Manufacturers opting for skills over software

Posted on 22 Aug 2016 by Jonny Williamson

UK manufacturers are gearing up for the fourth industrial revolution by prioritising investment in staff and management skills over software and machinery, according to new research released today by EEF and Oracle.

The findings suggest that rapid advances in technology have left skills trailing in their wake, but manufacturers are alert to the danger and have quickly grasped the need to invest.

More than eight in ten (83%) said that they would need to invest in staff skills in order to adopt new advances in technology. At the same time, over six in ten (65%) recognised that they would need to invest in management skills as they set about boosting their company’s knowledge and understanding at a strategic level.

EEF and Oracle have published the findings in a free factcard for manufacturers, designed to raise awareness and help manufacturers understand what the fourth industrial revolution could mean for their business.

It demystifies how modern advanced technologies can improve efficiency and be used in products, the manufacturing process and across supply chains.

The fourth industrial revolution – or Industry 4.0 – is being driven by connectivity, big data and other rapid advances in product and process technology. Eight in ten manufacturers (80%) said that this next industrial transformation – which is global – will be a business reality within the next ten years.

Companies said that becoming prepared for the future would require investment in new machinery (51%) and software (38%).

But, more than a third of manufacturers (34%) also said they would need to invest in new staff.

This indicates that firms are deeply aware that this latest industrial revolution will bring new skill requirements to the fore and that their success and ability to harness opportunities will hinge on bringing these skills into their business.

Despite this, firms have already invested in multi-purpose production lines (38%), capital equipment with embedded sensors and controls (33%) and cloud solutions (29%).

Even the more futuristic technologies are on their radars – within the next 5 years almost 20% of manufacturers will have invested in the 3D simulation of manufacturing processes (18%), augmented reality (17%), and fully autonomous robots (16%).

The findings also suggest that new technologies will start to change the way factories look in a relatively short space of time. Within the next five years, almost 30% of manufacturers will be using rapid additive manufacturing techniques, while those using cloud solutions will have leapt to 46%.

Almost four in ten (38%) will have invested in capital equipment with embedded data analysis – big data will have started to become business as usual in factories across the UK.

Lee Hopley, chief economist, EEF.
Lee Hopley, chief economist, EEF.

Chief Economist at EEF, Lee Hopley described the fourth industrial revolution as being “crucial for UK manufacturing”.

She explained: “Manufacturers are aware that it will be a game changer – not just for investment in technologies, but for the cutting-edge, high-level skills required alongside.

“The speed of this new industrial revolution is such that UK manufacturers will need help and support to adjust and capitalise on its opportunities. Knowledge and understanding will be key, which is why we have created this free factcard to help get our sector up-to-speed and to encourage companies to share ideas and best practice.”

Building the UK’s response to Industry 4.0 is the central theme of The Manufacturer’s Annual Leaders Conference and The Manufacturer’s Smart Factory Expo – both of which take place on November 2-3 at The NEC, Birmingham.

For more information and to register your attendance, visit: