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Old kit is more of a hindrance than Brexit, say UK firms

24 May, 2022

More UK manufacturers believe that their continuing reliance on ageing technologies is having a bigger negative effect of their businesses than Brexit, according to a survey of more than 400 manufacturing executives in the UK and US. The survey was conducted by iBASEt, a Californian company that simplifies how complex products are built and maintained, in conjunction with the UK’s Manufacturing Technology Centre. The 403 respondents were split almost evenly between the US and UK.

Almost all (94%) of the UK manufacturers surveyed believe a lack of investment in digital technologies is hampering their productivity, with 73% reporting that legacy technologies are negatively impacting their businesses, compared to the 67% that blame Brexit. Almost all (93%) predict that under-investment will lead to many UK manufacturers going out of business in the coming decade.

The combined results of the UK and US surveys reveals that manufacturers are slipping behind in their digital transformation efforts, despite earlier pandemic-driven investments in new technologies. Although the respondents report that Industry 4.0 technologies were critical to sustaining their operations during Covid-enforced shutdowns, most are still grappling with a lack of system and process maturity that prevents them from using operational data for business intelligence and smarter decision-making.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the respondents report that they invested in new technologies during the pandemic, and 98% saw an increase in productivity as a result. But less than half (44%) said that this modernisation was providing them with additional actionable data, and 19% are not harnessing any data insights at all.

“As the volume of manufacturing data continues to explode, it’s critical that manufacturers modernise their systems and technologies to make use of critical data for business intelligence and more informed decision-making,” says iBASEt CEO, Naveen Poonian. “The ability to not just embrace Industry 4.0 at stage one, but to then convert critical data into actionable improvements, is pivotal to a true digital transformation.”

The survey found that although most manufacturers are migrating enthusiastically to the cloud, few have made the full transition. Almost all (88%) plan to boost their investments in cloud technologies over the coming 12 months, but only 21% are have completely transitioned to the cloud already.

Two-thirds (66%) of respondents believe accelerating their move to the cloud will unlock benefits that help them to improve their operational efficiency. Only 8% have no plans to use cloud infrastructures as part of their manufacturing operations.

The UK/US survey eveals that manufacturers are slipping behind in their digital transformation efforts

The survey also revealed that 95% of those quizzed still use paper-based processes, and that more than a quarter (27%) use paper for more than half of their activities. Nearly all (98%) plan to continue using spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel, even while moving toward digital transformation. In fact, half say they use these tools for most of their processes.

The Digital Manufacturing Productivity Report is available as a free download.

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