How digitalisation and the power of ERP can build resilience in post-Brexit Britain

Posted on 17 Apr 2019 by The Manufacturer

We’ve entered uncharted waters for UK manufacturing. Whether we face a no-deal Brexit, a fresh referendum, or an extended transition period, the only certainty is uncertainty. Now is the time to build on our digital resilience to future proof our businesses and ensure they’re better equipped to meet the challenges ahead.

Britain remains a world leader in manufacturing but a lack of investment in new technology has prevented us from fulfilling our potential. Our poor track record in labour productivity puts us at a competitive disadvantage and this is particularly troubling as we grapple with the consequences of life outside the EU.

According to the latest ONS figures, the productivity growth of British workers slumped to a two-year low in the third quarter of 2018. On average, UK workers produce 30% less per hour than those in France, Germany and the US. Research by the CBI indicates that the UK economy could receive a £100bn boost if we had the same productivity distribution as our German counterparts.

CROP - Technician at work Production Line - Image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The digitalisation agenda

Key to that will be embracing digitalisation. The use of technology to improve productivity is at the heart of the government’s Industrial Strategy, and its Made Smarter Review (published in October 2017) stated that adopting digital technology could increase productivity by more than 25% by 2025.

These digital technologies incorporate everything from AI and robotics to the Internet of Things. Yet adopting specific innovations is not enough. Businesses must find ways of integrating them into their systems and allowing them to work in harmony to improve efficiency and drive productivity.

This is where Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) has such a pivotal role to play. An effective ERP system should form the backbone of any modern manufacturing operation. Data is king and only by being able to access, analyse and act upon key information, can business leaders make impactful strategic decisions.

According to Nick McGrane, managing director of ERP provider, K3 Syspro: “ERP gives manufacturers an array of super powers, the most potent of which is operational resilience. A digitised centralised system provides full visibility and control for business leaders who are then able to respond effectively to whatever challenges present themselves.”

Clearly, the fall-out of Brexit will be one of the greatest challenges that manufacturers are likely to face. Digitalisation presents an ideal opportunity to future-proof operations by providing the insight necessary to adapt and evolve.

SYSPRO is designed for manufacturers, find out more how it can help you revolutionise the way you work,

In control of your data

The manufacturers best placed to confront the post-Brexit landscape are those which have invested in technology to retrieve, trace and analyse operational data. Empowered with that knowledge, they can then concentrate on becoming fitter and leaner to compete on the global stage.

Digitisation allows manufacturers to identify their strengths and pain points. That might be highlighting specific inefficiencies, identifying bottlenecks, or exposing processes which are constraining productivity.

Knowledge is power and the more transparent your factory is, the greater control you have over how it operates. Only with a thorough understanding of the inner workings of the business can manufacturers make the right choices and pick the right battles.

A modern manufacturing business comprises so many working parts, it is difficult to get everyone working in unison. Yet being able to coordinate operations and make fast and effective changes will prove critical post-Brexit.

Whether we are working to WTO rules, adapting to new trading agreements, or languishing in a state of flux, manufacturers will have to be agile. Those who have welcomed the digital age and are not dragged down by disparate incompatible systems will clearly be at an advantage.

How will you adapt to a new trading environment if different departments can’t effectively share ideas and information? If your legacy system is already struggling to keep pace with changing customer demands, how will it respond to forging fresh client relationships?

Employees don’t have the tools they need to work to their full potential, so how can you expect them to take on extra responsibilities?

Digitalisation Analytics Data Digital Big Data ERP -Stock

Addressing productivity

The entire workforce will need to be on board if businesses are to respond to the challenges ahead. If employers can empower them with digital technology, they will be in a far better position to maximise productivity and find ways of working effectively in a new business climate.

It is critical that manufacturers have resilient systems in place to adapt to these new demands. The digital agenda will in turn boost productivity and help ensure that whoever they are trading with, British manufacturers can compete head to head with the best in the world.

Too many manufacturers find productivity is hampered by duplication of data, a myriad of applications which can’t be synchronised and poor visibility. This lack of integration stifles innovation and puts the breaks on business growth.

McGrane says: “An ERP-enabled business can revolutionise the way people work. A fully integrated system will automate mundane tasks to free up time for more value-added activities, provide access to key information at a touch of a button and facilitate joined-up working to ensure everyone is striving towards common goals.”

As we stand on the cusp of Brexit, it is impossible to predict what lies in store. The best manufacturers can do is build their resilience and use the powers of digitalisation to ensure they are in the best possible shape to face the battles and exploit the opportunities ahead.