Always ones to practice what we preach, we immerse ourselves in our customers’ sectors to inform the scoping stage and make our client meetings informed and productive.
Our recent digital transformation webinar resulted in quite a few opportunities from manufacturers keen to get more information about the next wave of change so it’s just as well we were already well into The UK Manufacturing Review 16/17.
Within the review, The Manufacturing 2020 Roundtable reveals what some of the manufacturing industry’s leaders had to say about what comes next for them. It led to interesting discussions internally so we want to share some of the thoughts we took on board with you.
The discussion is pinned around one key question: are manufacturing businesses taking full advantage of available technologies to tackle the productivity gap?
More is possible with automation. From lights-out running to identifying and scheduling maintenance, businesses need to be looking at where there current processes are stuck in the dark ages.
The progress in robotics is noted. Modern robots have put safety fears to bed and can work side by side with employees. Programmability can put them in charge of the more dangerous parts that you might not want an employee dealing with and they are becoming more accessible to manufacturing businesses of all sizes.
Leaders are agreed on its usefulness with one business using it more and more for replacement parts to keep machines going. However, queries remain over accessibility for larger products as well as price.
If you read our blogs regularly, you’ll know that data equals insights. You’ll also know that Dynamics365 is geared up to produce more of them (hence the game changer description). For manufacturers, it means pulling in data from across the supply chain and identifying issues, improving quality, adding customer service advantage and reducing waste.
Internet of Things (IoT)
Tied in with Big Data, the IoT is expected to result in 50 billion connected devices by 2020. The opportunities are huge for operational efficiency, predictive maintenance, automated scheduling, optimized servicing, increasing uptime and usage insights for future innovation.
With all of these advances, mass customization becomes increasingly possible with modular manufacturing and more flexibility. Customers get what they want, when they want it and at a price they’re happy to pay.
A lot of the talk here is around funding but also perception. Synonymous with customer experience, how are you using digital capabilities to meet your customers’ expectations? One comment was made that SME businesses in particular need to remember that digital is a journey and firms are at different stages. For some, it’s about doing more with your website. For others, it’s about the machines talking to each other and automation. What they all have in common though, is the importance of data that you just couldn’t gather any other way than usage.
Manufacturing is still struggling to appeal to a younger generation who view it as old fashioned. Apprenticeships are a good route in but the colleges need to keep up with the equipment they are training people on and the forthcoming Levy will impact on the cost too. One of the business risks highlighted is that whilst degree qualified design engineers are easy to find, manufacturing engineers are few and far between leaving businesses exposed as their current engineers get older and look to retirement. In the same vein, middle management is also suffering from a skills gap where you have excellent technical candidates but with no management experience. The sector needs to attract a broader range of experience and skills.
For years, businesses in every sector have spoken of innovation with varying degrees of enthusiasm. It’s not going away. It’s gathering momentum and businesses really need to take stock of where they are on the journey right now, and what the next natural development for survival and growth should be.
As always, we’re here to help so do let us know if you have any specific information requests or things you’d like to see us talk about.