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5 Min Read

The changing face of the manufacturing sector

As one of the largest sectors in the UK, manufacturing is fundamental to our economy. From construction, aerospace, pharmaceuticals to food and drink, the sector is made up of various activities. In 2018 the industry contributed £191 billion, 10% of UK GDP (2018), employing over 2.7 million people.

However, with many of the known characteristics of the sector changing rapidly, how has the sector developed, what will it look like in the future and more importantly is everyone on board?

Then and Now

Traditionally manufacturing has been known to operate on a tiered distribution system, transforming raw materials into products, which are supplied to distributors, retailers, then finally sold to consumers. Integration of technological developments has proven necessary to keep up with the “Age of the Customer”- where the changing needs, trends, expectations of the customer drives demand. This shift in relationship between manufacturer and consumer has reduced the distribution process as consumers look to manufacturers to provide end-to-end product solutions meeting their additional needs; instead of just providing a product.

The introduction of technologies such as additive manufacturing, big data, sensor data, cloud integration, and machine automation, also known as the “fourth industrial revolution” or Industry 4.0; has signalled a change in the traditional manufacturing landscape. Impacting areas of connectivity, intelligence and flexible automation, these technologies have helped drive manufacturing’s digital transformation offering greater agility, performance and flexibility.

For more information on Industry 4.0 and Smart Manufacturing download our free whitepaper

What’s next for manufacturing?

In relation to technological developments and integrations, the future of UK manufacturing is filled with opportunities to be more efficient, responsive to consumer demands, changing trends and become more sustainable.

There are some technological developments that we are accustomed to, such as artificial intelligence, augmented reality, blockchain, and 5G, but according to Henrik von Scheel, the technology strategist who first used the term “Industry 4.0” there are some more rarefied technological developments that manufacturers need to be considering now and into the near future such as nanotechnology, neurotechnology and quantum technology[i].

As we all get to grips with 5G, the low latency mobile network is set to revolutionise industries and expedite the automation age. Despite in recent months being suggested as the cause of coronavirus pandemic by conspiracy theorists, 5G evangelists believe that this technology is pivotal to ushering in the fourth industrial revolution. With a promise to deliver information in speeds close to real-time, it has been predicted that manufacturing will make up nearly a quarter of the “ultra-low latency use cases” by 2028. A recent Barclays report suggesting that the adoption of 5G could see the UK Manufacturing industry increase by £2bn in the next five years.

[i] Annual Manufacturing Report 2020 THE SEARCH FOR STABILITY –

How your business can adapt?

The current pandemic has taught us that preparing, adapting and planning are crucial to business success and longevity. In an age where things are changing so fast, standing still is not an option for manufacturers but similarly a “business as usual” approach is not going to help either.

Despite the increasing demands from consumers wanting more personalised experiences and the development of complex technology, the manufacturing sector is still burdened with the perennial issue of the lack of skilled workers. A gap that continues to widen as many of the current workforce approach retirement, and younger people and women turn away from jobs within the sector, assuming that it still remains male-dominated, low-paid and monotonous.

Many manufacturers may be struggling to stay abreast with the current pace, let alone becoming future-ready, but for companies who are able to transform their business, MIT CISR report that they tend to enjoy margins 16% higher than the industry average[i]

[i] Annual Manufacturing Report 2020 THE SEARCH FOR STABILITY –

Here are some tips to help your business find a route to a future-ready state

  1. Be current

Innovation doesn’t stop. In today’s world of continuous change, it is important for manufacturers to regularly transform and adapt their processes. But for this to be successful as much as companies need to invest in the latest technologies, they also need to invest in understanding their consumers as well as their employees.

  1. Invest in your workforce

As previously mentioned, investment in your workforce will prove fundamental to the agility required to implement changes. The future will require a workforce that is fundamentally secure in all aspects of digital technology. The widening skills gap within the sector is a point of concern, but reskilling or upskilling your current employees, providing regular training, and investing in internship programs can help secure your workforce.

  1. Get support, both financial and strategical

There are many technological developments, but the question is which ones are right for your business, which should you implement, and when, and for that, you need a strategy. Business transformation involves change at every level, from culture to the implementation of the technology itself but without a strategy, it is easy to fail. Read our whitepaper Industry 4.0 on how you can develop a smart strategy for getting ahead in manufacturing.

At MPA we know that explaining your plans to a bank manager who may lack the technical knowledge to understand or relate to your issues can be frustrating. That is why we employ a team of technical specialists who have the experience within the sector to get under the skin of your projects and proposals, as well as the ability to speak your language. Skills we find to be vital when we are working with companies like yours to help them access funding for their business.

There are several funding opportunities such as the government R&D Tax Credit scheme and Patent Box, which are available to UK businesses and can provide much-needed funding to support your business transformation.

Contact us for a free business consultation with one of our specialists.

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