To succeed, SMEs have to be ‘technical disruptors’

Posted on 15 Nov 2018 by The Manufacturer

If small and medium-sized manufacturers are to grow, they must become technical disruptors or risk being left behind, according to exhibitors at Smart Factory Expo's Innovation Alley.

Innovation Alley at the Smart Factory Expo is pictured - image courtesy of TM.
Innovation Alley at the Smart Factory Expo is pictured – image courtesy of TM.

Exhibitors at Smart Factory Expo’s ‘Innovation Alley’ have said that manufacturing SMEs must radically adopt new technologies if they are to compete with major rivals.

Innovation Alley is a partnership between The Manufacturer magazine and Innovate UK, providing a unique platform for tech start-ups to engage with manufacturers, and ensures their voice is heard at Europe’s largest digital manufacturing show.

Among the various reasons they gave about what it will take SMEs to succeed, they say SMEs must continue to innovate within their own space, streamline processes, increase revenue and productivity, and maintain business growth.

Fear of new technologies must also be overcome. Raam Shanker, founder of Equitus Engineering, says SMEs have too much fear of adoption: “Our aim is to tell SMEs that Industry 4.0 is not complicated, it’s not expensive and it’s not only for the big players. It’s simple, affordable and everyone can do it.”

Furthermore he iterated, people must not be overwhelmed by the idea of innovation: “Innovation is not just inventing or discovering or developing things because we can,” he stated. “It’s more about monetising even the simplest ideas.”

Access to finance is especially crucial for SMEs says Equipment Connect’s founder Eamon McMahon. His company, which is based at the iconic Somerset House in London is a financial technology platform that provides asset finance. He provided an example of one company his firm helped get access to asset finance.

“An equipment supplier in the metal forming machine space who we work with recently complained of the difficulty with a customer who was an early stage company with just one year of trading history. Traditional banks and leasing companies were reluctant to provide finance and the delays threatened the sale of the machine. Because of the technology we utilise were able to easily extract real-time management accounting information and on the strength of the asset we structured a solution.”

Though exhibitors on Innovation Alley mentioned multiple concerns surrounding British SME manufacturers, they overwhelmingly described Digital Manufacturing Week as a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow SMEs and major business executives.

In4.0, a Blackburn-based programme development company, says events such as Digital Manufacturing Week are enormously beneficial: “They connect us with industry leaders, SMEs and potential sponsors. They help us to spread the word about our services and upcoming events in the best space, with the best people! We’ve really enjoyed our time at the Smart Factory Expo and we’ve made some great connections and learnt a lot about what’s happening in the industry.”

Smart Factory Expo is Europe’s largest digital manufacturing show – presenting the most extensive free programme of presentations across seven stages, 150+ exhibitors, and thousands of digitally-savvy manufacturers.

It is the largest component of Digital Manufacturing Week, an annual celebration of UK manufacturing excellence that takes place every November in Liverpool. This year saw 5,322 visitors to Digital Manufacturing Week (up 36% on 2017).

Clear your diary and join us next year: 13-14 Nov 2019!

Reporting by Harry Wise