Plant & Works Engineering
Manufacturers embrace the digital industrial revolution
Published:  14 November, 2022

Another month, another Prime Minister – I’m sure most of you are as astonished as I am, but hopefully the latest Prime Minister will occupy the office longer to enable some stability to return and for manufacturers to plan for what will undoubtedly be a difficult period.

The one very optimistic news over the last month has been the latest survey results from Make UK and enterprise software specialists Infor, which has revealed that Britain’s manufacturing sector is increasingly embracing the digital industrial revolution as it bids to boost productivity, improve energy efficiency and overcome the twin supply chain shocks caused by Covid and Brexit.

But, with four out of five manufacturing firms now planning to boost digital investment over the next two years there are growing concerns that a shortage of skills could hamper the drive to work smarter and greener. The new Government should therefore be prioritising digital skills.

I agree with Make UK’s focus on urging Government to protect vital digital support programmes in the coming Spending Round. These include successful schemes such as Made Smarter and Help to Grow Digital which would help SMEs in particular develop digital skills and practices. In addition, to unlock greater innovation and ideas, Make UK is also calling on Government to accelerate further private investment in R&D by expanding the R&D tax credit to include capital equipment within qualifying expenditure.

According to Make UK, the current financial challenges and the increasing cost of energy are likely to drive this revolution even further, with the survey showing that manufacturers intend to increase their investment in digital technologies in the next two years.

As a result, more companies are moving to the ‘evolution’ stage of digital adoption which is where they are implementing changes to their processes, in particular to marketing, product design, manufacturing systems and finance.

However, the survey also shows a third of companies say that the biggest inhibitor to more rapid digital adoption remains a lack of technical skills within the business, which is why, as highlighted by Verity Davidge, Director of Policy at Make UK, Government must protect vital support programmes which are key to enabling SMEs in particular along their digital journey.

Aaron Blutstein, editor