Lack of data engineers could stall UK’s digital transformation

Coca-Cola European Partners is one of many organisations undergoing a digital transformation, but could a lack of skilled data engineers stall further progress and that of UK manufacturing as a whole?

The business is striving to become 100% paperless and allow its people to make use of portable electronic systems to perform their daily tasks – image courtesy of CCEP.
The business is striving to become 100% paperless and allow its people to make use of portable electronic systems to perform their daily tasks – image courtesy of CCEP.

Digital transformation has radically altered every conceivable business operation, from product development and testing, to production, distribution and customer support. Whether on the shop floor or in the back office, software and technology has brought huge process efficiencies and seamless communications, alongside a myriad of other benefits.

Manufacturing is a sector ideally placed to leverage the opportunities digital transformation offers, with many organisations already generating and collecting huge volumes of information.

Collection isn’t enough, however; the real value lies in efficiently analysing and deriving valuable insights. This growing demand has placed an urgent requirement for skilled data engineers (or data scientists) who are familiar and comfortable with high-level analytics, reporting and business intelligence systems.

In the modern industrial landscape of artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine communications, cyberphysical systems, big data and the industrial internet of things, it’s a requirement expected to skyrocket.

Yet, the UK isn’t producing any near the amount of data engineers industry needs. This has led to many businesses stepping in to fill the gap, businesses like Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP).

The Manufacturer recently sat down with Trevor Stacey, supply chain operations director at CCEP Sidcup, who had this to say.

“We’ve had to rely on training our own people internally. We’ve had to go into our data capture systems and ensure that the data being downloaded is presented in a format which we can accommodate.

“At Sidcup, we’ve currently got a team of people with the ability to look at the outputs in a very practical way. What we don’t have are what I would call data scientists or analysts. The business is already quite digitally oriented and as we move forward, our need for qualified, data-savvy people is only going to grow.

Trevor Stacey, supply chain operations director at Coca-Cola European Partners Sidcup.
Trevor Stacey, supply chain operations director at Coca-Cola European Partners Sidcup.

“We are striving to become 100% paperless and allow our people to make use of portable electronic systems to perform their daily tasks.

“For example, we have a robust, advanced maintenance system which allows our technicians to scan each machine using the camera in a smart device to identify where they are and what they are working on.

“Any reports or notes they generate are written on the tablet and uploaded onto our central database. If they need to make use of any materials or parts, that is also managed through the tablet and automatically linked to our inventory management platform. The next evolution of that could be voice-recognition, rather than having to type in commands or notes. That doesn’t sound like a huge step forward, but the productivity and efficiency gains would likely add up over the months and years.”