£455bn digital potential for UK factories

30 October 2017

Harnessing industrial digital technologies (IDT) can strengthen UK manufacturing supply chains and create new value streams, an independent review has said.

IDT could also improve resource efficiency, making UK manufacturing more resilient to global supply chain disruptions.

However, the UK is not capitalising on the use of these technologies, despite it’s strong digital sector, and other countries with more coherent strategies are “stealing a march” on the UK, it said.

The Made Smarter review, previously called Industrial Digitalisation, chaired Juergen Maier, chief executive of Siemens UK, said harnessing technology including the internet of things (IoT), automation and 3D printing could turn the UK into a manufacturing leader.

Maier said: “[I] have always been impressed with our capabilities as a nation. But, at the same time, I have been disappointed that we haven’t reached our full potential and have left too many of the opportunities arising from the ‘third industrial revolution’ to other nations.”

Faster innovation and adoption of IDT could benefit the UK manufacturing sector to the tune of £455bn over the next 10 years and create at least 175,000 jobs, the report said.

However, a lack of effective leadership, including cross sector leadership, poor levels of adoption, particularly among SMEs, and poor leverage of innovation are blocking the uptake of IDT.

The report calls for a “rapid adoption” of IDTs by manufacturers across the supply chain, and particularly SMEs, including automating manufacturing processes, introducing real-time process monitoring and re-engineering products to improve cost efficiency.

Technologies such as 3D printing – also know as additive manufacturing – could “fundamentally change the supply chain”, the report said, by replacing the traditional benefits of high volume manufacturing with the ability to produce goods close to their market and to make unique products for individual consumers.

The report, which was commissioned by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, consulted with more than 200 organisations. Its recommendations include:

  • Creating a more visible and effective digital ecosystem
  • Investing in training to upskill industrial workers for the digital economy
  • Stronger government leadership, including working with industry on a “brand campaign” for digital industrialisation

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