Don’t be stunned into paralysis

1 min read

The UK and other Western countries risk falling behind the rest of the world in terms of cost competitiveness as China, India and Brazil benefit from lower labour costs and taxes.

This is, however, not the complete picture. A recent study from Boston Consulting Group confirms that UK manufacturing costs are the lowest in Western Europe, improving the UK's competitive edge. And, having learned the lessons of the danger of a chase to be cheapest, Western manufacturers have shifted their focus away from cost and towards productivity, innovation and investment in research. The good news is that there is wave after wave of technological innovation – everything from embedded sensors in the home, cars and machinery to 3D printing – promising a further boost in productivity and many offer new revenue-generating opportunities too. The bad news is that there is already a race to claim them. But productivity and revenue improvement aren't all about innovation. It is the effectiveness of your people that will really set you apart from your competitors. With more than half of today's manufacturing workforce set to retire by 2025, the manufacturing sector is under pressure to attract and empower a new generation of workers. These people are used to real-time information and collaborative working. They use FaceTime before email and their mobile device before their PC. Rather than dismiss such technologies as frivolous, manufacturers must recognise their inherent value in personal productivity in the workplace, bringing real-time information, decision-making and collaboration in ways that were not possible with manufacturing ERP systems of the 1990s. Soon, plant supervisors will replace their notepads with iPads on the shopfloor, with all the benefits of visualisation, automatic escalation alerts, global communication and decisions based on real-time factors that these technologies can bring. But beware. Many UK manufacturers are stunned into paralysis in the face of this barrage of new technology, unable to decipher which will deliver the greatest competitive edge. It is vital that the opportunities are clearly communicated by the IT sector to manufacturing businesses so that they are able to capitalise on growth and build a strong, agile, resilient manufacturing sector.