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Manufacturers benefitting from new tech during pandemic

New research has found that more than 9 in 10 manufacturers have benefitted from adopting digital technology during the current crisis, with a quarter saying it has boosted their productivity.

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Digital Skills for a Digital Manufacturing Future, published in November by Make UK and Sage, shows that many UK manufacturers have sped towards digitalisation since the outbreak of COVID-19.

Nearly half of manufacturers switched to digital working practices within two weeks of the first lockdown period earlier this year, with 94 per cent saying they had staff working successfully from home despite being in industries often associated with manual tasks and production-based work.

In contrast to the traditionally-held belief that remote working reduces productivity, more than a quarter (27 per cent) of manufacturers said their productivity had increased as a result and 12 per cent said it had increased their rate of production.

In total, 91 per cent of manufacturers said they had benefitted from adopting digital technology during the pandemic. Most expected to continue using the technologies they had adopted, such as virtual meetings, remote access to IT systems and ‘virtual commissioning’ through 3D modelling.

Nearly nine in ten (87 per cent) manufacturers said investing in digital training had given them a competitive advantage. Interestingly, the smallest manufacturers (less than 10 employees) and the largest (more than 1,000 staff) were the most likely to have invested in such training.

Stephen Phipson, Chief Executive of Make UK, commented:

“The last six months have shown that digital has been crucial in making it possible for manufacturers to continue production successfully against a backdrop of COVID - highlighting the need to ramp up digital skills within the manufacturing sector even further as companies move to build future resilience and boost productivity.  

“Manufacturers should also look to harness the power of young people who are digitally fluent to fully embrace digitalisation throughout UK manufacturing.”

Separate research commissioned by Sage suggests that two thirds of UK SMEs want to invest in more technology and digitalisation, which could drive up to £145 billion in boosted economic output as a result of improved productivity.

Steve Hare, Chief Executive of Sage, added:

“We are on the brink of a once-in-a-generation digital revolution among SMEs – one that will power job creation and growth at a time when its most needed, as well as helping to finally crack the UK’s long-standing productivity puzzle. But the UK stands to lose out on these massive gains if we do not encourage this investment now.”

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