UK manufacturing urged to act now on digitalisation or risk being left fighting for survival

Posted on 9 Nov 2021 by Tim Brown

Disruption caused by the pandemic and following ‘pingdemic’ brought many UK factories to the point of closure, cost millions of pounds in lost productivity and highlighted a critical need for greater digitalisation and automation to ensure survival. At the same time, it also created new opportunities for many business to thrive, says leading manufacturing consultancy HSSMI.

Now, as the focus on automation and digitalisation continues to grow in importance daily, in its latest report looking at key issues in global manufacturing, ‘From Survive to Thrive: a pathway to digital transformation’, HSSMI’s digital manufacturing specialists shine the light on the significant challenges facing the sector related to the critical topic of Digital Manufacturing (Industry 4.0) and ways of unlocking its latent potential.

The key to success is in “levelling up” the UK manufacturing workforce, going far further than using online-based collaboration platforms, enabling true remote monitoring and control and maximising the potential of a vast suite of digital technologies to reduce cost, manufacture faster and become more flexible.

Two of its most striking findings are the need for the UK to rapidly accelerate its adoption of digital transformation or risk being left behind in the global race to thrive, not just survive. Secondly, it calls on businesses to be crystal clear on their rationale for digitalision and the results they are looking to achieve from the outset, before wastefully investing valuable time, money and employee goodwill.

Commenting on the report, David Stewart, Engineering Director, Research & Innovation, HSSMI said, “It’s clear that the world has changed irreversibly due to the pandemic and on an unprecedented scale. The manufacturing sectors have not been immune to such change, with organisations being forced to work in an increasingly digital environment far sooner than anticipated. While many have embraced the changes well, true digital transformation involves so much more than just increasing use of online collaboration platforms. The time to create and implement a comprehensive and future proof strategy for this crucial business area across the full production and supply chain is now, before it’s too late.

Several other notable findings emerge in the report which looks at Digital Manufacturing, often regarded as the promise of the fourth industrial revolution, including:

  • Unwavering commitment to implementing a successful Digital Transformation right from the top is considered paramount, as is the creation of an innovation and continuous improvement culture
  • It is important that manufacturers develop people with both the foundational, soft skills like: leadership and change management; and hard, technical skills like programming and simulation modelling, in order to leverage the full capabilities of Digital technologies
  • Data being key to success, with three levels of success, right up to ‘Prescriptive’ where AI can bolster commercial success
  • The critical role of a Digital Thread – a single source of truth – for data, workflows and tools, to eliminate human error and reduce costly duplication and delays
  • The businesses who will thrive are the ones who take a holistic approach to integrating digital as a core part of their business and as enablers to achieving what they identify as being of value to them and their customers
  • Leverage what already exists within an organisation when it comes to Digital Tools – from simple smartphones and cloud storage services to advanced enterprise software – before investing in even more new technology, or taking it to ultimate ‘customisation’ level
  1. ABI Research


HSSMI is a sustainable manufacturing innovation consultancy that works with companies to support them to increase productivity, upscale production, and enable them to transition towards a circular economy based practices and ultimately towards achieving net zero. Since its foundation in 2012, HSSMI has worked with government bodies, established manufacturers and aspiring start-ups to help increase product sustainability and innovation. HSSMI has led and supported battery production and Gigafactory projects, enabling HSSMI to work across the supply chain and support existing production facilities as well as new production lines and products.