Article Source: IMechE
The last few years have been turbulent for the UK manufacturing industry, with rising exports tempered by closing factories and continued uncertainty over Brexit.
But our survey of more than 150 people in manufacturing and other areas of engineering, conducted with the support of Protolabs, has found some signs to be positive.
The old rules of business still apply, with respondents focussing on their customers priorities and seeking to improve their responsiveness and the quality of their workforce while remaining competitive on price. At the same time, they’re continuing to prepare for and implement digital tools as part of the ongoing transformation of manufacturing.
Industry 4.0 will “increase operation efficiency and reduce operation cost in the long run,” said one respondent, while another pointed to upcoming improvements in machine safety, productivity and monitoring or supplier performance metrics. “It will change the methods we have used for decades,” said a third. “The skills that the workforce require will dramatically change.”
Many have faced challenges in making the digital transformation, with a lack of people with the requisite skills. “I think there is a big challenge regarding the workforce and their attitude towards the changing way of working,” said one respondent. Uncertainty is another hurdle. “The business struggles to see the full benefits, and will talk themselves away from it based on this uncertainty,” they continued.
Most of those we surveyed expect it to take a few more years for the impact of data to have its full effect on their business, and they appreciate there will be challenges to come. But they are optimistic, and have an eye on the benefits, which – as one respondent succinctly put it – are “potentially huge”.