A recent report by Santander and EEF has highlighted the growth potential of the UK manufacturing sector. A welcome change from the doom and gloom of recent years, the report found that the sector generates 10 per cent of the UK's total economic output and produces a staggering 44 per cent of the goods and services we export to international markets.1
adi Group welcomes the findings and believes that 2018 will be another productive year for UK manufacturing if manufacturers embrace new technologies. Ian Millington, manging director of adi Automation, part of the adi Group of companies, comments:
"This is undoubtedly the flavour of the month. Not only would companies reap significant rewards from investing the time and money into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it's vital to maintaining the continuous growth of UK manufacturing.
"Industry 4.0 creates new, digitally-enabled opportunities to enhance operational efficiency via the automation of industrial processes, connectivity between industrial equipment, and ongoing data capture and visualisation. As part of this digital shift, manufacturers will be required to broaden their horizons and upgrade what they already have, in both staff skill and in manufacturing processes, in order to make the most of our increasingly connected world."
"If businesses want to ensure that they benefit from the increasingly digital manufacturing landscape, they must be prepared to overcome some significant challenges. Though cybersecurity is important, with more than 200,000 malware programs launching per day, companies should not be afraid of it as there are a multitude of avenues to help mitigate the risk. This includes separation of IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology) systems, as well as setting up robust security protocols and access permissions to certain persons, who can only access data that is necessary for their job role.
"That said, as highlighted by the EEF/Santander report, highly skilled employees will be crucial if UK manufacturers are to work towards the country's ambitions for growth."
"The manufacturing industry is currently facing a skills crisis. The 2017 Engineering UK: The State of Engineering report indicates an annual shortfall of at least 20,000 skilled employees, and forecasts that 186,000 people with engineering skills will be required each year from now until 2024 in order to meet the country's manufacturing needs.2
"As the industry becomes increasingly reliant on digital methods such as factory automation, the reality is that the UK is not currently producing enough young people equipped with the right skills fast enough.
"In light of this and in an effort to promote the skills the industry needs, adi has made a concerted effort to grow its apprenticeship programmes, and we encourage other businesses to do the same.
"Going into 2018, manufacturers must fully embrace change to achieve the operational excellence required to remain relevant with customers, business partners and the industry as a whole. With research also highlighting the positive performance of the sector this past year, manufacturers are perfectly justified in feeling ambitious."