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Reports: Smart manufacturing needs smart investment

When it comes to investment in smart manufacturing, those who are able to develop and execute ‘enterprise-wide I4.0 strategies’ that align with long-term business objectives will be the winners.

The benefits of smart manufacturing, and the reasons for developing a smart factory that can transform your business are well documented, but there’s not a lot of information available explaining how to go about it.

No pain, no gain

It’s important to recognise that a move towards smart manufacturing will require transformational change within your organisation. That’s not to say that the benefits won’t outweigh the effort and investment you’ll need to make; they will – but let’s be honest here – it’s not about taking a leap of faith into the unknown, you’re going to need to do your research and carefully consider your options.

Why do it? Catalysts for change

There are many reasons why industrial companies are under pressure to transform their businesses. Technological advances, such as the advent of the cloud and the opportunities that being able to exploit big data offer, are leading to increasing competition and changes in customer expectations. One solution is to invest in increasing your digital capabilities to operate better, faster and more economically, adding value to the product life cycle and improving speed to market; but how?

From the top down

Understanding how a smart factory can contribute to improvements needs a holistic view of the business; only then can you hone-in on processes and production changes that can be automated to have the most radical impact.  A change in strategy from the top is often needed, with alignment from the leadership team being vital so that everyone is focussed on identifying where the biggest improvements can be made and ensuring the business is ready to make them.

Barriers and bottle-necks

Let’s focus purely on manufacturing processes. By isolating, across the entire production process, what’s slowing you down, what’s preventing you from achieving your potential and where the biggest gains can be made, you will be able to identify where to invest time and money.

Perhaps the single most important thing that manufacturers need to address is the best way to gain access to quality and timely data. By analysing data from manufacturing software programs: MRP (materials requirement planning); MES (manufacturing execution systems); PLM (product lifecycle management); and QMS (manufacturing quality management systems); manufacturers can gather insight that will guide future business decisions. Only then should big ticket purchasing of digitally-enabled hardware be made.

This is where manufacturers should invest time and money, it’s the way to gain the upperhand over your competitors.

How can you fund it?

Once you have a strategy in place to progress smart manufacturing, how can you fund it? In fact, there are multiple sources of finance available, some more attractive than others.


Given that the transformation enabled by the digital age is having profound impacts on every sector, the Government and other authorities are seeking to boost innovation by offering incentives to businesses. In the UK, tax credits, grants and other support measures are available for R&D activities focused on innovation in areas such as smart manufacturing. Companies, both large and small, that spend on R&D to develop or enhance products, processes and services may be eligible.

To find out more and see where manufacturers are missing a trick in accessing funding for their smart investments download the whitepaper ‘Developing a smart strategy for getting ahead in manufacturing’.

We work with businesses across various sectors and industries helping them to unleash the potential in their business through innovation, for more information or to discuss your specific business needs, get in touch.

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