Graham Malley, Principal Director at Accenture opened the workshop by highlighting how important manufacturing still is to the UK.  A recent public survey suggested that the UK ranked 56th in the world for manufacturing, when in fact we are placed 9th or 10th. In Europe, we currently vie for third place with France, after Germany and Italy.

The Made Smarter programme supports the adoption of industrial digital technologies by companies involved in manufacturing.  These digital technologies provide a huge opportunity to increase productivity, potentially by 25%.  Studies have shown that attaching sensors to even relatively old manufacturing equipment can increase machine utilisation by 20% while increasing flexibility, recovering lost production time, and also decreasing component energy use and therefore emissions.

Studies undertaken by Accenture have revealed that barriers to entry include a general lack of understanding of the opportunities that digital technologies, or ‘industry 4.0’ could provide.  In addition, concerns about the perceived cost of the technology, worries about data security, poor infrastructure and skills shortages are barriers too.

Noting that every developed country has an industrial digital technology strategy, Accenture developed 3 key pillars for recommendations to government:

  1. Leadership – project the UK as a leader in manufacturing
  2. Innovation – leverage university expertise and promote early stage usage of digital technologies in manufacturing
  3. Adoption – actively promote digital technologies and support their adoption on a national scale

A pilot scheme to support the adoption of digital manufacturing technologies in the North West was launched in November 2018. The scheme echoes much of the former Manufacturing Advisory Service’s targeted support for SMEs, offering face to face advice, leadership and management development, and £30,000 grants for specialist advice and equipment. The aim is to increase GVA by £115m over 4 years, while developing an evidence base to inform future policy.

Since the launch of the NW pilot, other places have started to show interest in rolling out Made Smarter. With manufacturing in the West Midlands being of such importance to the local and national economy, and building on the market-driven priorities identified in the WM SIA, the West Midlands is well placed to explore the potential of Made Smarter for local businesses.

(Author: Jane Holmes, IAWM)