Since the industrial revolution, the manufacturing industry has been powering the British economy forward. However, 200 years after trade was transformed in the UK, firms are starting to worry about the rapidly changing habits of consumers.
But the concern may be preconceived. According to madestarter.com, the British government believes that by 2030, the nation will be the leaders in creation, adoption, and export of digital technologies. It’s hoped this will include the manufacturing industry.
This does not mean, however, that companies can completely relax. As, despite the optimism, there are worries that go along with this type of goal. This includes skill sets, competition and adapting to ever-changing tech.
“As manufacturers navigate the complex landscape of new, disruptive technology against a backdrop of legacy practices and systems and an aging workforce, they need a lubricant to oil the machine and get the past working with the future,” Says Tim Wilderspin, Regional Manager Manufacturing, OutSystems.
Tech is changing the sector
Wilderspin also went on to debate how the advancements in machinery are changing the way that manufacturing works. In discussing the tech, he says: “Some improve efficiency, such as Industrial IoT sensors aiding predictive maintenance in the factory and big data enabling precise supply chain management. Others use advanced industrial robotics and automation to enhance the manufacturing process in the existing factory environment. The most exciting advances restructure the manufacturing process entirely; 3D printing/additive manufacturing revolutionises the way that products are conceived, prototyped and created, allowing product individualisation and experimentation at levels previously impossible.”
He added that manufacturers want to be able to use products that enable growth, build relationships and open new revenues.
The effect of using old machinery
Outdated technology and not having enough workers that know how to use them can become a massive disadvantage in trying to get ahead of the competition, suggests Wilderspin. And that includes using IT systems that were designed to be used alongside aging tech.
“It’s an industry-wide problem and a ticking time bomb: the lack of a modern environment and tempting narrative to encourage new workers into what is potentially a very lucrative, cutting-edge industry,” he says.
How to move forward
The suggestion from Wilderspin is to adopt modern tech and use it as much as possible to move forward a business. His major proposal is to use low-code platforms as a solution. He comments: “Fundamentally, right now manufacturers are faced with the necessity of doing more with less. Resource efficiency and boosting the productivity of existing teams must be the focus, because new talent isn’t going to spring up overnight. They need to transform their approach and, rather like how additive manufacturing is disrupting the fabrication process, low-code application development platforms can disrupt the app development process, moving it from a waterfall approach to an agile, iterative strategy supporting the fast experimentation central to Industry 4.0.”
OutSystems Regional Manager Manufacturing added: “Low-code development is starting to make its mark in manufacturing, enabling skilled developers to work faster, while helping those with lower skill levels perform higher value tasks and reducing app backlogs. It is also an elegant solution to the challenge of integrating with legacy systems, helping manufacturers to overcome the hurdle of modernisation without having to rely on legacy technical skills.”
Believing that low-code app developments will reduce skills shortages, attract new talent to the sector and could even assist in a “digital industrial revolution”, Wilderspin hopes that this type of software will be the cornerstone of British manufacturing.