The business process outsourcer surveyed 50 C-suite executives at some of the UK’s biggest manufacturers, finding the operations those planning transformation in 2021 will focus on.

Marketing (42%), sales (40%) and production (37%) were the most popular operations identified by executives. In the back office, finance and administration (23%) was the function cited most frequently as an area of focus.

Every C-suite executive polled (100%) will also take steps to make their business more efficient in the next 12 months, indicating how the UK’s biggest manufacturers will realise their transformation plans.

L&D for staff (46%), use of AI and machine learning (40%), measures that improve governance (35%) and diversify and rationalise supply chains (35%), and new or extended flexible working policies (35%) are the most popular steps manufacturing executives will take to increase business efficiency in 2021.

When asked how they will use capital unlocked through efficiency gains in the next 12 months, almost half said they will invest in L&D for staff (48%), more than two fifths will invest in new technology (44%) and a third plan to improve customer experience (33%) and expand into new markets (33%).

Executives also highlighted several barriers to making their businesses more efficient, citing cost (34%), complexity (34%) and a reliance on legacy systems (34%) as their biggest hurdles. A fifth (22%) flagged a lack of awareness of available third-party support was holding them back.

Craig Naylor-Smith (pictured), managing director, Parseq, said: “In a competitive climate, when consumer and business confidence is low, transformation projects that drive growth must remain on the agenda.

“Our first Big Business Efficiency Report shows manufacturing leaders are pursuing transformation to secure new business and ensure their production capability is fit for the future. This is easier when every business area works in harmony, so it’s also encouraging to see finance and administration, the engine room of the back office, prioritised by executives.

“Increased efficiency unlocks the investment needed for successful transformation projects. Support from third parties with the right expertise and experience can help executives achieve this, take advantage of the latest innovations and build resilience as we head into a critical year for UK manufacturing.”