FourJaw Helping UK Manufacturers Deliver on Digital Transformation

FourJaw Helping UK Manufacturers Deliver on Digital Transformation

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With research indicating that more than 90 per cent of manufacturers are planning or progressing smart factory initiatives, a new report reveals the strategies taken to make them successful. Manufacturing is one of the UK’s leading industries when it comes to digital transformation, with nine in every ten manufacturers planning or progressing smart factory initiatives, according to a new report published today by FourJaw Manufacturing Analytics

Research revealed in FourJaw’s Digital Excellence in Manufacturing report by business ISP Beaming, which has tracked technology use by UK companies for almost a decade, shows that just nine per cent of UK manufacturers have yet to make any effort or plan to transform themselves with technology, a lower proportion than any other sector of the economy.

The report shows more than half (55 per cent) of manufacturers surveyed have now embedded multiple technologies such as AI, automation, data analytics, and cloud computing into their operations in some form, and a third (35 per cent) are currently introducing new tools to enhance insight and operational performance. Only the financial services and accounting industry has a higher proportion of organisations (59 per cent) that have adopted multiple transformative technologies.

Automation is attracting the most interest from manufacturers. Over a quarter (29 per cent) plan to introduce technologies to streamline repetitive tasks and enhance efficiency for the first time in 2024, increasing adoption from 64 per cent to 93 per cent of manufacturers. Data analytics and business intelligence, which many in the industry now consider essential for driving productivity improvements, are also expected to reach 93 per cent of manufacturers this year.

Chris Iveson, CEO at FourJaw Manufacturing Analytics, comments: “Manufacturing is experiencing a profound change, propelled by competition, inflation, energy prices, and an ageing workforce, and enabled by technological advances that make sophisticated capabilities accessible to all. Manufacturers of all sizes are taking control of productivity and embracing technologies that support this goal.”

“Digital transformation in manufacturing is not about adopting technology for the sake of it. Instead, it’s driven by a desire to achieve excellence – optimising operations, processes, and systems to ensure efficient, agile production that promptly and consistently meets customer demands.”

Digital Excellence in Manufacturing Video

Five guiding principles for successful smart factory implementations

In addition to Beaming’s research, which was conducted on its behalf by the consultancy Censuswide, FourJaw’s report shares practical insights and advice from in-depth interviews with leaders at several UK manufacturers that have undergone digital transformations, as well as technology experts working with hundreds of organisations in the industry. These interviews revealed five principles for manufacturers embarking on digital transformation initiatives to consider:

1. Solve problems, not tech trends.

“The key to successful smart factory journeys is to start with a problem that is hurting your business, identify the right technology which will help solve that problem, and start with a small project that enables you to understand the value that you get from digital technologies,” says Chris Iveson, CEO at FourJaw Manufacturing Analytics. ”Once you understand that, you can get that value, then bring the business along with the journey as you grow that digital technology initiative within your factory.”

2. Take your time to plan and implement, and be prepared to adapt.

“The most important thing is to take it step by step and to constantly review what you’re doing and what you’re trying to achieve,” said Stuart Cook, Production Manager at Hydrafeed. “We found that over the long-term journey, what we set out to achieve changed several times based on the information we’ve gained.”

3. Start small with some quick wins, then expand gradually.

“The key to adoption is familiarity,” said Sean Thomas, Head of Operations at AVPE Systems. “With machine monitoring, for example, we need people to share information truthfully and honestly and understand the importance of it. We started slowly with a small implementation to get people used to the idea of completing these sorts of tasks and making it part of their normal day-to-day work. We then had a case study to show how we would use that information when it was rolled out across the whole shop floor.”

4. Empower employees with technology, don’t replace them.

“It can always be a bit of a nervy thing introducing technology because people worry that it will take parts of their job, so it’s important that as new technologies come in, you use them to help people do more,” said Steven West, Head of Operations at Armac Martin. “We delivered automation in our dispatch department that automatically raises pick lists and pushes that to our couriers. We’ve reallocated people that did those jobs before to elsewhere in the business where they can do more valuable things that have helped us to grow faster.”

5. Measure productivity objectively and consistently.

“The adage about managing what you can measure is truer today than ever,” said Chris Iveson. “Manufacturing is inherently a complex beast. There are lots of things going on all the time and it’s difficult for manufacturers to understand if they’ve had a good day or a good week. Manufacturers need to measure, side by side, all of their operations objectively, to understand if they are doing really well, or if not, why not, and what needs doing to improve.”

Read more news on FourJaw here.

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