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UK could leapfrog manufacturing rivals within a year

New research shows that the UK could move from eighth largest manufacturing nation to fifth by 2021 if digital technologies and green trends are harnessed effectively.

The global report, commissioned by Sage, shows that there is a window for the UK to re-establish itself as one of the world’s top manufacturing countries by expanding the use of Industry 4.0 technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing and robotics.

The future success of British manufacturing will also be affected by the response to trends in sustainability, the report argues. In particular, adopting waste-eliminating ‘circular economy’ and servitisation strategies were found to be critical in driving new revenue and profitability opportunities. 

Nearly all (96 per cent) of the UK manufacturers surveyed as part of the research said they had been impacted by green manufacturing trends, with 79 per cent saying they had adopted systems to eliminate waste and recycle existing resources.

The vast majority believed the transition away from traditional ‘take-make-use-throw away’ business models to more circular alternatives would be a net benefit to their business from a brand reputation and profitability perspective. Precisely two thirds said they had a servitisation strategy to expand their product lines with service-based solutions - more than double the number of North American respondents (28 per cent).

 

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Sabby Gill, Managing Director, UK and Ireland at Sage, commented: 

“It is exciting to see the opportunity for the UK manufacturing sector to grow and expand its position globally, especially in light of the political and economic uncertainty we’ve experienced in the UK. While sustainability will remain a challenge for the sector, our research indicates that British manufacturers are embracing it and looking at new models, including the circular economy and servitisation, for growth.  

“The sector will need to address outdated business models and technology and a lack of IT infrastructure to capitalise on this opportunity. Using data more effectively will enable them to be more agile in the way they source, design, make and recycle their products.”

Tim Figures, Director of Industrial Sectors, Technology and Innovation at Make UK, added: 

“By better analysing data, manufacturers can better predict demand, which would help them drive down product wastage and improve productivity. The smart use of technology - and above all data - has the potential to unlock significant improvements in productivity, hone their supply chains and explore more sustainable and digital business models.”

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