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Manufacturers taking ‘significant steps’ to digitalisation

Nearly eight in ten manufacturers are confident that industrial digital technologies like AI, 3D printing and the Internet of Things will be a reality in their business by 2025, according to new research.


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The findings come from a national survey commissioned by Make UK and published in a new report, Bouncing Back Smarter.

Compared to two years ago, when Make UK last ran the same survey, British manufacturing has made significant progress in adopting industrial digital technologies (IDTs). Only 11 per cent of those surveyed in 2020 say they have no plans for digitalisation, compared to 30 per cent in 2018.

Despite this growing interest, the barriers to digital adoption among smaller manufacturers remain similar, with companies citing a lack of skills and technological knowledge among their main concerns.

However, positive progress has been made in the North West. Around 20 per cent of those surveyed within the region said they had implemented IDTs and were seeing a ‘step change’ in productivity and efficiency as a result. Only the South East (33 per cent) had a higher proportion of respondents say the same.

Part of the reason for the North West’s success is the region’s Made Smarter pilot project, Make UK said. Almost 1,000 SME manufacturers in the North West have so far received support from the initiative, and Make UK is now calling for it to be rolled out across the UK.

Stephen Phipson, Chief Executive of Make UK, said:

“In recent months manufacturers have faced unprecedented challenges with the need for Industrial Digital Technologies never more important. Remote working, whether that be monitoring of equipment or remote production processes, has without a doubt been the saviour of many companies. Digital programme rollouts have been achieved in a matter of months when such change would normally have taken years to achieve.

“In the coming months, as supply chains return to normal, it is important to build resilience and further accelerate digital adoption to give UK manufacturing that turbocharges to deliver even greater international competitiveness."

Andrew Dalziel, Vice-president, Industry Solution and Strategy at Infor, which contributed to Make UK’s report, added: 

“This report shows clearly that there is an emerging set of leaders within UK manufacturing that have embraced digital opportunities, scored early wins and are carving out strategies for further competitive advantage. These businesses will not only be the most resilient in the demanding post-Brexit climate but beyond any short-term market volatility they will be more agile, smarter and more responsive to customer change.”

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