Manufacturing News, February 2019

Manufacturing News, February 2019

When workers have the power of fully connected technology in the palm of their hands, they can increase productivity, efficiency and data input accuracy all of which have incredible impacts on the bottom line. Globally, manufacturers are beginning to adapt to Industry 4.0 and smart factory operations, which are enabled by advancements in technologies including mobile devices, radio-frequency identification (RFID), wearables and automated systems.

By leveraging the data provided by these technologies, as well as sensors connected to legacy systems, manufacturers have the opportunity to boost output and achieve fully connected operations in the near future. Using this data, manufacturers stand to gain unprecedented visibility into every stage of manufacturing and warehousing processes, including end-to-end supply chain fulfilment, shipping and receiving, points-of-failure identification and, overall, more comprehensive insights into the inner-workings of their operations.

Because of these overwhelming benefits, the number of companies employing a fully connected factory is expected to double by 2022. To begin to modernise the manufacturing floor, executives must first evaluate their current processes, consider their workers’ daily routines and look for ways in which technology can be used to improve workflows, boost efficiency and ultimately integrate into operations connected by the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Specifically, they must focus on the present and prioritise investments that benefit their most important asset – their current and future workforce. Today’s workers need technology solutions that can improve their overall productivity without disrupting their workflows, while the next generation of digitally native workers are demanding tools that offer the same connectivity that they’ve become accustomed to in their everyday lives.

Manufacturers can appeal to both generations by equipping them with easy-to-use yet sophisticated mobility technologies that allows them to access software and back-office systems throughout all areas of the manufacturing environment. By doing so, organisations will gain real-time visibility into their operations, and empower their employees to become engaged members of the modern manufacturing workforce.

The aforementioned outdated processes waste valuable time and negatively, affect current workers’ productivity and conflict with future workers’ demands for information mobility. For those currently in the workforce, antiquated systems only add onto occupational stressors such as increased workloads, downsizing concerns and overtime work, which can all lead to employee burnout and loss of productivity.

In regards to the newer entrants to the workforce, which manufacturers will need to focus on recruiting in order to fill 700,000 jobs for skilled manufacturing employees over the next decade, older processes that don’t offer immediate workflow-related insights, or information mobility, will be a major turn off.

Fortunately, each of these issues can be addressed by providing workers with flexible mobile solutions that can adapt to any kind of workflow demands.

UK manufacturing output has fallen to a 15-month low as the industry anticipates a cliff-edge Brexit, according to a new report. Stockpiling by companies ahead of the UK leaving the EU is likely to have masked an even greater decline, said business advisers BDO.

BDO’s Manufacturing Index, which tracks business output growth in the sector, fell by 0.23 points to 98.37 in January. Although manufacturing firms have been ramping up their preparations in anticipation of a disorderly Brexit, January’s decline points to an underlying weakness in the sector, said BDO.

In the month that Theresa May saw her proposed EU withdrawal agreement crushed by MPs, UK business confidence also suffered a significant decline.

BDO’s Optimism Index, which tracks firms’ expectations of their performance over the coming months, fell from 100.16 to 99.98 in January. This marks a decrease of 2.11 points from January 2018 and is the first time that the index has fallen below 100 since December 2016. The manufacturing sector was worst hit by the collapse in confidence, with BDO’s Manufacturing Optimism Index falling 0.5 points to 104.4 in January.

BDO says that this reflects concerns raised by manufacturers including Nissan, Airbus and Siemens, who have repeatedly warned that uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies plan for the future.

The UK’s services sector, accounting for approximately 80% of GDP – also experienced a malaise. At 97.10, output remains well below the long-term average growth rate of 100, despite witnessing a marginal improvement in January.

Peter Hemington, partner at BDO, said: “Since the EU referendum result in July 2016, our indexes show that business output has declined by 2.45 points while confidence has slumped by 2.8 points.

“Manufacturing firms have been ramping up their preparations for a disorderly Brexit, in large part through the stockpiling of imported goods. This has had the effect of inflating activity levels. So the underlying slowdown is probably rather worse than suggested by our headline figures. Stripping out the impact of these Brexit preparations, there is a real risk that the economy will contract in the first quarter.

“It’s too late to do anything about this now.  However, a disorderly Brexit would be far worse than the current relatively mild slowdown, possibly disastrously so.  With now just 46 days to go, we are concerned it looks more likely than ever that we will exit the EU without a deal.  We believe that the government should seek an extension to Article 50 as soon as practicable to give itself the time to reach an acceptable Brexit compromise.”

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