Can tech innovation boost uninspired manufacturers?

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Despite repeated quarters of growth and output suggesting that things may be on the up for UK manufacturers, new research shows that without technology led change the sector’s long term prospects could be less rosy. In fact, technology innovation might just be the number one factor to help manufacturers to bridge an ‘inspiration gap’ and improve their future fortunes.

In Epicor's "Inspired to Make It" study senior manufacturing executives scored their company’s Inspiration Rating - a measure of encouragement about their future - at just 5.7 out of 10. Moreover 62 per cent think their industry has to adapt significantly or completely to survive. In terms of where that change must come from, technology innovation is top, alongside pay and conditions, while the pace of technology development is also considered the biggest external influence likely to affect a manufacturing company’s performance.

Conversely, the study showed a possible technology adoption lag, with only 17 per cent having adopted cloud. While this is set to increase, the study showed a sense of sticking with the old rather than moving to the new in terms of IT – a general preference for desktop PCs over tablets, for example.

Considering the economic pressures of the last few years, innovations like adoption of Cloud based solutions has been difficult for manufacturers to justify against competitive demands for capital and resources. However as the study suggest cloud growth will come as manufacturing organisations seek to extend business processes into their value chain with customers and suppliers, leading to improved customer service and driving out cost.

Actually this point on cloud adoption alludes to how technology innovation may play out in the sector in line with our research. Generally speaking the study showed that product quality and price competition were manufacturers’ critical success factors. With this in mind, manufacturers should be prioritising technology investments that enable continuous improvement in business processes, both driving down costs and driving up product quality.

Technology that allows UK manufacturers to find other competitive means, such as service quality, are also going to be vital, echoed by the fact we’ve seen a major drive to integrate CRM and after sales service systems with core ERP platforms, aimed at improving management of customer relationships throughout the product lifecycle.

It’s positive that UK manufacturing has seen growth, but it must address its attitudinal inspiration gap to be motivated for long term success. This is where technology innovation comes in, which we need to see increasing from this point forward.

Steve Winder is the Regional VP of the UK and Ireland at Epicor, an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software and retail solutions provider.

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