies Adoption Message

Most business leaders believe to some degree that adopting digital technologies will help them prosper. But only 17% seem to be fully committed to making it happen. More of them (30%) are confused about why and how they should adopt digital technologies, and which ones.

The Made Smarter Review of 2017 called for urgent action by government and industry to boost the adoption of digital technologies in the manufacturing sector as a whole, including suppliers, makers and customers.

Perhaps the most eye-catching prediction is that, “…the positive impact of faster innovation and adoption of Industrial Digital Technologies could be as much as £455bn for UK manufacturing over the next decade”.

So, what can industry do to speed businesses towards a share of this glittering prize?

A new organisation – – has come together as a not-for-profit, cross-industry initiative to help companies engaged in the manufacturing sector to make more progress with digital, more quickly.

Let’s hear from the people trying to break down the barriers and accelerate companies to benefit from digital:

Manufacturing innovator

Les Lee of HSSMI and chairperson of says, “The DRL-Tool is a great way for businesses to build their understanding of how digital technologies can help in the ways that really matter to them.

“The community-interest company is maintaining the highest standards of benchmarking and roadmapping for digitally curious companies to find their way forward. HSSMI is one of the quality-assured consultancy providers, and we are delighted to be helping innovative manufacturers around the UK take their next digital steps.”

Digital transformation specialist

Steven Wood of the Digital Catapult, another board member and accredited consultancy provider says, “Digital technologies are evolving at an incredible rate. It is vital for the UK’s manufacturing sector to start looking at how they will impact the way that they operate and how they will connect to the supply chains of the future.

“The collaboration between cross-industry partners has been a key factor in creating the most comprehensive and detailed business diagnostic tool. The Digital Catapult’s centres around the UK are helping early adoption by manufacturers of advanced capabilities, including virtual and augmented reality, Internet of Things, 5G, artificial intelligence and cyber security.”

Manufacturing MD

Iain Crosley of Hosokawa Micron UK says, “For many years we’ve been pioneers in building intelligent software into our high-spec milling and containment machines to maximise value to our customers.

“Now the new DRL-Tool is helping raise awareness of what OEMs and end users can achieve by transforming their own business outlook and working more closely with us, and our technologies.”

Digital manufacturing advisor

Steven Barr is the MD of EDGE Digital Manufacturing, an advisory service partner of The Manufacturer. He is also MD of

Steven highlights the breadth of business thinking and collaboration required to leverage the benefits of digital technologies. “The free online DRL-Tool is a first step, opening eyes to digital capability gaps and also opportunities that are specific to the business.

“As one of the quality-assured workshop providers, EDGE Digital helps decision-makers Analyse their business position, Break-through to agreement on the way forward, Construct a robust and compelling plan and Deliver the benefits of digital.”

Digital manufacturing champion

Malcolm Harold of the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) and DRL-Tool. org board member says, “In the context of my current international digital benchmarking, the new DRL-Tool is clearly unique in how it helps companies.

“Helping SME manufacturers to take their first steps into digital manufacturing easily and signposting the best way forward with more detailed advice – including KTN’s 4Manufacturing tool – is not only needed, but also vital for any company seeking to grow, become more productive and profitable. These two tools have huge potential to change the UK if a company wants to take those early steps.”

Cloud evangelist

Dorian Smellie, CEO of cloud technology specialists TotalControlPro, says, “The cross-industry support for businesses to move forward in the digital realm is a really important factor.

“DRL-Tool’s impartial signposting to expert advisors will help the industry come together to support the adoption of available technologies and scale up digital transformation. I’m excited by this new way of highlighting the benefits and bringing cloud technology into the manufacturing mainstream.”

Manufacturing group Industry 4.0 leader

Nishant Raj, global Industry 4.0 lead at Atlas Copco IAS, says, “We’ve seen what German manufacturing has achieved through collaboration between large and small businesses and institutions, and their use of a nationally recognised digital readiness diagnostic has been instrumental in keeping the momentum going.

“Now in the UK we have an effective, comprehensive and impartial tool, and the DRL-Tool network to support next steps.”

Platform provider

Tom Dawes, CEO at Valuechain Technology says, “I’m proud that Valuechain’s collaborative supply chain intelligence platform is powering the DRL-Tool. Data security and confidentiality is paramount, and users have full control over their DRL diagnostic results.

“They also have the ability to share assessment results securely with supply chain partners and provide benchmarking insights that will accelerate digital manufacturing transformation.”

Let’s leave the last word to Sam Turner, our most passionate advocate for technology as an enabler of excellence in manufacturing and the business of manufacturing.

Technology strategist

Sam Turner is chief technology officer at The High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, a board member of and a leading proponent of digital technologies in industry.

He says, “The DRL-Tool fills a gap that is holding SME manufacturers back from investing in digital technologies that are vital for their future and for the UK’s future prosperity.

“Diagnostic tools tend to be too superficial in their business outlook or too narrow in their focus on technology or finance or skills. The DRL-Tool neatly brings together all the necessary business perspectives and points the way to the right specialist support.

“This is a timely response to the call from the Made Smarter Review for effective and impartial support from industry for industry. The seven HVM Catapults will be strong partners of the DRL-Tool, each with their own expertise in the use of digital technologies for manufacturing.”

If your business is a supplier, maker or customer of UK manufacturing, then click here to find out more about what the DRL-Tool can do for your business.

If you are an experienced workshop provider or specialist ad-visor, or an industry intermediary such as a trade association or a Local Enterprise Partnership, then why not join in helping to break down the barriers and accelerate UK industry to get the benefits of digital.


The Digital Readiness Level Tool (DRL-Tool) integrates three key business perspectives into one benchmark of readiness to transform:

  • Visionary leadership at all levels
  • Effective use of digital technologies
  • Focus on delivering value

Free services from include:

  • Online diagnostic tools in a quick ‘Coffee Break’ overview and fully detailed questionnaire
  • Graphic presentation of a company’s benchmarks
  • Interpretation of gaps and opportunities
  • Signposting to appropriate support for next steps.

* quality-assures providers of Digital Readiness roadmapping workshops.

DRL-Tool Partners