Technology for Manufacturing in 2023 | Innov8

Britain is one of the world’s biggest manufacturing nations, with almost 3 million people working in the sector. The sheer diversity of capabilities is expansive, with end products supporting so many businesses in the services sector. From food and drink produce getting to the local supermarket, to textiles weaved into the rug in your living room – the manufacturing processes are diversely unique, and because of this, the sector is under consistent pressure to adapt and become more agile in how processes are undertaken to be successful.

Let’s take food manufacturing as an example for clarity of context purposes.  

The UK bakery market, which is worth approximately £4.4bn, makes up a large portion of the UK food manufacturing industry. If we look at the obvious challenges within the sector; increased costs, supply chain issues and, of course, staff shortages and retention then you are likely sat there thinking ‘Yep, but they’re true of most industries at the moment’ – and you’d be right! What you really want to know, is some of the more complex, immediate challenges specific to IT within manufacturing processes, such as maintaining uptime, managing data effectively, adopting new technology, becoming more agile, cybersecurity, supply chain integration and inventory management. These specific challenges, if addressed and solved can actually help to combat the more obvious sectorial ones in the longer term.

How can these challenges be overcome through an IT solution?

Let’s delve a little deeper into the issues at hand, how they can be resolved and the consequential benefits of doing so. 

  1. Maintaining uptime is critical. Downtime is super costly and in the manufacturing sector, it equates to around £180bn each year and countless hours lost. Downtime is largely attributed to technical faults, the age of machinery, potential misuse by employees, external damage and poor maintenance. The reliance on legacy machinery and technology hinders prospects. The need for existing maintenance processes to be replaced by predictive maintenance methods is high on the agenda for manufacturing businesses now, and having an interface to have a visual on data can help to predict these faults before they happen. When it comes to the technology element of downtime, having an efficient ERP system is invaluable as it provides a unified platform for integrating and streamlining manufacturing processes. It’s essentially the heartbeat of your company, due to the complex and interconnected nature of your operations. 

  1. Managing data effectively is so important! As a manufacturer, you probably have all manners of data, but how well are you utilising it? It’s all well and good having it but ensuring that the data is managed well can generate insights across the entire ecosystem of your operation, from your production line, supply chain and even down to employee performance. Data that is organised and integrated properly means that you can make more intelligent business decisions such as forecasting product demand and managing inventory – it quite literally drives product optimisation. Essentially, if your data is managed effectively, manufacturing businesses can reap huge dividends. 

  1. Adopting new technology sounds scary, but it goes a long way to ensuring long-term success. Many manufacturing facilities are looking at becoming more automated and implementing the right technologies to facilitate a successful process takes a lot of careful planning. Making your employees workload more efficient, agile and streamlined with technology that puts traceability and visibility at your fingertips increases your company’s overall optimisation. The adoption of new technology that streamlines processes for your employees makes their lives easier will undoubtedly result in them being more engaged and can even be showcased to attract new talent too. In extension to this, the next generation are a tech-savvy generation and as the impending ‘changing of the guard’ over the next several years edges closer, automation will take over many of the dull and dirty tasks. The Gen Z talent pool bring a whole new skill set to the table so it is imperative to align the two as the dynamic evolves. 

  1. Being agile to meet the ever-changing customer needs is paramount as a manufacturer. Having the technology to fulfil that agility is a necessity. Whether it’s having full sight of your distribution or supply chain, the ability to share accurate information in real-time or shipping changes – having a modern ERP system (such as Sage 200 or Sage Intacct) in place creates the opportunity to improve your business from the inside out by streamlining processes and improving visibility into operations. Identifying areas to digitise processes under one solution requires far less manual intervention. 

  1. Having effective cybersecurity is crucial in today’s world, as we all know, and manufacturers who outsource all or part of their production to third party vendors know just how important this is. Cybersecurity is a big challenge as hackers continuously look for weak links in the connections and access to stored information provided to third party vendors and, if breaches occur it can cause considerable damage and prove exceptionally costly to resolve. Prevention is far better than a cure, when it comes to cybersecurity measures.  

  1. Supply chain integration. Manufacturing companies often face difficulties in integrating their IT systems with suppliers, distributors, and other partners across the supply chain. Achieving end-to-end visibility and real-time information sharing can enhance collaboration, reduce lead times, and improve overall efficiency. However, different systems, data formats, and communication protocols among partners pose integration challenges that require standardization efforts and the use of technologies like application programming interfaces (APIs) and electronic data interchange (EDI). 

  1. Inventory management is essential and with manufacturing becoming more complex, managing inventory effectively poses a serious challenge. Managing orders from multiple channels, maintaining a high enough stock level to avoid stock selling out but being lean enough to prevent markdowns due to overstocking as well as ensuring a fast and cost-efficient process from multiple distribution centres is a constant balancing act to get right. Ultimately, without it you run the risk of being unable to meet demand, resulting in unhappy and/or loss of customers and damage to business reputation. Innov8’s warehouse management vertical solution was designed to increase warehouse efficiency, reduce picking errors and returns as well as key functions like real-time stock control, sales and purchase order processing and barcode scanning which come together to provide a true solution that results in warehouse optimisation and extending through to efficient courier integration. 

Discrete manufacturing and distribution companies face their own particular set of challenges to navigate; with Industry 4.0 empowering businesses (and Industry 5.0 fast emerging on its heels) to collect and analyse data through machines and automate and streamline their processes resulting in inventory management becoming more increasingly complex. Unique Identifiability is also paramount, as each item produced in discrete manufacturing possesses a unique identifier, such as a serial number or a barcode. This allows for precise tracking, quality control, and traceability throughout the manufacturing process and the product lifecycle. Having the right barcode solution is critical for operational optimisation. 

Using spreadsheets to store and protect data is still the way of some SME manufacturers as the hesitation to digitise is still present as it can be costly. These legacy mechanisms are clunky and error-prone, lacking the verification and algorithmic efficiencies afforded by dedicated software solutions. Their unsuitability for the task often leads to spiralling ad-hoc solutions that are usually complicated and rigid. Above all, they are slow and inefficient for business which end up being even more costly in the longer term. 

Automating your manufacturing business really is future-proofing your business. The great thing is, there are flexible and tailored solutions out there that will mitigate these issues and drive business growth.  

Innov8 know that, for all manufacturing organisations, IT isn’t just an abstract system that simply enables a service – it is the tangible architecture that makes producing products possible! The Innov8 team know your industry; we understand it and we deliver intelligent solutions for you to digitise and minimise the issues outlined above, and in turn get your manufacturing business on the same path we are on – the ‘Get Further Faster!’ path.  

Get in touch with us today to understand how we can get you further faster! 

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Innov8 is a leading provider of software and IT infrastructure for businesses throughout the UK.